Student employees experience doubt, transitions amid pandemic

In the face of an unexpected shake-up, Drake students are brushing off the dust and giving it the old college try.

By Sarah Bogaards
Originally published April 15, 2020 in The Times-Delphic

“Alternative workspace” is one of the new catchphrases of the coronavirus pandemic. Employers and workers alike are confronting change, and student interns are no exception.

Photo courtesy of pikrepo.com

The present level of uncertainty blanketing every community means that students are facing a variety of employment scenarios, from complete loss of work to remote work, on top of concerns about classes, living arrangements and more.

Junior Kasey Springsteen studies Strategic Political Communications and English at Drake University. Her “dream internship” working for a rural health care advocacy organization this summer was cancelled due to the pandemic. 

“When I got the email, it was just heartbreaking,” Springsteen said. Her volunteer spring internship with Cindy Axne’s office was also suspended. With concerns hovering over the future of summer hiring, Springsteen said she wants employers to update students as their plans change.

Carlyn Crowe is the Internship Coordinator for Drake’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She said opportunities are still available, but it’s crucial that both employers and students take the responsibility to reach out during this time.

“We all need to be communicating more than we typically would be in this environment because we’re so disconnected,” Crowe said.

Annette Watson, a career services liaison for the journalism and business schools, advises students to keep applying, networking and talking to faculty. Worst case, she said to seek alternative opportunities and craft a plan for a productive summer.

“It’s such a fluid situation, and I think as we move closer to the summer, I hope we don’t have any more students that are going to be impacted, but I can almost bet that we will,” Watson said. Springsteen said if she exhausts her network and cannot find work, her backups include working for the Harkin Institute, freelance design work and summer classes at DMACC.

For students who have kept their internships, they are transitioning to a very new normal.

Maja Quiles appears to have an upperhand. She has worked full-time at Wells Fargo for about 14 years; and for the last three years, she worked from home. Now, in her first semester as a student at Drake, she is also tasked with school work and taking care of her two children.

“The things that you would do on the weekend, now they’re kind of thrown at you every day,” she said.

JD Pelegrino is a senior news major and an apprentice for Successful Farming Magazine at Meredith Corporation in Des Moines. He learned over spring break that after seven months of working for the publication, the Meredith office was closed and he would have to work from home.

“It kind of sucks,” Pelegrino said. “There’s no other way to put it because I’m not able to get the experience. Myself and the other apprentices aren’t able to get the full experience anymore.”

Without access to the physical workplace, his assignments dwindled to primarily social media work, interviews and story writing.  Pelegrino did say, though, that the experience is providing ample opportunity to learn how to adapt.

Kara Kelly coordinates the logistics of Meredith’s apprenticeship program. She said that the publisher is working to ensure apprentices have the right resources, even if they are not doing all of their normal tasks.

“The focus right now is keeping everything going [and] creating great content for our audiences, whether it’s print or online or in video,” Kelly said.

As a senior, Pelegrino is seeking full-time employment and is continuing practices he has always used, like checking LinkedIn and job sites.

“It’s going to be the time to really utilize those avenues and network your butt off,” he said. “It’s all about who you know, and especially in a time like now where people are getting hired less and less frequently, we have to roll with the punches and adapt.”

According to Crowe, journalism students will receive credit for spring internships as they received some experience before the pandemic. She also said now is the time to develop and capitalize on soft skills, like discipline and adaptability, which are fostered by the sudden switch to remote work and classes.

“If there can be opportunities, it’s an opportunity to learn that skill set, and also to understand how employers are adapting to a crisis like this too,” she said. 

Career services staff are offering services remotely to all Drake students. Learn more and contact a liaison at drake.edu/career.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *