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You Still Have to Excel in Your Virtual Internship

How to Excel in a Virtual Internship
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Kudos to you for landing a summer internship during this pandemic. In all fairness, we wouldn’t have held it against you if you had not. It has been a trying year and having to abruptly leave campus, many HBCU students did not even get the chance to work with career services on campus on internship applications. Many companies also pulled back their internship offers or scrapped plans for internships all together. Others, like Bank of America, quickly envisioned and deployed virtual internships.

As you jump into your virtual internships you might be asking yourself the question – What do I need to do to excel?

Know that if you do the right things and be outstanding in your virtual internship, there can be several potentially great outcomes. The big benefit of your virtual internship? You are going to build your digital skills, your communication skills and your overall time management skills. All of which will be a boost for your resume! Even in a virtual internship you will still have opportunities to build a professional network, identify mentors, leave with letters of recommendation for a job well done or even get the ultimate prize – a job offer or the opportunity to return as an intern.

To stand out and really excel in your virtual internship consider the following tips.

Take your internship seriously and treat it like it’s a real job. The fact that you are in a virtual environment does not diminish the employer’s expectations. Sometimes interns forget that these opportunities, like campus jobs, are real work that offer non-trivial real work assignments. Employers expect real input.

Impress your manager as if you were already an employee. Don’t think of yourself as ‘just” a virtual intern. Follow company guidelines especially for technology. Pay attention to company culture, dress code, virtual meeting protocols and company policies. Use time management tools.

It’s appropriate to put ideas on the table. Despite how it might appear, most companies do not have all the kinks out of virtual internship programs.  If you have suggestions to improve the process, put them forward.

Use your initiative to ask for new assignments and to work on project teams. Remember, you are not in their line of sight daily, so someone might need a little prompting if you have time free to move on to the next project. 

Do your best work during your internship. Ask questions to clarify assignments and work longer hours if necessary to come up to speed and get your work completed on time. Be mindful of your time during your virtual internship day.  

Demonstrate your willingness to learn new things – video tools, virtual meetings, channels – and set stretch goals for yourself. Use the virtual internship to understand the business priorities for the organization especially during the pandemic.

Internships are a great way to build a professional network of people in your preferred industry. Meet people and do informational interviews to learn about career paths from people who are doing what you want to do. Set up a LinkedIn account and virtually connect with the professionals you meet. This way you can maintain these contacts well after the internship ends. It also ensures others see you as an emerging professional with interests and goals.

As your virtual internship winds down, do not be shy to ask about jobs in which you might be interested. If you excel in your internship, don’t be surprised if the employer approaches you about returning or with a potential offer for regular employment. Virtual internships can be a tremendous opportunity to get a foot in the door and find internships anywhere, but only if interns know how to really excel during the experience.

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Posted in Career Advice, Career and Industry Awareness, Choosing a Career, Choosing a Major, College Life, Employment Trends, Internships, Resume Writing, What Employers Want | Tagged , , | Comments Off on You Still Have to Excel in Your Virtual Internship

Career, Work, Jobs and Social Justice in the Coronavirus Era

Career, Work and Jobs
Career, work, jobs and social justice

Career, work and jobs have always been at the crux of social justice movements in the United States. The examples are many. The very founding of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania in 1837, as the Institute for Colored Youth, had career, work, jobs and social justice at its core. When a former slave owner, Richard Humphreys, bequeath a sum of ten thousand dollars to start the institution, the goal was “the benevolent design of instructing descendants of the African race in school learning, in the various branches of mechanic arts and trades and in agriculture in order to prepare, fit and qualify them to be teachers.” (Cheyney University Annual Report, 1914).

In 1962, Cesar Chavez led the United Farm Workers Movement to improve working conditions for migrant farm workers.  In 1968, the night before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr., spoke to striking sanitation workers in Memphis who worked at low wages and in unsanitary conditions.

The Coronavirus pandemic is putting career, work, jobs and social justice realities on the table again. Not that they have ever gone away, but the current pandemic is making it harder to ignore how these factors come together.  Consider how the following career, work and job issues could demonstrate or even create new social justice challenges.

Amazon, the second largest private employer in the United States while hiring an additional 175,000 staff to manage customer demand for online shopping and delivery, was paying $500 Coronavirus bonuses to employees and at the same time reporting that 600+ workers had tested positive for Coronavirus.

The Economic Policy Institute reports that less than one in five Black workers and one in six Hispanic workers in the US are in a job where telework is possible. Therefore, despite what is often said, not everyone is working from home. Some jobs, especially low-paying service jobs can only be done in person. 

The 2020 second quarter unemployment rates for those 20 years and older stood at 11.5% for Whites, 15.5 % for Blacks and 16 % for Hispanics. 

The HBCU Career Center stays aware of these types of social justice issues in the American workplace.  As such, we strive always to better understand the environmental factors impacting today’s workplace. In our consulting work we help organizations understand that social justice is often a core tenet on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and that graduates very often see themselves as people who will have to stand up for their place in the workforce. 

Many HBCU graduates are attracted to organizations that stand authentically on principles that aim to bring social justice principles into their workplaces. Companies seeking to attract these graduates should make sure that message is communicated positively in any brand statements. 

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Posted in Career Advice, Career and Industry Awareness, Diversity Recruiting, Education News, Employment Trends, Going Global and Study Abroad, ReSkill America | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Career, Work, Jobs and Social Justice in the Coronavirus Era

Retail is Booming. Retail is Dying. Which is it and What Does it Mean for Careers?

Retail is Booming.
Portrait Of Couple Running Coffee Shop Behind Counter

On one hand some will say that retail is booming. Amazon, the online retail giant sought to hire 175,000 additional workers during the Coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, the latest 2020 jobs report showed that a total of 740,000 new retail jobs were added in June.  Some of those jobs were really retail workers returning to work after the initial layoffs due to the Coronavirus shutdowns.

However, despite those upticks, it appears that retail as we know it, is in for some serious changes. The Retail Federation cautions that despite these bursts, the retail sector is still in for a slow recovery given the nature of the pandemic. 

More bad news for retail came in the form of Fortune Magazine’s list of 20 biggest companies that have filed bankruptcies so far because of the pandemic.  Twenty percent of the list included retail companies. These include JC Penney Company Inc., Neiman Marcus Group, Stage Stores and Chinos Holdings (owner of the J. Crew brand).  Add Hertz, the largest of all the companies on the list, because of the retail nature of their operations, and we have a full quarter of the list that will impact retail workers.  Other well-known retail brands that visit college campuses every year to scoop up new graduates include Pier 1 Imports, Modell Sports, True Religion and Tuesday Morning.

Retail is Booming.
Courtesy of Flickr

Both the job losses and disappearing jobs will hit workers with the lowest incomes the hardest.  In a Federal Reserve paper, it was reported that more than 35% of all workers in the lowest wage group lost a job through mid-April compared to 9% of workers in the highest-earning group.

Some tips for those who have built their careers around retail:

Look for other industries that are growing where your customer service skills could add value. Examples include Telecommunication, shopping services like Shipt.com and Instacart.com or food delivery like Uber Eats, Grub Hub or Door Dash.

Build digital skills through learning opportunities either with your company or on your own dime. It’s your career and your livelihood, so be prepared to pay for what you need. Places like Entrepreneur.com and LinkedIn.com have classes at introductory rates.  Register for community college or MOOC courses.

Strengthen your job search skills for the current environment. We have shared information on how recruiters are using artificial intelligence technologies and digital tools in recruiting.Get your resume current and practice your video interviewing skills.

Look for work from home opportunities for call center jobs that are not even in the state where you live. If the Coronavirus pandemic has shown us one thing, it is that it is possible to work remotely in all kinds of jobs.

Retail management skills can transfer across industries very easily.  Whether retail is booming or not, the management skills you have built can be transferred to other industries. The trick is to not wait to do it when everyone else starts to do it.  Think about being a first mover and start connecting to make that transition if you feel it is necessary.

Look around retail for other types of job roles.  If your expertise in retail is disappearing, then maybe look for a parallel role in a different industry.  For example, if your work has been in Human Resources in retail, there are plenty of other HR jobs in other industries.

Whatever your situation in retail, it is wise to always be scanning the environment.

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Posted in Automation, Career and Industry Awareness, Choosing a Career, Employment Trends, Job Search Tips, New Grad, ReSkill America, What Employers Want | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Retail is Booming. Retail is Dying. Which is it and What Does it Mean for Careers?
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