An internship has been a huge stepping stone for youth, being a critical exposure to the real-life experience they need for post-graduation, not to mention the exposure they get to other cultures and countries if they go abroad. A record number of internships have moved online in 2021 and the pandemic was a huge player in this shift. Those who are working virtually have been given an opportunity that other students whose internships were canceled don’t get - and it’s now on you to make sure you’re getting the most out of your remote internship.
Although you may not have planned to work from home and it may not seem like you’re gaining the entire experience, it is still possible for you to maximize your remote internship so that you leave with amazing relationships, real-world experience, and have demonstrated impact on a company that could one day be your employer.
What does demonstrating impact mean?
Think about what you want to get out of your internship and your short and long-term goals. Are you hoping to complete your internship solely to fill a space on your resume or are you hoping to make an impression on your company so that they may one day hire you or leave a glowing review?
By demonstrating impact, you are taking active steps to make an impact on the company you’re interning for as well as hoping to have them make an impact on yourself. It goes both ways and by gathering as much experience and solid relationships as you can - and ensuring that you’ve also been given the best opportunity to succeed, you’ll be set to ensure that the impact you’ve demonstrated is maximized. And it’s not impossible to do even if you never actually meet your connections face to face.
Here are some ways you can maximize your remote internship so you can demonstrate the most impact.
Treat your remote internship more like office hours than homework.
Set boundaries between work and home life, regardless of if your company gives you the flexibility to work when you want. Schedule “office hours” each day that you will work on projects and be sure to stick to them. By doing this, you’re not only ensuring that you’re giving yourself ample time to finish tasks but you’re also proving to the company that you’re dedicated and organized.
Just because you can’t physically go to your internship doesn’t mean you have to stay home. You can take your scheduled “office hours” and go sit at the library, your university, or at a nearby coffee shop. By being away from home and the many distractions that await you there, you’re more likely to see the time as dedicated to working. You’ll also feel happier that you got out of the house and away from seeing the same things every day that can be quite depressing.
Take pride in your work and it will show.
You can take this one with you for the rest of your career. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, no matter what you’re doing, it will reflect in your work. It shouldn’t matter if you’re doing data entry or writing interesting reports, take pride in your work and show a positive outlook and the company will notice.
Because you’re not there to take in context when a manager or supervisor comes to you and asks for revisions or to change the way you work, it can be easy to get defensive. In these situations, stay positive and always read everything as if it’s coming in a friendly way and not as critical that you need to defend. Being open to growing and learning while at your internship is why you’re there.
Don’t stay completely behind the scenes.
Communication is obviously huge when completing an internship and it can seem more difficult to really speak with your company when you’re working from home. Don’t be afraid to ask to speak over Zoom or another phone call when you have questions or need clarification on certain tasks, it will start to foster a relationship with your company and ensure you’re being seen and heard as an individual and not just a name on a screen. If managers and mentors haven’t set up frequent 15-minute check-ins or chats, reach out and ask to schedule something.
Take it a step further and find out the names and roles of others in the company, especially ones who could be great connections to have. Follow them on social media such as Instagram and Linkedin and be active in engaging with them or even messaging or emailing them to introduce yourself, seek advice, or even just to reach out and begin some office friendships.
Note: video is key to building relationships when working remotely. Don’t settle for just an email, even if you are shy. Reach out to new colleagues in the first week to set up an introduction as a group and individually. You’ll find that you’re far more likely to relate to your coworkers on a personal level when you can see and react to each other via video. Meeting in the first week or so breaks the ice and doesn’t leave for awkward emails weeks down the road when you have questions but aren’t familiar with a person.
Always ask for feedback.
Especially when you’re first starting your remote role, you are learning and absorbing so much. The best thing you can do is ask for feedback and thoughts on your work. Not only will it keep communication lines open but it will also help you to finesse your skills so you can be better prepared for your career path.
Even if your manager says you’re “doing fine,” ask for them to elaborate on what they liked about your most recent submission and if there was anything, even anything small, that you could use more work on. Chances are that your manager or supervisor will see that you truly want to grow and will take this as a sign that you’re committed and loyal to your role. Remember though to take the advice and feedback happily and constructively use it to build your skills. Like we mentioned above, don’t get defensive as it will only reflect you in the wrong light and not as the mature, working young adult that you are.
Learn more than what you need to know.
This one could be the key to success in your internship role. You may have a direct team you’re working with certain tasks to do but it doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive and learn as much as you can about a company and the other people who work there during your time in your role.
A good option is to ask about spending a day or two in another role or shadowing other positions at the company This will give you an opportunity to meet new people, see what goes into different tasks and positions, and perhaps even help you decide on what type of career you’d like to follow when you finish your internship.
Find and realize the opportunities you’re getting that you might not have if you had been receiving an in-person internship.
You’re learning new skills by working remotely that you may not have received if you were in person. The world is turning virtual and technology is evolving at record speeds, you’re giving yourself online experience, working remote experience, and proving that you are able to communicate efficiently through virtual means and stay on-task unsupervised. These are only a few of the skills you’re developing in your new role.
As you continue through your internship, notice how you’ve gotten better at working with online software, your email etiquette is evolving, and you’re typing faster than you ever have before. If you notice these changes and new abilities, you’ll start to build a sense of pride and see that you aren’t being inhibited at all by working from home.
Know that this is new to everyone involved and that there are going to be challenges.
Chances are that managing remote internships, and probably even remote workers, is new to the company you’re working for. There’s going to be learning on all sides along the way. If you feel that you’re not getting enough direction, communication, or even culture from the company, reach out and offer changes that could be implemented to better work with what you need.
Setting up a virtual internship/working hub could be key to ensuring that communication is open constantly. Many companies aren’t aware of the programs available that can help and may think email is enough. Telling them that you need more isn’t going to affect your internship. When you find challenges along the way, speak up and your voice will be heard. Continue to remain positive about the role and you’ll find that the entire team begins to adapt quickly and easily and you’ll feel like a valuable part of the company in no time.
Keep track of your reflections and achievements.
It can be a good idea to have a journal on hand during your remote internship. Every time you’ve noticed an achievement, however small, write it down and add your thoughts and feelings towards how this achievement has benefited you in reaching your short and long-term goals. If you’ve learned something new that you know you will be able to use in the future, formally write instructions down (not quick scribbles) so that you can go back and refresh your memory.
These notes and reflections will give you something to look back on, provide you with proof that you excelled when you need a pick-me-up, and even be a great reference when building your resume and asking for a letter of recommendation.
Don’t forget to keep the connections you’ve made even after your internship ends.
We’re so happy that you’ve been able to create some relationships and communicate effectively with the other roles at your internship company. Now it’s time to take these connections you’ve made and keep them wherever you go. It’s true that the best doors open when you know someone on the other side, but not only that, you now have some friends and future colleagues who can continue to give you life advice (even if it’s how to make the best after-work cocktails) for years after.
If you haven’t connected on social media, do so now. You can also ask for personal emails and phone numbers to text, but don’t be too pushy if all someone is willing to give you is a virtual handshake and a “good luck on your future endeavors.”
Finally, ask your mentors, managers, and supervisors for letters of recommendation ahead of time so they have enough time to write and give them back to you before your final day. Always leave on a good note even if the company didn’t automatically offer you a position. Those recommendations will get your foot in the door in so many places and you’ve given yourself such great work and real-life experience, regardless of if you acquired it at home. If anything, you’ve overcome more by doing your internship through a pandemic and are capable of excelling at so much more!