by Jackson Kirkland
Before the pandemic, virtual internships weren’t necessarily coveted, but they’ve become highly competitive positions that many students now seek. Whether you’re looking for a virtual internship, or if you’ve already landed one you owe it to yourself to maximize this opportunity. So, we are providing you all with some tips & tricks to help you get the most value from your virtual internships. We’d like to give a special thank you to Ashley Turner from Belk & Brian Jeffcoat from Lowe’s for their insights on this topic!
Tips & Tricks for your Virtual Internship
- Research your company before your internship! – Obvious right? Well, we’re not just talking about the basics of knowing the company history, understanding the position you’re applying for, or knowing which skills and experiences the company seeks. We’re talking about researching the less obvious things such as the company’s culture, values, and looking at past interns’ experiences in their virtual internships with the company. The more in-depth research you do before your internship, the fewer surprises there will be, and that’s reassuring. Feeling stuck in an internship that isn’t what you expected, with a company that doesn’t align with your values, beliefs, or career aspirations is the last thing any student wants.
- Bring your uniqueness to the internship – Understand that nobody has lived the exact same life as you, and that makes you extremely valuable to companies. Your unique perspective, life experiences, previous job training, friends, creativity, innovation, and thought processes are all valuable tools that you bring to your internship. You can draw from each of these resources to bring a new idea, product, or method that helps improve a retailer, so find ways to harness and utilize your uniqueness.
- Establish your method(s) of communication – Communicating is arguably the most important aspect of any internship, but that’s especially true of virtual internships. Establish which method(s) of communication your supervisor prefers, and get experience using those methods if you’re unfamiliar with them. If your supervisor or manager prefers face-to-face communication, try setting up a weekly meeting on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. If they prefer e-mail, try sending weekly reports or updates every week. If they prefer phone calls establish a weekly call schedule.
- Create an agenda for your meetings, before the meeting! – Creating an agenda of the topics you’d like to discuss in your meeting with your supervisor ahead of time ensures that you’ll get answers to questions you have. Sending this agenda to the supervisor or manager before the meeting gives them time to think about the topics you’d like to discuss, formulate answers to questions you might have, and makes the meeting flow smoother. Be sure to prioritize any time-sensitive topics you have by putting them at the top of the agenda.
- Set long-term & short-term goals for yourself – Reach out to your supervisor or manager before the internship to establish what projects, assignments, and goals you’ll be assigned. You want to talk with your supervisor about what you hope to gain from this internship experience, as well as what their expectations are for you. Setting short-term goals and achieving them in between long-term goals is a great way to help you feel accomplished throughout your internship, keep you motivated, hold yourself accountable, and inspire you to want to take on larger goals you’ve been assigned.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions! – Don’t know your supervisor’s working style? Not sure how your company’s intranet systems works? Do you want to know what font your supervisor or manager prefers your work in? Understand that any questions you have during your internship are relevant and should be answered as quickly as possible to ensure you’re benefitting the most from your virtual internship experience. It’s true that most internships encourage originality, innovative thinking, and creativity but the last thing you want to do is make a simple mistake by not asking a question.
- Keep a record of your achievements throughout the internship – Keep an active list of projects, assignments, impactful changes, and other achievements you’ve accomplished throughout your internship. Once you’ve completed your internship, you can refer back to this list when it’s time to update your resume. This ensures you won’t leave anything out you that you might consider important from the beginning of the internship. Don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile too!
- Stay active in your internship & remember to have fun! – No, we’re not talking about physical exercise, although that’s extremely important, too. It’s easy to feel alienated during a virtual internship, because you’re missing the face-to-face interactions, the in-person team meetings, and daily inclusivity you’d usually get from an in-person internship. Find fun ways to stay active with your supervisor, manager, or peers within the company outside of the necessary communication. You could reach out to those people to schedule a virtual movie night, a game of Among Us, or maybe just a virtual trivia night. These interactions are fun, keep you active and invested in your internship, and gives you the chance to get to know the people within the organization. These activities also demonstrate your organizational, leadership, communication, creativity, and time-management skills.
- Learn to effectively manage your time – This one seems a bit obvious right? Well, not having someone checking in on your daily, or having to physically commute to an internship location gives you a lot more flexibility with how you spend your time. It’s critical to keep track of important dates, times, meetings, and assignments throughout your virtual internship. If you find you’ve got extra time or you complete an assignment or project earlier than expected, let your supervisor know if you can take on more projects, work, or handle a special assignment they need done. It’s extremely important to not overload yourself with more work than you can realistically handle.
- Cut yourself some slack – Being a University of Florida Gator, we know you’re intelligent, you’ve worked hard to get where you’re at, and you’ve worked that much harder to land a virtual internship. It’s important to remember though that nobody asked for the Covid-19 pandemic, nobody had a perfect game plan on how to overcome it, and many of us are still adjusting to the changes that were implemented. We’re all going through this unprecedented event for the first time together, and we’ve all had to make adaptations to continue on our way. It’s important to remember that anytime you’re feeling frustrated because Zoom isn’t working right, someone didn’t get an invitation to the Zoom meeting, an e-mail didn’t go through, your wi-fi goes out, your laptop doesn’t want to work that day, or whatever you’re stressed about in life to cut yourself some slack.
We hope you all learned something new, and you can utilize some of these tricks & tips for your (virtual) internship. Most importantly thank you all so much for taking the time to read this article, and we hope you have a great rest of your semester!