Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, lives have been changed on a global scale in more ways than one. Whether you are student, parent, grandparent, or educator, everyone’s lives were impacted by the outbreak of the global pandemic. Our new reality involves wearing a mask in public, standing six feet away from one another, socially isolating ourselves, and working from home. For me personally, the way this summer has played out so far is nothing like I imagined it to be just a few months ago. I was supposed to be in New York City for the summer, living on campus while doing my first internship with the Fresh Air Fund. However, that all changed when students all over the world were forced to leave campus, unsure of when we would return; I flew back home to Germany where I would conduct my internship. I was concerned about how everything would work remotely as this was my first internship and I also had to navigate the six hour time difference between Germany and New York. That being said, as I near the end of my fifth week as a Communications intern for The Fresh Air Fund, I am more than pleased with my experience thus far and I am here to tell you how I managed to navigate this complicated yet beneficial situation.
1. Set hopes + goals
Creating a list of my hopes and goals for the summer was one of the first things my supervisor asked me to do. Honestly, it kind of shocked me but I realized this would help set my priorities and make the most of my remote internship. It is also a great way to document your growth over the course of the summer (or whenever you are doing your remote internship) and document what you have accomplished. Are you hoping to improve your skills in graphic design, writing, or Microsoft Suite? Whatever it is, take note of it and watch how you grow.
2. Communication is key
Communication is essential if you have never met the people you are working with in person and have only talked to them through your computer. When you can’t simply walk to your supervisor’s office to ask a question, you have to get creative with how you stay in communication with one another. I recommend sending your supervisor an email at least once a day to let them know what you have been working on and the progress you have made throughout the week. I am fortunate enough that my supervisor sends me an email of daily tasks so that I don’t have to constantly ask about what I should be working on. I would also ask for feedback on whatever project or task you are working on. Once you’ve completed something, send your supervisor a note to let them know you are finished but also as if there is anything you can improve on. This opens up a line of communication that lets your supervisor know you care about the work you are doing and want to improve in any way you can.
3. Create a to-do list
Like I said before, I am lucky enough to have my to-do list sent to me the night before but not everyone has that luxury. The easiest way to start a to-do list is by writing down any tasks you may not have had the opportunity to finish or would like to revise. Keep your list at a maximum of seven items just so that you do not overwhelm yourself. Do not be afraid to ask your supervisor if you can pitch in on any projects that are of interest to you if you feel like you need something else to do.
4. Create a schedule
In addition to creating a daily to-do list, before your internship even starts, try to figure out your work schedule. Whether or not you get to create your own hours, you should treat your internship like a regular job. On whatever days you work, have a set time you wake up, get ready, start working, and finish for the day. Establishing such a routine and dedicating a certain block of time just for work can help you meet deadlines and stay on track. Doing this makes me feel like I am getting up and ready to go to work when in reality I am just working from home.
5. Get to know your team
It would be a lot easier to get to know the people you are working with if you were in an office and working side-by-side but unfortunately we can’t do that right now. That is why you should put in the extra effort to schedule a weekly meeting time with your supervisor, other interns, or the whole team just to check in with one another and build a stronger relationship. It may be difficult for those who are working for a larger corporation but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to reach out and get to know your teammates. For example, every Thursday the FAF communications team has a weekly recap meeting where we say our highs and lows of the week (whether they are work related or not). It gives us a better sense of what is going on in each other's lives and provides an open space to speak candidly about ourselves.
I hope some of these tips prove useful to those of you who are currently working from home or will be in the fall/spring. These are challenging and confusing times but nothing you can’t handle! Keep in mind that this might be the first time that the majority of companies are conducting remote internships and they are trying to navigate the situation themselves, so please be patient; it is a massive learning curve for everyone. Overall, try to make the most of your experience because every experience is an opportunity to learn!