This year, students experienced a recruiting season like no other. The usual stress of finding a summer internship was magnified as internships became completely virtual, offers were rescinded, and some applicants were even ghosted by interviewers.
In the foreseeable future (if shelter-in-place is ever lifted), internships will take on a new normal. Currently, companies and organizations reap the benefits of virtual internship programs, as they are often cheaper to run and more inclusive toward a wide range of students. In the likely case that virtual internships remain common, here are 5 tips to make the most of your experience:
#1: In your first week on the job, be proactive and set up coffee chats with your team members. In virtual settings, the feeling of having an active work environment is dampened. Small talk before and after meetings is absent, and quick chit-chats in the breakroom are lost, making it difficult to know your co-workers and manager outside of scheduled Zoom calls. Scheduling short, introductory video chats with your team members will help restore that work setting and allow your co-workers to get to know your personality from the start. Take this opportunity to learn about your teammates’ backgrounds and career paths, and ask them what their favorite memory is from working in the office!
#2: Research and attend virtual company events. Explore any online events, communities, and resources your company or organization might have to offer. Check to see if your company hosts virtual happy hours or holiday-themed events, or if your company has interest-based microcommunities and affinity groups. This is a great way to get to know other people with whom you don’t directly work. Use this time to explore related fields and treat your internship experience as a learning opportunity, especially if you’re still figuring out what to do after college.
#3: Organize a designated work space and set clear work hours for yourself. If your couch or bed is the place where you relax and unwind, try instead to work at your desk or the kitchen table. Create boundaries within your physical space to stay productive and focused during the workday and allow yourself to completely unplug once your hours are over. Taking time to slow down at the end of the day and to stop thinking about work may be difficult, especially if you love what you do (woohoo!), but it will help you re-energize for the next day and keep your mind from overloading.
#4: Keep track of every assignment you complete, even the minor day-to-day tasks. I’m going to be honest, working at the computer for eight hours a day and weeks on end might fry your brain a little. Keep your memory fresh by writing down everything you did that day or that week. Taking this time for reflection will keep you on top of your tasks in a virtual setting where you might be easily distracted by what’s around you (like that Netflix bookmark that’s been taunting you all day). In addition, when your internship is complete, you’ll have a list of all your accomplishments, which will make it easier to update your resume, prepare for interviews, or ask for a recommendation in the future.
#5: Above all, remember to take it day by day! Virtual internships are wonderful opportunities to learn and grow as a student, young professional, and individual. But if you overthink it (like me), sometimes it can feel as if you need to do everything at once, like introduce tons of new ideas to your boss or attend extra webinars. These things are great, but don’t feel pressured to pursue them all the time, every day. Working fast and hard doesn’t always mean you’ll produce meaningful, quality work. Finding your own pace will help you stay grounded and focused, which, in the long-run, may help you more than finding 20 new connections on LinkedIn.
Remember, YOU are the one working in this virtual position, and you know your work ethic the best — not your peers, not your family, not me! These are tips I found helpful, but in the end, my most important tip is to do what is best for you. Good luck!