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For students and recent graduates, the summer season has long been a time for gaining work experience between semesters or bridging the gap between completing a degree and securing that first job. Similarly, the fall semester is often a time for students to gain valuable work experience in addition to their studies.

This year, however, lockdowns and the deployment of a remote workforce in response to the coronavirus pandemic led to hiring freezes and the cancellation or virtualization of internship programs across industries. With so much uncertainty, websites like IsMyInternshipCancelled.com have sprung up to let applicants know the status of their programs and provide information on the organizations that are continuing to hire and/or moving their programs online.

Beyond learning how to make favorable impressions during Zoom meetings, applicants are battling an unpredictable economy. While navigating the current job market presents unique challenges, there are still ways for students, recent graduates, and job seekers across various levels to build their resumes, make the most of their experiences, and impress future employers.

Here are three tips on how to make valuable connections and embrace virtualization during this unprecedented time:

1. Understand Virtual Protocols to Prepare for the Future

Make sure your expectations and your university’s guidelines are understood by the company prior to starting your internship to avoid a misunderstanding later. There are two major internship experiences you might have this year: one where you observe but don’t do, and one where you feel like you’re a part of the team because you’re assigned projects and given a voice. Both experiences can yield valuable results.

Whether you’re working on assignments or simply observing, you will learn new skills and become accustomed to office etiquette, which has changed now that conversations are happening in chat applications and over video calls rather than face to face. By learning new skills and working through the technological difficulties of Zoom calls, you’ll gain the vital ability to navigate changing business landscapes over the course of your career.

2. Remote Work Saves You Time and Money

When you account for rent, travel costs, and the low wages often associated with internships and entry-level jobs, opportunities in major cities have traditionally excluded low-income applicants from participation. The idea of spending a summer in an expensive city like San Francisco might have previously been enough to deter budget-conscious applicants, but virtualization grants these job seekers the ability to make the same connections in Silicon Valley without worrying about the cost of living.

While access to technology and reliable internet are not always guaranteed, the virtualization of many internships and jobs can act as an equalizer, providing a more even playing field for applicants across various backgrounds. The flexibility of working remotely might even allow interns to take on extra jobs or apprenticeships. The same goes for recent grads grappling with student loan repayment: Remote work offers the ability to look for jobs beyond the borders of a person’s physical location. Seek opportunities that work for you and your schedule, and then build your experiences around them.

3. Every Experience Is Valuable

With certain industries still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, graduates might have to seek jobs outside of their desired fields to gain initial experience. This uncertain economy won’t last forever, but it’s a good idea to build your resume and make connections wherever possible.

If your financial situation allows you to intern or volunteer for an unpaid position over the course of a few months, reach out to businesses in your industry and show them how you can add value to their companies in exchange for experience. These organizations will then provide references down the line, and you’ll have an advantage over other applicants with bare resumes. Taking on unpaid work also demonstrates a solid work ethic and your desire to learn and be flexible.

Anyone looking for employment right now needs to be flexible in the job market. For example, say you want to work as a graphic designer for a certain company, but that company is not currently hiring graphic designers. Your best bet would be to look into other positions at the firm, which could help you get a foot in the door. Be willing to go into a role to learn something new. You’ll build your network and gain credibility. Don’t let your fear hold you back.

The current job market has changed how we seek employment and gain work experience. Adapting and being proactive are the keys to success in this environment. At the end of the day, taking advantage of the virtualized job market over the next few months will leave students and job seekers better prepared for the post-pandemic economy.

Jennifer Locklear is chief talent officer at ConnectWise.

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