Many of my peers and I have unexpectedly found our internships turning remote this summer. Whether you’re looking for a virtual opportunity and want to start off on the right foot, or you are currently in a position you want to thrive in, here are my 5 top tips for success at a virtual internship:
1. Take time to understand the org structure.
Without a physical office, it can be difficult to understand who is responsible for what within the company and how the internal operations of the company function. Most companies have a Human Resources database where you can see profiles of everyone who works at the company. Taking the time to understand how the company functions in terms of its personnel can help tremendously to know who to go to for questions or assistance.
One thing that helped me a lot was my boss setting up one-on-one meetings with myself and representatives from each team within the company (sales, finance, design, etc.) so I could put a face to these names and ask any questions I have about that team. Of course, this was in a smaller company environment and may not be feasible at a larger company, but don’t be afraid to request intro meetings!
2. Attend virtual meetings just a little early.
Some of the best networking and relationship-building in an office happens “at the water cooler”. This is tremendously harder when you’re remote. One way I have been able to connect with teammates in a small, easy way is to join onto meetings 2-3 minutes before the start time. Chances are, there will be one or two early birds on that call and you can take that opportunity to catch up and bond a bit before getting into business.
3. Utilize GSuite Features
If your company uses GSuite, there are a few really useful tools that you can take advantage of in your virtual internship. I’ll highlight two here:
- Google Calendar Views: If you type into the “search for people” bar on your Google Calendar, you can view anyone’s calendar in the organization. You can use this to look at your boss’ schedule to know if it’s a good time to reach out for a question, to see what others are working on that could be opportunities for you, be aware of meetings you may want to be a part of, and reduce back-and-forth when scheduling meetings. Think of it like the equivalent of passing by someone’s office to see if they’re busy. I try my best to reach out when people are not in meetings to increase response time and reduce their stress.
- Gmail Tools: Being organized in your email can really set you apart from others in an organization. You don’t want to be the person who has to ask for information that was already provided to you via email. You want to be the person who has a clean, organized inbox and responds to action items promptly. The best Gmail features are the folder organization structure and you can also now add emails to a task list, which is great for creating a backlog of email action items.
4. Establish an update cadence with your boss.
Depending on the nature of your internship, you may need to report to your boss on a daily or weekly basis. It’s important to define what those updates will look like and ensure that you are prepared for those check-ins with any questions or assistance you need.
For me, I have a daily 15-minute meeting with my boss to check in on priorities for the day and ask any questions I have. Then, I send an email reporting which of the action items outlined were completed, and any notes/questions on those projects. Then, I list my proposed action items for the following day given my progress to be gone over the next morning.
Don’t be afraid to take initiative and propose these accountability systems yourself! The fact that you want to stay accountable, prioritized, and on-track will likely go a long way with your management, as well as keep you on task during the day.
5. Have some fun!
Depending on the culture of the company you’re with, it may be appropriate to have some fun and show your personality in little ways, like sending GIFs on Slack or making comments on documents a little less formal. I find when I’m very candid about my work and show a little more light-heartedness, the team is uplifted! It’s easy to be all business all the time virtually, so be sure to have some fun and show your team who you are in your own way.
While your internship may not have turned out exactly as expected, you can still stand out and excel! The tips above have helped me stand out at my internship and I hope they do the same for you!
This is such a great opportunity to build discipline and demonstrate creativity. Don’t underestimate the impact this can have on you, and the company you’re working with!