How to succeed during your summer internship— even if it’s remote!
Many internship programs that survived the initial economic disaster caused by COVID-19 commenced last month, but some students may have trouble onboarding and adjusting to the work-from-home lifestyle. Although classes had pivoted online, not every student is entering a new position, and adjusting to a new job or internship is hard enough without a global pandemic forcing them to work remotely.
I gained experience working remotely thanks to my time as a communications assistant for the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) and the Diversity Action Alliance (DAA), but not everyone has had the opportunity to prepare like I had and I thought it would be helpful to share my tips for successfully interning from home.
1. Learn how to prioritize
You’re going to be given multiple projects on deadline, so you need to determine how and when you will accomplish each task. Make a to-do list (preferably daily and weekly lists), decide which tasks are urgent versus important (there’s a difference—mainly due to pressing deadlines or how much your company bills the client), complete the more time-consuming tasks first (as Mark Twain said, "Eat the frog!") and stay flexible. Tasks will be thrown at you out of the blue, so be able to pivot and adapt quickly.
2. Set goals—what do you want to get out of this experience?
Brainstorm a few goals before or during the first week of your internship and schedule a meeting with your supervisor to discuss and plan how you intend to accomplish them. At BCW Global last summer, I pinned my goal list and notes above my desk and read them every day. Because of my dedication to my goals and my incredible supervisor’s mentorship, I was able to achieve my three objectives by the end of the program.
3. Develop a routine
This has been instrumental since going remote. Without having the set schedule I had prior to COVID, I found it really hard to feel like I had control over my days or focus on tasks. I still struggle with this, but less so because I know what my day is going to look like. I have a list of daily tasks I need to accomplish, as well as an agenda and calendar to keep track of any additional calls or webinars (like the PR Council’s Agency-Ready Certificate). I also try to eat breakfast and lunch around the same time each day. If you can, try to find time to work out, go for a walk or do something else that brings you joy during your scheduled breaks.
4. Ask questions
If you don’t know something, the best way to find out is to simply ask. It is always better to ask how to do something in order to do it correctly the first time than to make a attempt that needs to be restarted or corrected. A quick email or phone call is nothing compared to time wasted fixing silly mistakes.
5. Set up weekly or bi-weekly discussions with your supervisor
My supervisor at BCW was invested in my success and set up bi-weekly meetings with me to review my progress and ensure my tasks were challenging yet reasonable and to see if there was any way she could contribute to my professional growth, either by helping me expand my network or getting me involved in special projects.
That being said...
6. Be proactive and show initiative
Ask your supervisor if there are other ways to get involved or volunteer for special projects. Create agendas for meetings and take notes. Send weekly updates without being asked. Find solutions to problems that have been bugging your boss or team. Ask for more tasks or do something productive if you finish your work early. Whatever you do, make sure it is done with thought and intention.
(Tip #5 and #6 help if wish to work for the company full time. Your superiors will notice your drive and take note of your work ethic. See tip #9 for more details!)
7. Wow them with your work
Don’t just give them a boring draft— give it some pizzazz! Something I like to do is create standard operating procedures for my daily tasks. It is easy to do, but it shows them that I am willing to go the extra mile and am committed to the success of my role.
Just be sure to follow their formatting guidelines; it is less work for them later on and shows you pay attention to you work. As always, proof your work multiple times before submission.
I know what you are thinking, and yes, you can do this virtually! While virtual internships lack the element of personal connections that in-person internships possess, you are still able to network. Try scheduling a video or phone call with your co-worker (or other industry professionals); even if it is only for 15 to 30 minutes, you can still begin to build a fruitful relationship that can easily be continued once quarantine ends.
Also, be sure to use LinkedIn to your advantage. In the introduction email I sent to my coworkers at my current internship, I hyperlinked my profile and encouraged everyone to connect with me. It is such an easy way to build your network! If you can, try to publish on LinkedIn at least once a week and engage with posts for about 15 minutes each day to increase your visibility on the platform.
9. Treat the internship like it’s your job
Treat your internship as if it is your job because, well, it is. Or, it could be in the future— the better you fulfill your role, the easier it is for your boss to imagine you working there full-time by the program’s cessation or because a job opening became available. At BCW last summer, I was treated like a full-time staff member by the people in my department; I was given real responsibilities because I proved to them that I could handle it. The lesson here is if you take your job seriously, then you will be taken seriously.
10. Have a good attitude
While my experiences with IPR & DAA and BCW are completely different from the current workplace environment, these tips are still applicable for remote internships and when we eventually return to the office. Although this summer is unlikely the experience you were expecting, this experience will give you skills you wouldn’t have been able to develop otherwise: the ability to be a productive employer no matter your location is a valuable skill for the hybrid workplace we will see in the near future. Be positive, be a reckless opportunist and learn all you can to become the best remote intern ever—you’ve got this!
Please feel free to message me if you have any questions or would like to discuss your internship to see how you can improve. Stay safe!