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Virtual Internship Best Practices

More and more companies are announcing that they’ll be returning to the office soon. But just as many companies aren’t, or are announcing permanent transitions to work-from-home. If your internship is going to start off virtually, here are our tips for making the best of a unique experience and converting to a full-time offer.

Be presentable and attentive

We’re all sick of Zoom by this point, and the concept of Zoom class has become something between a running joke and a source of genuine student misery. Zoom fatigue is real, and there are plenty of arguments for keeping your camera off in class.

But this isn’t class. While it may be hard to think about it this way from the comfort of your room, keep in mind that any internship, virtual or otherwise, is both a temporary job, and your foot in the door for full-time employment. A good percentage of your internship will involve virtual meetings, and instead of cams off / PJs on, make sure you’re visible and attentive. Especially through the first few weeks, pay close attention to who participates in which meetings, and teach yourself the organizational lay of the land. This will also give you a better idea of how and when you’re expected to contribute, and remember, your contributions should always be increasing over the course of your internship.

Actively seek out tasks and feedback to build skills

Your first goal with the internship is to convert it into a full-time offer, which will only happen if you demonstrate that you are useful and talented. Your second and third goals are to build and deepen your skillset, both to become a more effective professional, and build a solid foundation for your resume. To achieve these goals, you should ensure that you’re always assigned tasks and being an active contributor. Once you’ve finished your assignments, ask for feedback so you can improve your work product. If you’ve finished early, ask for more. And if your feedback is good / great, you’ll get bonus points for asking for more and expressing interest in specific tasks of particular interest to you.

That being said, be careful. Don’t ask for more than you can handle; your goal is to overdeliver. Asking for more work from the same person multiple times in the same week can be considered annoying - if one senior person doesn’t have new tasks for you, ask someone else before circling back to repeat the ask. And be mindful of office politics: if you report to Person A, make sure they’re fully taken care of before asking Person B if you can help them with anything.

Be on the lookout for opportunities to network

This is doubly hard in a virtual setting, and doubly important. Getting the full-time offer, and building a deep professional network for the future, requires support from the people you’re working for. One part of that is the quality of your work, but an equally important part of that is your attitude and office perception. Do the higher-ups like your work? Would they recognize your name / face? Do they think they’ve been given a chance to guide you and help you steer your career? All of these factors contribute to full-time retention. It’s a good idea to set up 1x1 check-ins with your direct supervisor, and potentially schedule one-off check-ins as well with anybody you’re doing work for. Depending on where you’re doing your internship, and what your company’s policies / your own health tolerances are, meeting in-person in a socially distanced fashion, especially if all parties are vaccinated, can also be a great way to get a leg up.

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