If you are considering taking up a remote internship opportunity whether due the current covid-19 situation or because virtual internships offer an opportunity to work for your choice of company without moving cities – this article will help you make the most out of your virtual internship experience.
Virtual internships have up until now always played a second fiddle to regular office internship. The purpose of an internship is to give the student a feel of the real world. Hence, going to office, mingling with other employees over breaks and understanding how to behave and adjust into the office culture are an integral part of the internship experience. To most of us virtual internship just couldn’t offer the same experience. However, with work from home becoming a norm and many companies planning to allow employees to continue doing so in the post covid world – a virtual internship now is a far more real experience!
Below are a few helpful tips that may guide future interns in navigating a virtual internship.
Interning from home can give you a feeling that no one is watching. You might want to work during odd hours or wait till the last minute to submit work. On the contrary, you need to be a lot more proactive and on top of things to make the most of your virtual internship. Act and behave like you are in the office in-person. During the onset of the internship ask your internship head
- What’s the best way to get in touch if you have any queries and what would the response time be?
- Is there a way to connect with other employees during your internship?
- What is the usual business hour?
- What is the reporting structure (if they haven’t given you one)?
Having answers to these questions will equip you to get the maximum out of your supervisor without being intrusive. To get the most out of the internship you will need discipline, focus and a passion for learn.
Remember for many companies and supervisors this might be their first time going virtual too. So their internship program might not have the perfect structure which may make things confusing for you. Companies like Pfizer who have never hired a virtual intern previously, hired 389 virtual interns in 2020! They planned their internship program well but the managers had to work hard to get things right to make sure the interns get the most out of the experience.
“The 2020 Pfizer internship may have been unorthodox, but I am confident that both Pfizer and our 389 summer interns learned valuable skills and useful information. When our interns look back on their summer with Pfizer years from now, I hope they will see it the same way as I viewed my own summer jobs: as a foundational experience that will continue to guide them forward.” – Albert Bourla, Chairman & CEO, Pfizer.
This may not be the case with all companies, hence, to make the most of the internship proactively ask questions and take up responsibility.
Focus on Relationships
One of the biggest values of any internship is the relationships you build during your time as an intern. Building meaningful relationship as a virtual intern can be difficult but nevertheless worth the effort. Ask your program head about the key people you should get in touch with during your internship that might help you complete your tasks successfully and others who he recommends based on your goals. Reach out to these people and ask for quick meetings to learn more about their roles. Make sure you have your conversation prepared before the meeting, you don’t want to chit chat aimlessly and waste their time. Over these meeting find the right person to be your mentor to guide you through your career path.
Make sure you stay in touch with the people you connect with over LinkedIn or email well after the internship is over. Remember relations made digitally require more work and effort to remain meaningful.
Communication is different when you’re working remotely. Most will happen through chats, email and comments in project management systems, so you can’t rely on in-person connections to clarify something. As mentioned earlier always have an agenda ready with a list of items you would like to discuss during the meeting. Sending your agenda ahead of time is also a good way to help your supervisor come prepared with the answers you need ahead of the call. Prioritize topics that are time sensitive or urgent to ensure you address those first.
Here is a great article by Lisa Evans a professional speaker and a public speaking trainer if you need tips on communicating effectively online.
Maintain a Checklist
It’s easy to lose track of time and agenda when working from the comfort of your room. From a text message to a pop up everything is out there to distract! So, make a checklist for the day, the week and the entire program. Make sure you knock each item on the checklist daily. This will help you stay on track and give you enough time to work on any last minute issues that may come up.
Breaks and Leaves
Just because no one will know is not a reason to not communicate to your supervisor in advance if you are not available during a certain time of the day or you need a leave for a day. Even though virtual internships and remote jobs allow you the freedom to work at our own time, many projects or companies may require you to be available through office hours. It is unlikely that you will be required by your supervisor for an emergency but it is still a good practice to communicate about your availability. You don’t want to be in the middle of a park when your team expects you to send out some files sitting comfortably on your desktop at home!
Don’t be Overworked
It can often seem like there is no end to the work day when you are working remotely. However, that doesn’t mean the expectation is that you work more hours than if you were working in an office. It is your responsibility to strike the right balance and communicate with your supervisor if you’re feeling overwhelmed and have too much work to do. Ask for feedback from your supervisor, a mentor or other colleagues on how you can be more efficient.
Mark C. Perna, Forbes Contributor talks about how over 70% companies are planning to not offer an on-site internship in the near future.
A virtual internship has the potential to truly give a boost to your career and help you sharpen your skills. Follow the above tips and make the most of the opportunity. Are you looking for virtual internship opportunities? ECA Internships works with over 500 companies and has placed over 6500 students over the years. Check out our internship job board for the latest opportunities.