Student FAQs: COVID 19 + Career

Table of Contents:

Unemployment Eligibility
Labor Market for College Graduates
International Students
Job Searching in an Uncertain Economy
Job Searching in a Virtual World
Building Skills and Experience
Networking & Building Relationships Virtually
Graduate & Professional School

Many things seemingly changed overnight.  The amount of information we’re receiving seems overwhelming, yet the content often seems underwhelming, confusing, or contradictory.  We will do our best to separate fact from fiction and provide you with accurate and timely information.  If you have ideas for FAQs that aren’t listed, please email

Unemployment Eligibility

Are UW student employees eligible for unemployment benefits?

As of 4/28/20, we received word that, as a result of the CARES act, UW student employees may be eligible for Washington State unemployment benefits as long as they meet qualifying criteria. Information on criteria and next steps can be found here.

Are UW students who were working in off-campus jobs eligible for unemployment benefits?

This is a section from the Employment Security Department of WA webpage.
Q.  I am a part-time employee. Am I eligible for standby?
A.  If you have an anticipated date that you will return to work, under the emergency rules we put into place as a result of COVID-19, standby is available to all full-time, part-time, and other less than full-time employees. If you worked part time in the last 18 months, you must meet the minimum requirement of having worked 680 hours in your base year in order to have an unemployment claim. Basic eligibility requirements for a claim can be found here.

Is there emergency assistance available to students?

UW students are encouraged to check out the resources on the UW’s Emergency Aid page.

Labor Market for College Graduates

Are employers still hiring new college graduates for jobs/internships?

Yes, they are.  Employers are still highly active in Handshake, not just adding jobs, but also hosting various info sessions and attending several virtual career fairs!

International Students

I’m planning to start my CPT eligible position in spring or summer 2020, has COVID-19 caused any changes?

As of now (4/9/20), Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidance regarding COVID-19 has not caused any major changes to the CPT process. International Student Services (ISS) has published guidance for international students about CPT this spring and summer. Here are two key points from that guidance:

  • For CPT applicants who are completing an experience remotely for an organization in the US, you still need CPT authorization.
  • For CPT applicant who are completing an experience outside of the US for an organization outside the US, you do not need to CPT authorization.

Has COVID-19 caused any changes to post-completion OPT this spring or summer?

As of now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidance regarding COVID-19 has not caused any major changes to the OPT process. International Student Services (ISS) has published guidance for international students about OPT this spring and summer. Here are two key points from that guidance:

  • For students starting an OPT-eligible position, it is recommend that you do not leave the country before starting your job. With numerous travel restrictions due to COVID-19, getting back in to the US may be difficult.
  • OPT students should also monitor their limits on periods of unemployment between your graduation date and the start date of your job. You have 90 days (and an additional 60 days for STEM-extension OPT) to start your position before your visa expires. If your start date has been pushed back by your employer, reach out to ensure you will not exceed your unemployment limits before starting your position.

You can read more on the ISS website about COVID-19 updates for international students.


Should I be going to my internship site?

If you can conduct your internship remotely, that is the most ideal solution at this time. By conducting your internship from home, you reduce your potential risk of exposure, practice good social distancing as recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and still complete work vital to your organization. Talk with your site supervisor about the potential to work remotely for the duration of your internship. If your organization is open and work with your employer to come up with a plan for your internship accordingly. Be sure to consider the following questions in your planning: Are employees still coming in to work? What measures are being taken to mitigate exposure to others? What will the nature of your work be given the circumstances? If you and your employer agree on a plan that works for both of you and takes your health and safety into account, then you are welcome to complete your internship as discussed. Finally, some UW Schools and Colleges are strongly recommending that students complete all experiential learning opportunities remotely. If you plan to enroll in a class concurrently with your internship, check with your academic adviser or faculty sponsor to see if your school or college has any restriction on in-person work for students.

Do I HAVE to go to my internship site?

No, you do not. Your health and safety should be your first priority. The health and safety of the greater community should also be priority.  You should also consult with your academic department on what guidance, if any, they are providing for spring quarter internships. Be sure to talk with your employer about alternative forms of work. If these are not possible, it may be that you must resign from your internship if in-person work is the only option available.

I want to go to my internship site, but my employer won’t let me or isn’t able to let me.

If remote work is not an option for your internship, and your employer does not want you to come in-person, or is unable to allow you to do so, unfortunately your options are very limited. Talk with your employer about whether you can start working once normal operations resume. During the delay, you can also talk with a Career Coach about other opportunities to advance your learning.

My employer isn’t sure about what remote projects could look like, what resources are available to help them?

You can refer your employer to our new handout, Developing Remote Internships. You can use our Internship Work Plan Template to help develop goals and track progress. Information about best practices for remote work is available here.  There is also a variety of free LinkedIn Learning courses about remote working here.

What can I do if I need a piece of equipment to complete a remote internship?

Talk with your employer first to see if they are able to get you set up with any needed equipment, software, or other technology to be successful in a remote internship. There are also many resources for UW students to get access to technology, learn more here.

Are employers still hiring?  Can I still find an internship?

Yes, but internship postings in Handshake have taken a hit. Our office will continue to develop ways for you to connect with employers as they are also navigating how to adjust their recruitment and hiring practices during this time.  The application and interview process for jobs and internships may change as more information and guidelines come to light. We recommend being flexible and communicative with employers during the process and be prepared for phone and virtual interviews.

I have an international internship planned for next quarter, what should I do?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has published Travel Guidelines for travel to and from the United States. Ensure that your destination country is still an approved location to travel and talk with your employer about the best course of action regarding your internship. It may be that they ask you to delay your start date. In addition, work with the Study Abroad office to follow their guidelines on travel outside the U.S. for UW students.

I am in a for-credit class in conjunction with my internship, will it still happen?

Our distance learning course, GEN ST 350, will still be offered. We are advising academic departments to continue to offer their internship courses even if students will work remotely for their internships. Some UW Schools and Colleges are strongly recommending that students complete all experiential learning opportunities remotely. If you haven’t heard from your department yet regarding the course, reach out to your academic adviser or faculty sponsor to confirm that your internship course is still being held and that a remote internship experience would still qualify.

How should I talk about a cancelled internship on my resume, cover letter, or in interviews?  

If your internship was cancelled we want to acknowledge that this situation is frustrating and disappointing. While we don’t recommend listing a cancelled internship explicitly as experience you’ve earned, below are ideas for how to acknowledge a cancelled internship in your application materials.

Consider adding a cancelled internship towards the end of your summary of qualifications (if you wish to have one). Given that the cancelled internship was happening in the future, we do not recommend listing it in your experience section.

You can mention your cancelled internship when describing alternate activities you completed instead. Below is a short example of how you could list this on a resume. The bullet points describe what you actually completed and the title acknowledges the cancelled internship.

Independent Study & Projects – Summer 2020 *Completed in place of cancelled at XYZ Company due to COVID-19
Specialized Training
-Completed Java Basics and HTML intermediate courses through LinkedIn Learning
-Developed website to compile sample work here:

Career Development
-Conducted 5 informational interviews with media industry experts to learn more about SEO, Google Ad words and topics relevant to the field
-Practiced case studies with a small group of peers and had findings evaluated by a current expert; received positive feedback on solutions shared

Cover Letters & Interviews
If you’d like to include information about a cancelled internship in a cover letter or during an interview, we recommend framing a statement in this way: “I was excited about the knowledge, skills, and experience I would have received at XYZ Company, and I believe that this internship would be equally as valuable to my professional development.” You want to acknowledge the cancelled internship, but still focus on why this new opportunity is a good fit for you. This line could be used towards the end of the cover letter or if you are asked about what you hope to learn in an internship during an interview.

Who can I contact with questions about my internship?

Contact Dan Herb, Internship Success Manager at

Job Searching in an Uncertain Economy

As we face many uncertainties during COVID 19, one uncertainty is the economy and job market. It is not clear how and for how long it will impact jobs and the job search process. Fortunately, we do have strategies that may help!   They are described below and in this PowerPoint presentation.

Network & build relationships- Even during these times of social distancing and quarantine, it is still possible to network. Take this time to explore and update your LinkedIn and connect with professionals more. Can’t have an in-person informational interview? Have one virtually! Networking is still one of the best ways to get to know professionals and to get a job. Additionally, the person you network with may be able to provide insight into the current hiring status of their company/industry. In a Muse article, Danielle Moser, a managing director says “Companies might not be hiring today, because they’re trying to figure out how to do business virtually, but they will be hiring. The people who continue to relationship-build and share their ideas will be in a better position when companies start hiring.”

Update your profiles & materials- Besides updating your LinkedIn, you can also update your Handshake profile, resume, cover letter, e-portfolios, and/or personal websites. Handshake’s Blog and tip sheet discuss ways to fill out and update your profile.

Attend Virtual Events- According to Handshake’s Blog, “Employers like IBM and Under Armour often host virtual events on Handshake to connect with students from across the country. Attending these events is a unique way to meet employees at the companies you want to work for. Virtual events give you an opportunity to learn more about a company before applying for a job.” Be sure to check Handshake often to see what virtual events are happening!

Boost Your Skills- If you find that you have some extra time on your hands or want to take the opportunity to sharpen or gain some skills, explore LinkedIn Learning or some online classes and/or certificates. Here is a list of different online platforms you can explore to learn various skills and topics.

Concentrate on Growth Industries- Research into industries that may not be as impacted by the economy and jobs that may be available based on your skills and interests. Here is a list of the fastest growing industries in 2020 from IBIS World and here is a list of 8 popular jobs that companies are hiring for in 2020 from the World Economic Forum. Check out the list of employers actively hiring through Handshake. Or maybe you’re looking for most in-demand jobs during Covid times specifically? LinkedIn has compiled a list. Explore and research into these industries and jobs that may be of interest to you. Take it a step further by finding professionals or UW alumni who work in these fields and set up an informational interview to network and learn more.

Be Flexible- One of the greatest skills we can practice during times of uncertainty is flexibility. Maybe Plan A is not going to pan out right now. Ask yourself, what is your Plan B, C, and even D? On Career Guide advice on COVID 19, they have provided resources on finding jobs (scroll down to mid-bottom) and offer suggestions like “Work From Home Jobs That Pay Well”, “12 Companies that offer Part-Time Jobs with Benefits”, and “14 of the Best Work From Home Jobs Hiring Now”. Being flexible maybe means picking up a part-time job for the time-being (that could eventually turn full-time) or choosing a job that is remote to start off (and may eventually turn into in-person or a combination).

Stay patient, & proactive! – Though hiring processes may be slower right now and a bit discouraging, be proactive and keep applying! Don’t stop applying and miss a chance to be considered for roles that are currently available and will be available once companies and organizations have adjusted to the circumstances and economy. Being patient is going to be key during these uncertain times as industries, companies, and people are trying to figure out a new normal. Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Remind yourself that you are trying your very best and you cannot control everything that is happening. What you can control is how you respond and react. Focus on what you can do versus what you can’t. Hang in there! We are in this together and we are here to help!

Job Searching in a Virtual World

Will there be opportunities to engage with employers in-person on-campus?

No, not in person, but check out our web page with ideas and opportunities to engage with employers virtually!

Resume Books
Looking for internships or full-time jobs? Check out our virtual resume books! On Handshake, submit your resume to any of our 14 resume books, categorized by interest community and job type. As employers contact us with hiring needs, we can pass along your resume. Log in to your Handshake account, navigate to “Jobs,” and enter “resume book” in the search field.

Virtual Career Fairs
We are *hoping* to host a virtual job and internship fair on May 13.  In the meantime, you can check out some smaller virtual career fairs intended for specific industries.

Job Search Platforms
Additionally, Handshake and other job search engines, such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and Idealist will remain active. We recommend that you prioritize using Handshake, because Handshake is a hub for internships and entry level jobs, and allows you to filter by industry.

Handshake Resources
Handshake has created a blog and multiple resources specifically focused on helping students navigate a virtual career search, interview process, and making the most of a remote internship. There are also articles with tips from recruiters. Check out their website for some interesting content! Some are shared below:

How do I invite someone to a virtual coffee chat (career conversation)?

The easiest way to find someone with whom to conduct a career conversation is through LinkedIn. We strongly suggest creating a LinkedIn profile if you have not already. LinkedIn allows you search for profiles using the University of Washington’s main LinkedIn profile page — type in University of Washington into the main search bar, and once you are there, click the “Alumni” tab to the bottom left of the page. Then, type in specific major or profession-related search terms into the search bar, and the search will bring up individuals whose profiles include those words. You can also filter by employer or by location. Both employers and professionals have LinkedIn profiles.

See the videos linked here on how to reach out to a professional from LinkedIn to ask for a career conversation. One added request you will need to make in order to have a virtual coffee chat, is to mention that you would like to have the conversation via a video chatting program, such as Skype or Zoom. Ask your interviewee which they prefer. When you decide on a time to have a conversation, send your interviewee a link to the video chat.

Another way to conduct a career conversation with a professional is to reach out to that individual by identifying a mutual connection. Reflect on your past job, internship, study abroad, research, and RSO, or in-class experiences at the UW, and consider reaching out to individuals (colleagues, older classmates, previous work supervisors, PI’s) who you have crossed paths with at some point. Creating a list or spreadsheet of important potential contacts from your previous experiences can help you stay organized.

For example, consider reaching out to a professor or a teaching assistant who you have worked with, via email and asking if they know of any professionals in their networks that might be willing to introduce you to. If they share a professional’s email, reach out to that individual with a formal, respectful and brief email introducing yourself (Dear_____, my name is Eli and I am a third year Biochemistry major at the University of Washington), how you got their contact information (my professor, Dr.____ gave me your contact information), and asking them if they would be willing to have a virtual career conversation with you, via Zoom or Skype. You may want to conduct informational interviews with professors and teaching assistants themselves, to learn more about their work, especially if you are interested in academia or research as a profession.

Follow up any career conversation you have with an email thanking the individual for their time and insight, and asking if they have any other professionals in their network that could help you with your search or provide you with additional information. This could read like this: “Dear  _______, I wanted to follow up and thank you so much for your time and for the information you gave me. I am looking forward to checking out the resources you shared with me. Additionally, I wanted to ask if you knew of any other physical therapists who might be willing to speak with me about their professional journey? Please let me know. Thanks, _____(your name and graduation year).

Do you have tips for virtual interviews?

You can view a handout about virtual interviews here.  We strongly recommend scheduling a mock interview appointment with a career coach to practice interviewing skills in front of a virtual audience. The coach will ask you some common interview questions to practice your responses. We also recommend using Zoom to practice interviewing in a virtual format on your own: start a Zoom or Skype session, in which you can watch yourself answering interview questions, record the session, and play it back to see how you appear on screen. You can also do this using the Zoom app on your Smartphone or tablet.  We recommend using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Results) method to answer behavioral interview questions, such as “Tell me about a time when you collaborated with others to achieve a common goal.” You can learn more about this method here.  When asked if you have any questions for the interviewers, always come prepared with at least 3-5 questions that address specific aspects of the role or employer.  Finally, here are some common questions for which to prepare answers (in no particular order):

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Please tell me why you are interested in this position.
  • What are some strengths you bring to this job?
  • What is a challenge you would bring to this job?
  • What three words would your current colleagues use to describe you?
  • Tell me about a time when something did not go as planned – how did you move forward, despite this setback?
  • Tell me about a time you responded well under pressure to meet a deadline?
  • How would you describe your communication style?
  • Tell me about a time when you collaborated with others to get a job done.
  • Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a coworker – how did you move forward?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with others who are different from yourself.
  • Describe a time you took initiative or worked independently and were proud of the result.
  • What strategies do you use to keep yourself organized?
  • Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

Building Skills & Experience

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning is an on-demand video learning platform to help you develop and enhance skills.  You can add completed courses to your LinkedIn profile!  Free access to LinkedIn Learning is provided to all UW students, staff, and faculty by the Student Technology Fee.

Remote internships

With our changing world it’s easy to think that we are out of options if our travel is limited or restricted but there are still opportunities for us to take part in and gain that experience that can push us further in our careers. We can still be gaining those skills that make us a valuable and sought out candidate.  For some current postings you can look on the Handshake job and internship board and select the “remote work allowed” label under the All Filters tab to show remote internship opportunities only.


Micro-Internships are short-term, paid, professional assignments that are similar to those given to new hires or interns. Parker Dewey connects students to these at opportunities which are used by companies ranging from those in the Fortune 100 to emerging start-ups, and go across departments including sales, marketing, technology, HR, and finance. You can learn more and create an account on UW’s Parker Dewey website.

Short-Term Virtual Project and Work Experience

Numerous opportunities that connect students in short-term, unpaid, experiential learning or work project experiences with companies have cropped in the past few months. These opportunities can be a good way to learn skills and explore different types of work in a short-term, unpaid, and virtual way, although they are less robust than a traditional internship experience. Some of these organizations also include professional development modules, mentorship, and career coaching as part of their services to students. Here is a list of organizations offering varying types of these opportunities, we will continue to add more as we become aware of them.

Community Based Volunteer Opportunities

The Community Engagement and Leadership Education Center has launched their new Community Partners Opportunities page to support anyone who is looking for ways to advance community based work through volunteer positions. This page will be continually updated as more opportunities become available and is a great way to build experience working with non-profit and governmental organizations while also making a difference in our community. Learn more here.

Gig work

The idea of gigs is that they are small projects or tasks that you can do at any time they arise and they pay you relatively quickly for that work. Some of the biggest examples could be driving with Uber or Lyft or even something like taking surveys online. There are a lot of options out there for someone willing to take on these gigs.  For more ideas you can read up on the information compiled by Acorns here. Side Hustles

Temp work and contract work

Temp work or contract work is typically a job that either has a short term length of time or something that can get renewed at a fixed date to extend the length of employment. These jobs may arise given certain circumstances in a company, regionally, or industry. Currently there are several temporary positions open due to the increased need for services to be provided to the public. Some examples are mail clerks and grocery store associates. To find more opportunities of temp work in Seattle you can look to Indeed for temporary opportunities as well as contract opportunities.

Self-initiated projects

Self initiated projects are great ways to build up experience with an area that you are passionate about. If you love video games and programming you could work on creating a video game in your free time or if you are a graphic designer you could work on several projects to showcase your work and your art. No matter the industry there are ways that you can continue to hone your skills and these are all things that you could showcase in a resume and a portfolio. Employers will be impressed that you were able to manage your own projects and come up with such impressive results.

Some more examples of what started as self initiated projects are:

Some great skills to learn or practice virtually or on your own to support those projects are:

It is important to remember to be resourceful, if you know any keywords or activities that are popular in your industry now be sure to consistently do searches to stay up to date on these opportunities, concepts, trends, and other news in your field. It is still possible to stay relevant even if much of your work will be coming from home now.

Networking & Building Relationships Virtually

Networking has always been one of the best strategies of launching your career. A large percentage of positions are filled from referrals or filled through word of mouth. The question becomes, how can I still make these networking connections and get these referrals if I am limited to working and operating out of my home? Not to worry, there are still a good amount of options for us to take when we want to build our network and strengthen our connections.

To build our network there are several ways that we can engage, one great resource is LinkedIn with its own set of tools that we can explore.

Find recruiters from companies on LinkedIn and talk with them about their company and what is happening with them in response to COVID – 19. You can ask how they are operating now and what steps they have made to address the current workforce challenges that COVID -19 is presenting.

Find Alumni in your field by using the Alumni Search Tool on LinkedIn. By using this tool you can connect with people who are doing the work or have the same degree that you have or will earn. You can learn from them what their experiences have been in the field and they can share some great tips for you when you are ready to apply to similar positions. While they might not always have any openings in their company they may know places from their past experiences for you to look into and they can let you know about any future opportunities in their organization.

Another route that you can go to build and maintain connections could be to check out some of the local MeetUp Groups. These groups are most likely adapting to the changes that remote and virtual connections require and there are several that are still hosting events in a different form. This could be places for you to not only socialize but for you to still get a sense for the field from people that are either in the same boat as you or people that could be great mentors.

Graduate & Professional School

As they prepare for graduation, many students struggle with the decision to apply to graduate programs or to enter the job market. In tumultuous economic times, the incentives to stay in school may seem more compelling. Below are several questions to ask yourself as you identify your next steps in terms of school and work.

What is your end goal? What did you need to know to get there? You want to make sure that, if you decide to apply to graduate programs, the program you choose will serve as a stepping-stone to realizing your career vision. If you are feeling like you are not ready to enter the workforce, then going to graduate school isn’t going to help. Not wanting to get a job is not a good reason to invest in a graduate degree. Going to graduate school right after undergrad may be the best option for you if you know for sure that you want a graduate degree. Though undergrad is a long four years, you will already be in the “student” mode of studying and going to class. This can make it easier to power through a master’s program.

What specific skills do you want to learn? Are there skills your chosen profession requires you to know or that you feel you need to further develop? Does the program offer classes and opportunities to learn and hone those skills? Are the classes and methods up-to-date with the latest thinking and technology? Is the school equipped to effectively manage remote instruction? You should also research a program’s requirements. Will you have to teach? How often do you have to apply for graduate funding? Is it a full-time or part-time program? On-campus, online, or hybrid?

Start by identifying several target organizations—places you’d be happy to work one day. Look at job postings on their websites. Find out what the qualifications are for the types of positions you hope to hold. Look up current employees on LinkedIn to get a sense of their career paths. Did they take time off between college and graduate school? If so, how did they spend that time? If not, were they able to acquire work experience during graduate school? Set up informational interviews and ask them about how they got from where you are to where you want to be. Speaking to people who have pursued graduate degrees at different stages of their careers about the challenges that they faced may help you determine what is right for you.

How much does the program cost? When considering how much you can pay for graduate school think carefully about the cost of a program versus the benefits you will receive. Research average salaries for your field and consider how much you can reasonably expect to make once you have your degree. Will that offset the cost of paying for graduate school, especially if you need to take out loans? While your education is an investment, it’s important that you make sure you can cover the costs associated with earning an advanced degree.

If you end up taking time off between college and graduate school, you can try to pick up research-assistant work from a professor you hope to study with, volunteer, join community organizations, or complete your own creative projects to build relevant skills. All of these can be incredible experiences, and they’ll undoubtedly provide fodder for your future graduate school personal statements.