I’ve noticed a few “I’m supposed to do a summer internship for [insert Big 4 firm here], will Coronavirus affect my offer?” posts on Reddit lately so I figured we should probably address the issue. I apologize in advance for all the COVID-19 coverage around here, it’s the most exciting thing to happen since we broke the story of KPMG acquiring Rothstein Kass in 2014 really.
Let’s start with the basic concern.
So a couple things here. First, as y’all know I’m old. I was on the ground during the 2008 financial crisis and I assure you, offers were being given out as generously as the bad mortgages that kicked off the crisis in years before. Did firms tighten their belts? Of course. But accounting is generally recession-proof in that audits still need to be done and taxes filed, only some kind of apocalyptic event rivaling the best Fallout game (3, IMHO) could possibly disrupt these things. My job in CPA review at the time was busier than ever as the profession was flooded with former real estate agents and other assorted professionals who’d been laid off and were looking for a little security. So relax.
Second, there’s a lot we don’t know here. For example, I’m supposed to attend Pokemon GO Safari Zone Philadelphia in May (shut up it’s my thing leave me alone). At this point, no one really knows what will happen. A similar event in St. Louis has already been postponed due to COVID-19 fears, and Niantic says they’re considering doing the same for both my event in Philly and a mid-April Safari Zone in Liverpool, England. Honestly I’d rather they err on the side of caution and reschedule than risk getting sick just for a pretzel and a chance at a shiny Voltorb. All that to say, everyone is kind of just making this up as they go and we aren’t sure what the next few months will look like. Hell, we barely know what next week will look like.
Add to that, we were discussing the possibility of canceled internships on our weekly editorial call earlier in the week and realized that the bigger issue is that interns are going to have issues working from home. I mean fetching lunch isn’t exactly something you can do for the team from home. As big companies and even government agencies are starting to tell employees to stay home, how would that work if and when accounting firms adopt the same policy? Friendly reminder, EY Madrid sent the whole office home and instituted WFH when an employee tested positive for COVID-19. An EY spokesperson told Reuters the move was due to “protocol” so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that we could see the same thing at other offices going forward.
The last thing to keep in mind is that worrying accomplishes nothing. Let’s say firms take an unprecedented step and cancel summer internships across the board (unlikely). Surely some concession will be made for students who won’t, for whatever reason, have another opportunity to complete an internship at a later date when this all blows over. And for everyone else, there’s always winter or next summer. If this is going to happen (again, it’s a huge if), it’s going to happen. Unlike stocking up on toilet paper, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to prepare for it or prevent it. So why worry? All you’re gonna do is stress yourself out, and stress is bad for your immune system or so I’m told.
If you’re really that concerned, reach out to your recruiter but they’re probably just as clueless and out of the loop as you are. See above re: everyone just kinda winging this as they go. It would certainly be a pretty significant move for firms to cancel internships but again, we don’t know what the next few weeks or months might look like. Despite having lived in Nevada once upon a time I’m not really a betting person but if I was, I’d put 98% odds on summer internships going ahead as planned.
That said, anyone who has gotten word that their internship could be affected by Coronageddon is encouraged to use the contact information below and share with the class. We’d be curious to hear what your recruiters are telling you.