No doubt about it: the labor force is experiencing big changes across industries. The pandemic positioned employees and their management teams to adapt to a new operating paradigm, which yielded valuable lessons about how we work. The challenges that employees weathered during the pandemic enabled them to cultivate new aspects of their professional selves to meet demands.
Powering through a pandemic accelerated employees’ career development in key ways. Employees had to dig deep to succeed as remote operators, adapting their business practices on the fly. As we start to glimpse the next chapter, the post-covid workplace, Glassdoor’s Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain predicts that remote work is here to stay, at least in part as hybrid teams become more common. “Prepare for an unprecedented wave of experimentation and innovation around hybrid remote-in-office roles — part remote and part in-office — in 2021 and beyond.” Dr. Chamberlain notes.
What does this mean for professionals who are just getting started in their careers? If you’ve secured an internship during this time of transition, you’re getting an important supplement to your classroom education. Glimpsing the professional world during this time of transition, and honing the skills the post-covid world needs, equips you with vital skills and insights as you begin your career.
Many employers prioritized their internship programs at the height of the pandemic in 2020, and they continue to offer opportunities to young professionals this year. “Amazon is currently hosting our largest intern class ever, with more than 10,000 interns working across 45 countries.” Jenna Powers, director of student programs at Amazon explains. “This year, our interns have the option of working fully remote or opting into a hybrid model, where they are relocated to the city of their internship and go into the office part of the week. So far, 60% of our interns have chosen the hybrid option. Last year, we hosted over 8,000 interns entirely virtually due to the global pandemic. At Amazon, we believe anyone can come up with the next big idea or innovation—and interns are encouraged to think big, dive deep, and lean into Amazon’s peculiar culture.”
Wherever your internship has led you, consider these five ways your remote internship prepares you for post-covid professional life.
Flexibility is the future.
The pandemic challenged American workers, emotionally, physically, and logistically. But it also gave them the skills and opportunity to pursue a professional paradigm that’s proved suitable and attractive. 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. This flexibility led to positive outcomes for employees, including increased concentration, motivation, and productivity.
In the post-covid world, employers and employees are eager to build on the success of the new professional paradigms that they experimented with during the pandemic. Microsoft’s Word Trend Index Report summarizes: “Employees want the best of both worlds: over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams. To prepare, 66 percent of business decision-makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. The data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.”
The post-covid workplace, then, will be a reimagined, flexible workplace. It will likely incorporate a hybrid approach inviting both remote and in-person work. If you’re a remote intern, your experience is tooling your skillset so you can succeed in this new context.
“In 2020, Amazon pivoted corporate internships to virtual in response to the pandemic. As parts of the world began to reopen and employees started returning to the office, Amazon wanted to provide interns with an option to come into the office, if they are comfortable doing so.” Powers explains. “This is why we created the hybrid internship model, where an intern relocates to the city of their internship and coordinates with their manager and team to come into the office when they choose – allowing them flexibility and the opportunity to see what it’s like to work in an Amazon office.”
Having a chance to work remotely or in a hybrid context gives you and sense of the professional world that you will step into post-covid.
Networks foster engagement
Your connections with your colleagues make work fun, engaging, and successful. Creating a dynamic network of professionals that you can count on helps you to feel connected and inspired. This is especially important as professional cultures become more remote because it keeps you connected and engaged with peers, colleagues, and mentors. The Microsoft report explains: “The pandemic-driven isolation people feel in their personal lives is also happening at work… the shift to remote shrunk our networks.”
Network-building is an asset when it comes to your remote internship. Powers explains: “To support their internship project and development, interns are provided a manager, mentor, and onboarding buddy to guide each aspect of the internship. This support system operates in the same way for both hybrid and virtual interns.”
Having a mechanism in place for collaboration, support, and network-building, as Amazon does for interns, is a tremendous asset. Networks are a vital resource for professionals. Internal and external networks help foster engagement. They keep us from being siloed at work and only interacting with those on our team.
But network building and maintenance is dynamic work. Keep challenging yourself to reach out to your network, and make new connections regularly.
Find out what societies those in your industry are inclined to join; see if you can join as an intern or student. Connect with the professionals you met during your internship. Meet new professionals who worked at the company where you interned. Actively build your professional network whenever you can. It will be an asset in the post-covid workplace.
Communication is key.
Soft skills like communication, self-management, collaboration, flexibility, and teamwork are vital abilities to hone for the post-covid workplace. Your remote internship gives you an ideal opportunity to learn and refine these skills.
When you’re a remote or a hybrid employee, communicating clearly, concisely, and comprehensively is a “must-have.” This means understanding how to craft a message that is clear and that gets the results you want. You don’t want to shape a message that causes an unexpectedly emotional reaction from the reader or that creates confusion or conflict. Also, it’s important to have a rule for when a written message will get the job done and when you need to grab the phone and talk something through.
Your communication skills make or break your ability to work remotely or in a hybrid context and your internship will help you refine and practice these skills. Notice it when one of your colleagues is a particularly savvy communicator. Analyze what that professional does that makes them effective in their communications. Employ the same tricks in your writing or speaking. Then connect with that person and ask for their tips. Ask them how they got so savvy and see if there’s a class that you can take to learn those skills. Finally, make sure to invite that pro to join your network.
The workplace is experiencing a revolution, and those who can communicate effectively will be standouts in the post-covid workplace.
Enthusiasm is infectious.
Having a thirst and an enthusiasm to learn and to do your best work is always infectious. Find what you love about your internship and allow yourself to fully explore the possibilities. Embrace the opportunities for everything that it has to offer.
Powers describes the capstone to the internship opportunities offered at Amazon: “Our internships are designed to provide students with an understanding of what it’s like to work at Amazon, regardless of whether they work in an office environment. Interns do a specific project that makes a big impact—diving into products, programs, and services that touch millions of customers—with help from their manager, mentor, and team. They then give a presentation of their project(s) to Amazon employees at the end of their internship.”
Having a genuine affection and enthusiasm for the work you do was an appealing quality for interns and young professionals pre-covid; this is true in the post-covid world as well. Learn everything you can about the work that interests you and fully embrace the work that you take on as an intern; allow it to ignite your enthusiasm and your talent.
A hopeful future.
You have been through a lot in the past 16 months. You studied remotely during a time in your academic career when you were probably eager to be on campus. Now, you again demonstrate your flexibility by working as a remote intern.
You’re probably getting tired of hearing the word “unprecedented,” but it describes so much of what you’ve experienced. Our workforce is fortunate to be infused by resilient young professionals like you and your peers. Your commitment, flexibility, and resilience bode well for the post-covid workplace. You make the future look bright. Thank you and good luck.