How to Get the Most Out of Your Virtual Internship This Summer

If any generation can succeed in this environment, it’s Gen Z
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Transitioning from college to the workforce can be stressful and overwhelming under normal conditions. Transitioning during a global health and humanitarian crisis—that’s another hurdle entirely.

I have seen estimates that half of summer internships evaporated this year due to coronavirus. But many employers have been able to move internships online and whatever the environment, the goals of a summer internship remain unchanged: to provide students with a taste of a real working experience; and employers with the opportunity to find great talent and build our hiring pipelines.

This year we’ll do it virtually–there’s no question this poses unique challenges, but if any generation can succeed in this environment, it’s Gen Z.

So my main message to this year’s class is: don’t be intimidated; this is an exciting and unique opportunity for you to rise to the occasion. Your employer will benefit from the knowledge and life experiences you bring to the role. As a generation, you’re already comfortable communicating through virtual platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

You are uniquely positioned to thrive in a virtual environment, and with the right attitude, support and mentorship, your experience will be just as valuable as a regular in-person internship.

Getting the Most Out of Your Internship

Throughout your unique virtual internship, there are steps you can take to have the most success and make a positive impact:

  • Create your own workspace Have a designated area that you work from each day, so you can mimic an office environment, stay organized and focused. It needs to be quiet and free from distraction. For video meetings, dress professionally and tidy up your ‘remote office.’
  • Practice your daily routine Start your day off with a routine and activities that enhance your physical and emotional wellness (which is especially important in the current environment). Make a clear end to your workday and avoid personal distractions when you’re on the job.
  • Make sure your technology works Give yourself extra time to ensure all the technology needed for your job–such as computer, internet access, cellphone–are installed and working properly. You don’t want to be distracted by troubleshooting technical issues.
  • Communicate If there’s one thing that’s needed in a virtual work environment, it’s impeccable communication. Be proactive in communicating with colleagues, mentors and managers on everything from project progress and deadlines, to work challenges or obstacles.
  • Schedule regular check-ins Schedule regular check-ins with your manager to discuss your experience, areas for improvement and tips for success. Managers and teammates are happy to help mentor and work with interns and new hires. Leverage your employer’s mentorship programs, virtual networking sessions and other professional development opportunities.
  • Be flexible Many employees are taking on expanded or differing roles and it can open you up to greater opportunity, even if it differs from your initial plan. Being a team player by showing a willingness to learn new skills shows real value to co-workers and management.
  • Get to know your teammates It is harder to get to know fellow interns and colleagues in a virtual setting, but it’s extremely important. Ask to schedule informal calls or networking meetings with colleagues to help build relationships that will last beyond your internship.

Your virtual internship can provide invaluable experience. Seek to gain exposure to leaders in your area of focus, complete meaningful projects and take advantage of networking opportunities, and make the effort to connect with people. An internship also gives you the opportunity to test and learn if a company is a good culture fit for you in the future. Can you see yourself having multiple opportunities to grow your career at the company? At Bank of America for example, our Student Leaders, internships and full-time campus hires represent the future of our company and are critical to fueling our diverse talent pipeline.

I’m proud of Bank of America’s commitment to campus hires during this global health and humanitarian crisis. Not only are we innovating to offer a positive virtual work experience for our incoming class, but we have promised to pay our interns in full, despite a shortened timeline, and we’re also helping create other paid summer employment opportunities in Denver by supporting Mayor Hancock’s My Brother’s Keepers program.

We’re all in this together. Never underestimate the power of a positive attitude, and a collaborative and creative spirit.

Categories: Company Perspectives