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Making the Most of Your Summer and Winter Breaks During COVID-19

This year UTK students have almost two months for Winter Break, and this is a great time to get a head start on career-related goals. Additionally, as you plan for summer, you may experience uncertain plans, cancellations, or disruptions. While college students across the globe are experiencing similar situations, there are still ways to develop professionally during your time away from classes. Consider these resources and strategies.


Internships – On Site and Virtual

Organizations are hiring for spring and summer internships. While some of these opportunities may be in-person, other companies have converted to virtual internships. Search these job boards and resources and use key words like virtual or remote if you are specifically seeking an online opportunity:

  • Handshake – Find thousands of jobs and internships in UT’s premier database. Make the most of your profile.
  • CareerShift – Search this job aggregator for internships or part-time jobs in an industry of interest.
  • Way Up – Use this job and internship board specifically designed for college students and recent graduates. Many virtual internships are listed here.
  • – Search for federal student and recent-graduate opportunities through the Pathways program.
  • Department of State’s Virtual Student Federal Service – Apply to this virtual program in the summer and start your projects in the fall semester.
  • Track the status of hundreds of internship programs at GitHub.

If you received an offer for a summer internship prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and your employer has cancelled their internship program, ask if your internship could be done remotely. You can modify the language below to request virtual work:

Hello Company X,

Although I am quite disappointed in the cancellation of your summer internship program, I certainly understand the decision. I was especially excited to intern with you all this summer and looking forward to [insert reason you wanted to intern with said company – projects you would work on, specific skills you would use, people you would meet, company culture, etc.]. I would like to propose an alternative option. Would you be willing to consider hiring me as a remote intern? I think my skills and experience in [list specific reasons why they selected you for the internship and capabilities to work remotely] would translate well to a remote environment. Alternatively, if you are not able to accommodate a full-time remote intern, maybe I could assist on a per-project basis? I would enjoy utilizing and honing my skills in [insert specific skill areas] on specific projects or tasks that would meet your company’s needs. 

Projects and Micro Internships

Sometimes full scale internships are not available or feasible for students’ circumstances. Completing remote projects, or micro internships, can be a great way to gain skills, make connections, and add specific accomplishments to your resume. Check out the resources for projects and micro internships:

  • Parker Dewey – Apply to complete paid virtual projects, or micro internships, with a variety of companies. Most micro internships are about 10-40 hours worth of work.
  • Catchafire – Volunteer to complete a skills-based project, such as a website design or written press release, for a non-profit. Browse opportunities through this platform.
  • Volunteer your skills to a Non-Profit – Are you a whiz on social media? Love to create budgets? Great at teaching and training? Have a knack for writing and editing? Consider approaching a non-profit organization whose mission you value and volunteer your time and skills to help them on remote and virtual projects. You can search for Knoxville-area non-profits through the Alliance for Better Non-Profits, the United Way, and Volunteer East Tennessee. Consider using the following language when approaching an organization:

Hello Non-Profit X,

I am a junior at University of Tennessee majoring in public relations. My summer internship plans were disrupted due to the COVID-19 epidemic, and I find myself with extra time on my hands. I was wondering if you had any remote projects that I could assist with? I am skilled in writing press releases, social media, PR strategy, basic website design, and basic InDesign and Photoshop skills. I would love to help with any marketing, PR, writing, or social media needs you may have. I have always been interested in your mission of [insert why you decided to contact this non-profit] and would enjoy assisting in your mission while honing my career-specific skills. If you would like to discuss this proposal further, please call or email me at your convenience. 

Skill Development

Summer and Winter breaks are a great time to build skills employers are seeking. Take a look at the most in-demand hard and soft skills of 2020. Are there any that you would like to learn? Are there any skills that are a necessity in your intended career path that you would like to hone? Take a free online course in Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Excel, or Blockchain.

  • LinkedIn Learning – offers hundreds of thousands of quality videos and trainings on topics from GIS to Information Literacy to Video Editing
  • Forage – provides employer-created projects, simulations, and trainings designed to help students learn the key skills needed in an industry
  • Mango – check out this online language learning resource with over 70 different language options


The summer and winter breaks are a great time to build and maintain your network. Consider doing informational interviews with individuals working in career fields of interest. While, not a direct job-search method, these interactions can lead to hidden opportunities.

  • Connect with UT alumni on LinkedIn – Update your LinkedIn profile, message your current connections, and find new connections through the UT alumni portal.
  • Attend virtual industry-related conferences – Many professional conferences are online this year and offering discounts to student attendees. Search for conferences in your field and consider attending virtually to learn and network with peers.