- Christine Cruzvergara is the VP of higher education and student success at Handshake, a career networking community for US university students and recent graduates.
- Despite COVID-19’s impact on the economy, Cruzvergara says that many companies are still hiring entry-level positions and offering virtual internships to young professionals.
- If you’ve landed a virtual internship, Cruzvergara explain it’s key to take the initiative in asking for assignments and responsibilities, focus on observing and learning, and work to build meaningful relationships with your colleagues.
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Nothing about this year was likely what you had planned or imagined. You’re facing a difficult economy, a country that’s coming to terms with its own inequities, and a pandemic that still plagues the nation. There is no doubt you’ve been exposed to new realities, new opportunities to learn, and a new future ahead of you.
As you consider the myriad of ways you might continue to grow, personally and professionally, let me share some trends and tips to help you create a meaningful experience. First, remember there are still lots of employers who are hiring. Although the economy has taken a hit, opportunities do exist and it’s important you’re playing an active role in seeking them out. Second, employers will continue to revisit their entry-level hiring plans as the economy continues to reopen and flex with the pandemic. Pay attention to the news and follow your favourite employers to track changes in their hiring. Third, virtual internships are now more common with 60% of employers planning to offer them in the coming year, and it’s important for you to be ready to make the most of that experience.
Here’s a guide for your first 30 days:
Make the implicit, explicit
Having clear expectations is foundational to a successful internship. With a virtual internship, you’ll want to be even more explicit with your supervisor or team around communication patterns, group dynamics, and project plans. If these details aren’t laid out by your employer at the onset of your internship, be sure to take initiative and ask. It will make your life easier (and theirs) if you know the company’s expectations on how quickly you should be responding to Slack versus email, how you should engage in team or client meetings, and what role they expect you to play on various projects or workstreams.
Focus on learning
Your primary job as an intern is to learn. Along with learning your specific role and the responsibilities of the team you’re on, make sure to pay attention to the company culture, the way decisions are made, and how different teams are interconnected. You’ll also want to practice connecting your direct tasks to the bigger vision or direction of the company. This is a skill every supervisor will appreciate and if you’re not quite able to see that connection yet, don’t hesitate to ask.
Debrief these lessons with your supervisor and ask questions to better understand what you’re observing and why things may be structured the way they are. Not only will it teach you a lot about the company you’re interning with, it will give you insight into the type of environment you thrive in or the type(s) of roles you may wish to have in the future.
As you reflect on your learning and begin to enjoy the accomplishments you’ll make, don’t forget to write it down. It will be useful info to update your profile or use for a future interview.
Build real relationships
One of the biggest values of any internship are the relationships you build. With a virtual experience, it will be more challenging and as the intern, it will be incumbent on you to take more initiative. Talk with your supervisor about key individuals you should meet to accomplish your work successfully and additional people they might recommend based on your goals, your questions, and your ambitions. Reach out and ask for a quick meeting to learn more about their role or career path. Be sure to come to those conversations prepared. By being genuinely curious, you’ll allow these relationships to grow organically. And, of course, don’t forget to stay in touch once the internship is over.
What you are living through right now is truly unprecedented. Have grace for yourself as you figure it out. There is always a learning curve when we tackle new challenges. Just remember that the grit, resilience, and adaptability you are showing right now are precisely the skills you need to hone for a future that will continue to change rapidly.
Christine Cruzvergara is the VP of higher education and student success at
, the leading career community for college students in the US.
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