Summer is fast approaching and a lot of us will be participating in virtual internships (again). I know that not being able to experience the workplace and meet your co-workers in person may make the experience less exciting and even a bit stressful. Perhaps you are wondering whether you will be able to connect with your team, how you will do your work individually, or if the internship will turn out to be a meaningful learning experience.
I had my first virtual internship experience working as a Marketing Intern last summer. I started the internship with minimum expectations — thinking it was better than doing nothing, and to my surprise, it ended up being one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had. Through actively engaging in different projects, I developed strong relationships with co-workers and learned a lot about marketing. Below, I share some tips to help you feel more prepared going into your virtual internship this summer:
1. Learn about your employer and co-workers
Starting your internship with a strong understanding of your employer’s goals is very important. You probably already learned a lot about your employer in the application process, but it’s not possible to get the full picture without insights from inside the organization/company. Make sure that you have a meeting at the start of the internship where you can ask questions about the employer’s goals, current projects they’re working on, challenges they’re facing etc. This will not only create a strong foundation for you, but it will also show your employer that you are enthusiastic about working for them.
Another important thing is learning about the organizational structure. Understanding who does what will give you a better understanding of how the workplace operates and you will know who to connect with when faced with different situations. Lastly, it will also help to learn about any external parties you will be communicating with. For example, during my internship I communicated with advertising agencies regularly. At the start of my internship, my supervisor introduced me to the people from the agency that I will be in contact with and explained how I should structure the emails I would send them, which really set me up for success.
2. Communicate consistently
Staying in touch with your team is especially important when you’re in a virtual environment. Asking questions, sharing your progress on your work, and discussing your ideas shows that you are motivated, helps build stronger relationships with your co-workers, and contributes to your learning.
It is important to know the channels you will be using to communicate with your team. For example, when I was doing my internship I would contact my supervisor through Whatsapp for shorter, clarifying questions about the immediate work I was doing. In addition, we would have video calls almost everyday where I would ask more in-depth questions about projects we were working on and general mentorship.
3. Take Initiative
Since you’re only able to meet your team virtually, it might be harder for them to understand how you might fit into the team, what roles you can take, and the kind of projects that you might be able to contribute to. Therefore, it is really important that you express what interests you.
During my internship, I was included in a meeting about developing a new version of the company’s website. I found this project very interesting and after the meeting, I asked my supervisor to tell me more about it. He ended up showing me how to use Google Analytics, which is an analytics tool that gives you insight about how your website is performing. After that I began learning to use Google Analytics on my own and had the opportunity to join the project team for developing the new website.
Similarly, if you have an idea, don’t be shy to share it with the team, even if you’re unsure about its feasibility. I learned so much when the team explained to me why some of my ideas wouldn’t work. Also, when you have an idea that the team likes, show your willingness to work on it and develop it into something concrete.