Working remotely has become a new normal. What does this mean for internships?
It is no surprise that the COVID pandemic has changed the world in ways we could have never imagined: events have been cancelled, trips postponed, and school is now on Zoom. Among these changes has been a shift in what we once knew as the “traditional workplace.” Employees used to working in a cubicle during 9-to-5 hours started experiencing much more flexibility with regard to standard workplace culture by working remotely.
In response to the needs of both employers and students, InternWorks introduced virtual internship programs in late spring 2020 and had tremendous success in placing students into premium, virtual internships that students were able to participate in from anywhere in the world.
Like traditional, on-site internships, virtual internships provide skills and experience necessary to prepare students for jobs, future internships, or their future career. Companies have adapted to the changing workplace and are still able to offer a valuable educational experience by engaging students using a variety of tools necessary in the virtual workspace: virtual meetings using virtual conference and meeting applications (such as Zoom GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc), online document collaboration, project management software, cloud calendar and scheduling, and more. Virtual internships offer the opportunity for students to develop some career-readiness skills that might have been used infrequently or not at all in an on-site internship.
With flexible hours and project work, interning virtually provides an opportunity for students to improve their organizational skills and become more independent. Without the option to immediately walk over to a supervisor to ask a question; students can use the opportunity to work through an issue independently before seeking help. Additionally, students can really hone their written communication skills in a virtual environment, in which they are often relying on emails or other online written materials to convey a message. Regularly participating in audio or video calls familiarizes students with the work culture of the organization and gives students an opportunity to practice their verbal communication skills, which results in increased confidence when speaking in an online group setting.
For employers, the advantages of virtual internships include requiring less direct supervision, allowing flexible work hours, and capitalizing on the fact that today’s intern is very comfortable with virtual tools and technology. InternWorks continues to add to its ever-growing pool of employer partners to create and provide specialized virtual internships that include tailored work plans to assure an optimal experience.
A large majority of companies working remotely throughout COVID-19 will likely continue to do so in part post-pandemic. What does this mean for internships? The pandemic has brought challenges but also has taught us adaptability and flexibility. Internships that continue to adapt to a changing workplace will give students the ability to adapt to change as well– a vital skill necessary to elevate a student’s candidacy for future job, internships, or other life experiences.