Articles

Some Students Able to Find Unique Summer Internships in the COVID-19 Wasteland

By Keith Morelli

Blake Perry

TAMPA (June 2, 2020) -- When COVID-19 came to town, it ended public gatherings, face-to-face classroom experiences and made most traditional internship opportunities more difficult to find. These had been the chances for business students to gain experience in their chosen fields. Those who have landed internships over the summer have found the jobs have morphed into something untraditional.

Blake Parry and Tyler Rampersaud are two examples of students who are interning this summer, gaining valuable experience, albeit in a virtual office, of what it’s like to be a part of the real world. They attend online meetings and their work appears on various webpages and on social media, now as much a part of the business landscape as the crowded boardroom was prior to the pandemic’s disruption of commerce.

For Parry, a marketing major who graduated this spring, but who plans to continue as a graduate student this fall, the pandemic steered him into a somewhat unfamiliar line of work.

“Being called an influencer is something I never thought would happen,” he said. “When I hear the word influencer, I think of Instagram models selling fit tea, not a 21-year-old college grad on his laptop encouraging people to go to World of Beer.”

Parry now works for the Tampa-based tavern chain that has locations across the United States and around the world. His work doesn’t take him that far afield, though. He mostly travels from room to room in his home (to alleviate the boredom of sitting in one place all day) trying to coax people into patronizing the eatery.

“The majority of my day is spent trying to find different food-related Facebook groups for each of my assigned markets,” he said. “Once we find these groups, I, and the other influencers assigned to that market, look for opportunities to bring up World of Beer and keep them top of mind for consumers.

“I can create my own posts, comment on posts where people are looking for recommendations, share posts from different World of Beer Facebook pages and do anything else that helps promote the company without seeming unauthentic.

The internship, which came just at the right time amid this pandemic lockdown, wasn’t what he had initially planned, though he was hoping to land a gig that would open up the world of digital marketing.

“Prior to the pandemic, I had applied for nearly 20 internships all over the country because I wanted to spend my summer gaining more marketing and advertising experience in a new setting before pursuing an MBA,” he said. “When the pandemic hit and campuses were shut down, I started receiving emails and letters stating that the internships I had applied for were either postponed, cancelled or now only open to applicants who lived in the area.

“I started checking LinkedIn and Indeed daily and I couldn't find anything that interested me,” he said. “I was starting to think that I was out of luck.

 That’s when Marketing Instructor Carol Osborne reached out to some of her students about local opportunities. One was with World of Beer.

“I sent her all of the information she requested almost immediately,” Parry said, “and a few days later the chief brand officer at World of Beer got in touch and offered me one of the positions.”

The position is a bit unusual, but interesting, he said.

“The hardest part has been motivation,” he said. “There have been a few times when it's been difficult to stay focused on the task at hand and to keep working hard when my bed is just five feet away, but working in different areas of the house and not allowing myself to get too distracted by my phone has helped me prevent this. I feel like I am gaining the experience that I desired, just in a different way than through a normal internship.

“And I have certainly learned how to better manage my time,” he said, “and how to communicate effectively online.

For Rampersaud, a junior enrolled in the ZAP program who plans to pursue a creative direction position in advertising, said that landing a summer internship was difficult, but not impossible.

Tyler Rampersaud

“I think that even when situations are difficult,” he said, “talent, perseverance, and charisma will still rise to the top when you have important goals for yourself and can help others reach their goals

“I obtained this internship somewhat through traditional networking,” he said. “The company, duPont Registry, had known about me since I was a teenager and I went to their monthly Cars and Coffee events, so when I told them about what I wanted to do in college, it almost seemed like divine intervention.”

Rampersaud now writes content for the duPont Registry blog and manages a social media account of the company. He also has written for its magazine and worked on a website launch for the duPont Registry Directory.

Osborne said that as internships for her students began to disappear because of the COVId-19 crisis, she thought of companies out there that were being impacted and offered up students with the skills needed to perform those tasks in a remote work setting.

“I reached out to many professional contacts to see if I could help with marketing and communications, pro bono, while suggesting a few highly competent students to push communications out to their audiences,” she said. “Several hired at least one student to intern.”

She said the chief branding and innovation officer at World of Beer, who also serves on the ZAP advisory board, has hired several marketing and ZAP students over the summer.

“Many were hired on as influencers,” she said, “which honestly, is every Gen Z’s dream.”