Taking on any kind of professional endeavor is sure to come with benefits. Whether you’re trying to get ahead in your field or are simply trying to gain some experience, opportunities, like internships, are an exceptional catalyst into your desired position. And, with virtual internships, interns are learning how to adapt to a digital world and will be more ready than ever to enter a workforce that is going to demand their prowess. But, all internships definitely don’t come without added pressure to perform extremely well. Many interns, including myself, are grateful for the opportunity to be taken on by companies, but they’re also stressed about their performance and their abilities to do the absolute best that they can. However, internships don’t have to be so stressful if you’re equipped with tools to make the most of the experience.
Virtual internships are an entirely new way of conducting business with young professionals on teams. They are forcing companies to step out of their comfort zones and adapt to the ever-changing world we live in. Just as companies are having to adapt, interns are having to adapt as well. Now, more than ever, interns who possess adaptability, openness to change, and flexibility are crucial to assisting companies in their new processes. I’ve learned as a virtual intern to be ready for anything, because projects can take new directions, or my supervisors can have an entirely different vision of a concept within hours of their original idea. Simply being expectant of changes not only makes you an asset to the company, but it prepares you for a shifting workplace and allows you to anticipate a dynamic, malleable environment, affording you the ability to succeed in your placement.
With changes might come uncertainty. This is totally normal, and it’s definitely been a feeling I’ve experienced throughout the duration of my virtual internship. When you are uncertain about pursuing a task or need clarification on your expectations, ask! Always, always ask. Of course, it’s important to learn your supervisor’s communication style, which might differ from yours as a result of culture (see: virtual culture shock) and preference, to make sure you’re asking questions at the appropriate time and in a professional manner. But, as a general rule, never shy away from asking for clarification on something. I’ve been able to gain confidence by asking questions, because once I do, I’m sure of how to move forward with the tasks I’m completing, which enables me to get the absolute most out of my experience and deliver successful end products.
Asking questions opens up the floor for communication, which is extremely essential, especially in a virtual setting. I remind myself that I need to communicate more with my team and supervisors, because I think of how much we’d be interacting and having important conversations if I were actually in Seville. Although this is challenging to mimic, especially with time differences and language barriers, I try to foster culturally appropriate and office-style conversations with my colleagues as much as possible. Engaging in this might feel strange at first, because online communication vastly differs from in-person communication. However, the more you have these conversations, the stronger your relationships become with your colleagues, and the more you’ll be able to collaborate and effectively communicate. Communication really is key, and ensuring that avenues to do so exist in a virtual internship setting is essential to making the most out of the experience.
Arguably, in order to be adaptable, ask questions, and engage in conversations with your team, it’s necessary to be engaged in the first place. In a virtual internship setting, it’s even more important to remain accountable and hold yourself to deadlines, make sure you’re staying on task, and integrate into the company culture. This all depends on the intern’s ability to be engaged in the experience from the beginning, which can be challenging when you’re not motivated by external factors, like getting together after the workday or being fully immersed in the organization’s environment. However, I’ve managed to stay engaged, and thus facilitate success in my placement, by getting excited about my work, doing extensive research, taking brain breaks when I need to, reaching out to knowledgeable others who can help me succeed, sharing about my experience with those who support me, and using online platforms to stay organized and stay connected. Being engaged is defined differently from intern to intern, but once you realize what works best for you, success will follow, and you’ll be able to make the most out of the experience.
Success is a hard term to define. It’s even harder to quantify and measure, as it varies from person to person. In a virtual internship setting, it can be hard to feel successful, and it’s incredibly easy to feel like you might not be doing enough, given the new environment you’re in and the lack of real-time, interpersonal relations. However, being flexible, asking questions and actively listening to your supervisor, encouraging communication in a comfortable setting, and doing whatever it takes to be involved are ways to achieve your personal internship goals that satisfy both you, the intern, and your company.
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Angela Richard is the Summer 2020 CEA MOJO Blogger in Seville, Spain, and is currently studying at Champlain College.