Those of us that are lucky not to have cancellations of our internships now face a new challenge: succeeding in a remote internship. Not only are students concerned about their productivity for working remotely, but they are also concerned about the work experience they expected to gain from in-person opportunities. Will we still be able to see the same benefits to our overall career goals while working from home? At MassApply, we don’t see why not. In this guide we'll go over 4 major tips to help you make the most of your remote summer internship.
1. Hit The Ground Running
Making the most of your remote internship means putting in the work before you’ve even started. This can be done in a couple different ways.
Build Necessary Skills
The first thing you should do is figure out which skills are going to come into play. This can be done by going directly to the source: your manager. Before your internship starts, reach out and ask about which projects you might be working on during the summer and what technologies or other knowledge are important for your team. You should request to have a one-on-one session with someone on your team that you can work with directly.It is better to get a jump on it sooner rather than later so you can figure out the specs of your potential intern project.
Given the insight you receive from your supervisor, make sure you hone-in on those skills and go over whatever pertinent materials and resources you need to brush up on that knowledge. It won’t be so easy to receive immediate help for tasks you lack skills in when you work remotely. But, if you focus on the relevant learning during your own time, and execution during your work hours, you’ll be able to maximize your work output.
The best way to stay on top of tasks applies to not only work-from-home but in your daily life, and that is through adequate scheduling. Stick to a routine throughout your work week, and dedicate specific times for certain tasks in order to get everything done in a timely manner. Factor in time differences when setting a work schedule so if you need to reach out to your team, it isn’t an inconvenience for either parties involved.
The biggest challenge with working at home is staying on-top of tasks when distractions are all around. Ensure that you’re in a setting where you can’t be disturbed by family members and put aside the distraction machine (your phone)!
It goes without saying that communication is key, but this becomes especially important when working remotely. In a traditional work setting, coworkers can walk by and see what you’re working on, and your managers may stop by your desk asking for a quick update. You might ask someone a technical question in the breakroom, or learn problems others at your company are working on solving. Now in a remote setting, these interactions will feel a lot less natural and may happen less - despite them still being very important! You need to put the extra effort in by reaching out to your coworkers and making these conversations happen if you want to get the full benefit of an internship.
Your very first team meeting will sound like gibberish. Don’t let that scare you; it’s up to you to bridge that gap. Stay engaged, not only by listening to what’s going on but by asking questions! I promise you it won’t be seen as annoying, in fact it’s a major red flag for an intern to NOT ask enough questions. They can be about technical terms that come up in conversation, the team’s projects, the company as a whole, or the purpose of their work.
Before you dive head-first into an assignment make sure you ask your manager or teammates what approach they would prefer, or explain to them your thought process on how you are planning to accomplish a task. You don’t want to be hours into a project, approaching it a certain way, only to find out it won’t work or is too inefficient, making you start over. Ask for constructive criticism and feedback whenever possible, especially if you feel like you’re about to reach a dead-end. This can be done easily by establishing a mentor early on in your internship, so make that connection within the first week!
Stay In The Loop
Throughout the course of your internship, keep giving regular updates to your manager. This will help clarify your objectives and bridge any informational gaps that may be caused by a lack of communication on either side. Don’t worry about coming off as annoying or a pesterance; if anything this makes you look proactive and work-from-home is an adjustment for everyone.
Stay on top of all communication channels! This doesn’t mean just checking emails; more and more office spaces are now using Slack, make sure to check any other avenues of communication as well. You don’t want to make your manager suspicious by making them wait an hour before responding to their message, or going more than a day without any progress to show or questions asked. Share your progress every so often to make sure your team members aren’t left in the dark.
3. Focus On Your Professional Development
One of the main reasons we choose to do internships in the first place is to gather real experience that will help us develop our professional careers. With the obstacle of working remotely we may not be able to experience the work culture and lifestyle that may come with traditional internships, but that does not mean you can’t get a fulfilling experience! This can be done a few ways:
Express your Career Interests
Your team knows that you possess certain skills, so use that to your advantage! Reach out to your supervisors and articulate exactly what your strengths and interests are. They will keep this in mind when assigning tasks and you will be able to get more exposure to specific roles. For instance, if you are interested in back-end infrastructure, stress that to your supervisors so that you don’t get stuck on a task that may not be as fulfilling to you.
With that being said, it’s still necessary that you keep an open mind. As an intern, it’s important to get exposed to work that’s slightly outside of your comfort zone. Your interests will naturally grow and change the more experience you get. It’s dangerous to impose restrictions on your areas of “expertise” when you’ve only just entered the working world. Trust in your team and take the internship’s challenges head-on.
Connect With Coworkers
Building strong connections with the right people in your industry can go a long way. Not only can these contacts offer you valuable insights and mentorship, but they could also refer you to positions at other companies you want to work for in the future! I highly recommend you reach out to people at your company and schedule a virtual “coffee chat.” This can be arranged with anyone, such as members of your immediate team or team leads in different divisions. If your company is small enough, you could even reach out to your CEO! You’d be surprised by how many people are willing to chat and share their knowledge.
Proactivity is not just completing your tasks in a timely manner, but going above and beyond what is asked of you during your internship. Return offers are never guaranteed, and now because of market disruption caused by COVID-19, companies may not have the resources to convert as many interns into full-time employees. This is why it’s so important to maximize your output of work during the internship. There are certain aspects of working remotely that may impede your work-flow, but it is important to recognize and tackle the challenges as they come.
4. Be Ready For The Job Search
Your internship is going to open the door to many new and exciting opportunities. Whether or not you receive a return offer, It’s important to keep your options open. Leverage the advantage that this internship offers to not only your resume, but also your personal knowledge base that you can refer to in interviews and conversations with recruiters at career fairs.
Keep logs of the work you’re doing and the progress you’re making with your projects (so long as you’re not breaching an NDA). Over the course of the internship, you should be formulating potential answers to the following questions:
- What did you work on during your internship?
- What technologies did you work with, and what was the importance of each one?
- What was the hardest technical challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of?
- Name an example of a time you resolved a conflict or disagreement with a coworker. How did you go about this?
- What about the internship did you like/dislike?
- What is your biggest takeaway?
Once summer has ended and it’s time to search for your next internship or potentially a full-time job, do everything you can to boost your chances of landing interviews. Your internship itself should help put you ahead of other candidates, so long as you’re able to get noticed in the first place! If you're interested in increasing your likelihood of getting interviews and offers, we recommend trying us out at MassApply.com. We're a platform that lets you easily apply to several top companies in one place, manage your applications, and email recruiters directly.
After all is said and done, this internship cycle is unique because it is exactly what you make of it. By staying organized, communicative, and proactive with this opportunity, your early career will reap the endless list of benefits. Best of luck in succeeding during your remote internship!