How To Get What You Need From Your Remote Internship

Kudos, you’ve scored a summer internship! Fully embrace this opportunity; it’s an ideal way to cue your orientation into the professional world. 

Robin White, Founder and Managing Partner of Guided Leadership Solutions, explains: “Internships allow you to learn what you can’t in school. School teaches fundamentals – they are important, but internships teach real-life scenarios that don’t come up in the classroom setting. Every company is different; every job is different. By working internships, emerging professionals have an opportunity to see different perspectives and learn new things. In an internship, you have a golden opportunity to get a feel for what you like and what you don’t like so you can evaluate if you are on the right path.” 

Your internship stands to offer a whole new level of education. It grows you up professionally and gives you direction on how your next chapter might read. But after a year of remote education, you may find yourself a bit disheartened to find that your internship will also be conducted remotely. While this may not seem as socially dynamic or as fun as dressing up every day and commuting into an actual workplace, a remote internship is still an outstanding opportunity. 

Plus, working remotely this summer gives you unique and relevant experience during a transitional time. You are solidifying your place in history as a contributing member of the pandemic workforce. This has been a hard time for the global workforce, and they have come through using their grit, resilience, agility, creativity, and optimism. These are the same soft skills that have been powering your academic work during this global health crisis, and they are in demand in the workplace.   

Although your internship might look a little different than you may have anticipated, you are well-positioned to rock this opportunity. Here’s what to consider as you get started with your remote internship so that you can get what you need from the opportunity. 

Observe how your internship can serve you.  

Internships are an important way to bridge academic understanding with professional experience. Internships are valuable because they give you a hands-on sense of what you want to do professionally and relevant work samples to use when it’s time to job search. These opportunities also expand your network and give you a taste of professional life and workplace culture. 

Internships help when it comes time to interview for your first job, both by giving you a feel for what it’s like to work in a professional environment and providing you with the fundamental opportunities and materials you need to demonstrate that you have that experience.  

White points out: “I’ve recruited for hundreds of positions in my career. In my years of recruiting, many of those positions were entry-level. The candidates who had Internships were hands down better prepared for the job (even if the internship wasn’t relevant to the job I was hiring for). They had the experience of interacting with a professional team. They had exposure to relevant work environments.” 

Remember that the professional landscape in flux.  

It can seem challenging, though, to feel like you’re getting the full experience when your internship is remote. Although, at the same time, you may not get the chance to work face-to-face with your colleagues and managers, your remote internship positions you to experience what so much of the workforce has gone through during the pandemic. Professional cultures have changed, and your remote internship positions you to get versed in that new paradigm.  

Glassdoor’s chief economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain points out: “An important lesson from history is that every crisis presents risks and opportunities. In 2020, COVID-19 devastated large parts of the economy, put millions out of work, and created the direst health crisis of the 21st Century. But it also overturned outdated beliefs about remote work, sparked companies to build programs that foster emotional and cultural bonds between teams, and has put even the most vigorous company cultures through the crucible during historically trying times.” 

Life and work look different as we begin to contemplate the post-covid workplace. As a remote intern, you have your fingers directly on that pulse, which positions you well for your future.  Use the experience to learn everything you can. You may have to off-road it a bit as you find your footing in the new frontier, the post-covid workplace, but as Dr. Chamberlain points out, there is an opportunity here. Targeting that and learning to discuss it can be a tremendous asset when it’s time to hit the interview circuit.    

White points out: “In a remote internship, it is harder to build relationships and get a feel for office culture. But, with the right mindset, you’ll still get something out of it if you put in the effort. Go in with some goals that you hope to accomplish during the internship and make sure you have regular communication with your manager to evaluate your progress and opportunities to meet those goals.”  

Be open to an experimental workplace. 

Many companies are still planning what their post-pandemic reality will look like-will all staff be back in the office full-time, part-time?  Will vaccines be required? How will this be monitored, and by whom? There is much to iron out.   

Dr. Chamberlain predicts that cultural experimentation will continue at many companies until they find a suitable formula for their teams.  Dr. Chamberlain advises: “Prepare for an unprecedented wave of experimentation and innovation around hybrid remote-in-office roles — part remote and part in-office — in 2021 and beyond.”

In the past, companies may have been better positioned to develop a rich program routinely deployed to govern the intern experience. Now, however, internship programs may be part of an employee experience program that is still emerging. 

While your remote internship may not be exactly what you pictured, it’s still a great opportunity that puts you in the heart of observing the workplace of the future as it’s taking shape. So embrace this opportunity for all that it makes possible. Use it to build your resume and network and to understand what you need and want professionally.  

White points out: “Any internship opportunity is positive. Work experience, especially relevant work experience, is a huge factor in finding future opportunities. Getting exposure in different roles, different sized companies, and different experiences helps broaden your horizons and learning opportunities . . . regardless of location (virtual or in-person). It’s definitely more challenging in a remote internship, but if you make an effort, you’ll have just as much impact.” 

Try to make the most of your opportunity. 

You may have to adjust your strategies a bit to get the most out of your experience.  White recommends a proactive approach: “I’ve been mentoring college Juniors and Seniors for 6+ years. The advice I always give to those who have found internships is to reach out and build your network throughout the company, not just in the department/team your internship is in. Send an email or message to other people throughout the organization. Let them know you are an intern and are looking at learning about the whole organization, and would they be willing to take some time to meet with you to tell you more about their role and how it fits into the greater picture.” 

While there are some ways that a remote arrangement makes it harder to interact with others, in some ways, it simplifies things. Taking risks and reaching out electronically can feel a bit less intimidating than stopping by someone’s office. Take advantage of that. White explains: “People love to share their experiences…take advantage of that!! The most successful professionals are those who understand the
organization outside of their silo, so here is a chance to build your knowledge.” 

Target opportunity. 

Internships are important, and they stand to serve you well. Continue to pursue these opportunities; this goes for students and those who are not enrolled in classes. Internships enrich opportunities for all budding professionals. 

White advises: “Reach out to your school’s career services (or equivalent) and also ask your academic advisor if there is course credit available for internship opportunities. If you aren’t in school but have an interest in learning and gaining experience in a new field, those services are usually available to non-students. If not, the job boards probably are. You can also reach out to target companies and offer to be an intern. Just because they didn’t think to hire one doesn’t mean they aren’t open to the idea.”

The pandemic restricted our access to so much over the past 16 months, but it also gave us the chance to hone new capabilities, including our soft skills. Use these tips to further your work as a student and professional. While it may feel disappointing that many opportunities have been altered and restricted, this experience has also taught us a lot. Lean into that during your remote internship and in your post-pandemic work.  

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Glassdoor Team June 17, 2021 at 12:54AM

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