How to Succeed in a Virtual Internship

Have you just secured a summer internship? First of all, congratulations! For summer 2021, that likely means your experience will take place online. One of the most significant impacts COVID-19 has had on professional lives is the transition into remote work. Even for experienced professionals, working virtually can be difficult to navigate. So, of course, starting a completely new position where your office is your home can be jarring and stressful for an intern. I’m Shoham Shitrit, a Peer Career Advisor here at the Greene Center, and I’m going to set you up for success in your upcoming role.

Last summer, I worked as a virtual intern at Microsoft. Initially I was nervous about how I’d get along with my teammates in a virtual setting, where we were hundreds of miles apart. But I managed to get through it, and there were a few lessons I learned that I believe can lead you down a successful path in your upcoming virtual internship. These following tips can not only help you succeed in the short term but are also valuable principles to hold on to as you continue down your career path.

Communicate about communication

In this new virtual environment, everyone has their own preferred method of communication. Some people like emails, others find video calls the most effective. Others may just want a direct message on Teams/Slack. Make sure to express your own best line of communication and keep checking in and making sure that it works for your peers. I know when I was working remotely over the summer, some of my coworkers preferred a quick text on Teams whenever I had a question. Even though I felt like a direct message may signal like I need them to respond right away (as opposed to an email), they liked having the immediate notification and told me that they will respond when they are available.

Overshare your accomplishments, blockers, and points of confusion

In an internship setting, make sure you’re standing up for yourself and the progress you have made. Ensure your manager/mentor knows what you got done, and if you need help with anything. Don’t be afraid to be vocal, even if you think it’s unimportant in the grand scheme of things. You’re your best advocate, and your team is there to help you succeed. They all know that you’re bound to have questions, and will want to know what’s working for you, and what’s still confusing. A good motto to have while working is “fail fast, fail often.” Feel comfortable in expressing things that haven’t worked, and what has. As an intern, you’re there to learn and grow over the course of your time at the company, not just be a productivity champion.

Connect and network

In a virtual setting, the ability to strike up conversations in the hallway or small talk as you make some coffee is gone. It’s more difficult to spontaneously talk to your coworkers, but not impossible. Be sure to put yourself out there, and schedule one-on-one meetings just to connect and learn more about the people you work with. The full-time employees want to help support you and would love to talk more about what they do and the work culture. Anyone, including your manager’s superiors, are fair game to schedule a 30 min talk. The benefit of remote work is that any employee, even in international companies, is only one video call or email away. Make sure to leverage that benefit and learn about different roles and sections within the company you are at.

These three tips are professional values new interns may not immediately think about, but they can be crucial to ensuring success in a new workplace. Coupled with hard work and dedication to completing your internship duties, these tips will set you up for clear and coordinated teamwork with your coworkers.

By Shoham Shitrit ('22)
Shoham Shitrit ('22) Peer Career Advisor