Happy summer! If you’re engaged in a remote internship this summer, your work is, undoubtedly, well underway. Congratulations! Securing such a role is an exciting way to transition from the academic world into the professional sphere.
Companies have been creative as they’ve reshaped these opportunities to accommodate a workforce that is still changing in response to the global pandemic. Students have also had to be flexible to meet these demands. “The past year presented unique challenges for college students and recent graduates trying to gain valuable internship experience, with many employers making the difficult decision to pause hiring or even cut internships,” explains Amanda Stansell, Glassdoor economic data scientist. “Fortunately, the labor market is seeing signs of recovery, presenting opportunities for workers early in their careers” Stansell adds.
Remote internships are becoming increasingly common. These arrangements present some new challenges, but they also afford incoming professionals an opportunity to staff a workplace that is changing in real-time. That’s an asset when you’re kicking off your career.
Consider these five ways your remote internship gives you an edge as you wrap up your academic experience and transition into professional life.
Finessing the flux.
The pandemic presented new challenges and professional opportunities for American workers. According to data generated by Pew Research Center, about 20 percent of Americans worked remotely before March 2020. During the pandemic, about 71 percent of workers went remote. Some positive outcomes for employees include increased flexibility which can lead to greater concentration, motivation, and productivity.
Glassdoor’s Chief Economist, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain notes that the remote work revolution is here to stay. The pandemic “forced many employers to rethink outdated policies against remote work” Dr. Chamberlain points out. “However, the lessons learned in 2020 about the value of flexibility will forever change companies’ openness to hybrid office environments. In 2021 we expect workers splitting time between home and the office to be a more common workplace policy.” Dr. Chamberlain shares.
Working as a remote intern during this time of flux gives you the chance to experience the workplace of the future as it evolves. “In the summer of 2020, while many companies canceled or paused their internship classes, we made the decision to pivot Schwab’s internship program to 100% remote.” Explains Rob Mundell, Senior Vice President of Talent Solutions, Charles Schwab. “Our students and managers made it successful and we’ve been able to apply last year’s learnings to this year’s intern cohort.”
Consider how your professional involvement during this time of change prepares you for the workplace of the future. It builds your skills and awareness while providing hands-on experience. “Our interns have proven to be highly adaptable, and they’ve found windows of opportunity to harness the reality of remote work to their benefit. Our remote intern classes have been more connected than I have ever experienced before due to the fact that they aren’t limited by their worksite – they have more exposure across Schwab and are seizing these opportunities.” Mundell explains.
Refining skills the future demands.
Working remotely requires refined soft skills: self-management, communication, flexibility, agility, and collaborative skills, among others. You have been honing these through your academic work, especially if your classes have been conducted online. As a remote intern, you get to test and further these skills on the professional front as well. This is an asset in an evolving workforce.
Self-management, for example, is vital for a remote or hybrid employee. It means having the self-discipline to orchestrate a productive environment from your home base, having the confidence to ask for what you need, and having the focus to get your work done. Refining this skill will serve you well throughout your professional life, and your remote internship hones it well.
“Our interns represent the future of Schwab. Every year, they challenge us, bring different ideas and perspectives to the table, and expand our thinking and ways of working. Our goal is to help educate and develop their skills, providing real-world experiences which expand their collaboration, problem-solving and strategic thinking capabilities. The program is also a key driver for our talent pipeline.” Mundell explains. “In 2020, 78% of our diverse class of 400-student interns received offers to join Schwab. This year, we hope to hire even more qualified interns as we look to fill open roles across our business with a particular emphasis on financial consultants, client service, licensed representatives, and technology professionals.”
Note instances where you used your soft skills to make a project your own, handle complex tasks, or communicate complex messages. You can cite these examples in future interviews, whether you have the chance to interview internally with the company where you interned or with another employer. Citing real examples to demonstrate professional skills is a strategic interview strategy. Plus, doing so gives you an edge over the competition.
Your network is your professional edge. Whether you are looking for mentorship, sponsorship, a job, or an answer to a professional question, you probably know someone who can guide you towards what you need. You’ll spend your professional lifetime fortifying this web of influence, and contributing to the webs to which you belong.
Your internship gives you a tremendous opportunity when it comes to building your network. It can be hard to do that virtually, but it’s worth the effort. Pull on those soft skills and introduce yourself to professionals who do the kind of work you’d like to, even if they are outside of your immediate workgroup.
Something to keep in mind about networks: these are karma-fueled. You don’t have to feel sheepish about reaching out and asking a colleague to connect, help, or answer a question. Most people will help when they can because they know that when they need support, others will do the same. Don’t hesitate to reach out and connect with your new colleagues during your remote internship. Get used to networking. It’s an important skill.
If your company has a mentorship or sponsorship program for interns-that’s even better. Mundell explains: “To enhance the interns’ personal connection amidst the fully virtual environment, we’ve increased mentorship opportunities and launched a new ‘Schwab families’ program. Schwab families pairs small groups of interns with members of the executive leadership team and intern program alumni for advice, encouragement and support.”
The relationships you build during your remote internship give you an edge when it comes to building your professional network. Every professional needs the help and input of their network as they come into their own as a professional and throughout their careers. Use this opportunity to build your network and your LinkedIn profile. It will help you in your future job searches and in your professional work post-graduation.
Building professional fluency.
Your internship stands to offer a whole new level of education. It grows you up professionally and gives you direction on how your next chapter might read.
The professional world observes a pace, language, and mores that are different than what you experienced in an academic setting. Moving from an academic setting to a professional one is a significant cultural change, and your internship helps you to bridge that divide.
It cues you into the language that professionals in your industry use in the workplace. It gets you versed in the databases and systems they use. It cues you into which professional society memberships are most meaningful to those filling the roles that you want to target. These are details that your professors simply may not know, but being versed in these mores will help you sound the part when it comes time to interview for your first professional role.
In addition to the industry-specific terms and awareness, you’ll have a general knowledge of professional norms that your peers who did not experience an internship simply won’t have. Plus, you’ll have work samples and examples to cite during your job interviews along with stellar professional references. All of these give you an edge over the competition.
A historic accomplishment.
This is a pivotal time in the workforce, and you’re part of that. Companies are making important decisions about what the future may look like for their employees-will they return to work full-time? Will they continue to work remotely, or will they work a hybrid schedule? As a remote intern, you have relevant professional experience during this season of change.
You have been building and refining your professional skills during your internship. You are solidifying your place as a contributing member of the pandemic workforce, a historic time to learn the professional ropes. Lean into that during your remote internship and once you hit the job search circuit.