Five+ months. It has officially been over five months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that would force millions of people across the world into self-quarantine and affect the personal and professional lives of an ever-growing portion of the world’s population. With the pandemic continuing to impact a number of different countries, including here in the United States, a lot of people are beginning to ask: When will our lives go back to normal? Will our lives ever go back to ‘normal’? While this answer may not be known as of yet, many have had to accept the fact that life must carry on with numerous restrictions in this new normal. One of the biggest professional restrictions posed to both workers and students alike during this time is the adoption of online work environments. These online solutions help ensure that some of the biggest facets of our daily lives can continue without putting people’s safety at risk. However, many people also face a number of issues as a result of daily life being largely carried out online during the pandemic.
One of these issues, particularly for students in high school and college, arises when looking for placement in internships. Internships are a great opportunity for students to get practical experience working in their field of interest. However, with many facets of life being moved to an online format during the pandemic, finding meaningful internship opportunities has become considerably more difficult for students looking to gain on-the-job experience. While some internship opportunities may be scarcer due to the pandemic, there are still many ways for students interested in securing an internship during the pandemic to do so in this new normal of fully online communication.
- First things first, finding the perfect internship for you.
With the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, local internship opportunities aren’t as bountiful as they once were. Limitations of only being able to work together in an online setting has led to some internship sites, especially those that involve working with people, to scale back on their internship offers during the pandemic. However, there are still many sites that are actively recruiting new interns to participate in their internship programs in an online setting, with some employers offering even more positions due to less people being able to work.
The key to finding the perfect internship during the pandemic is to limit yourself to options that can be done virtually. While the pandemic has certainly impacted certain regions over others, it is in your best interest to look for a virtual internship during this time as it will ensure your physical safety as an intern. After all, no internship experience is worth risking your life over! Play it safe by using keywords such as “virtual,” “online,” and “remote” in your internship search, in addition to keywords that will help you find an internship that is relevant to your interests. Not only will looking for a virtual internship keep you safe, but it also opens the door to secure an internship in an area that you wouldn’t be able to travel to otherwise.
- Indicating your Interest.
Just as it was pre-COVID, the best way to move a step closer to obtaining that perfect internship is to send an email to your desired internship site. Now more than ever, communicating via email is an important step in the internship search process as it will possibly be your main channel of communication with your supervisor if you are brought on as an intern. As with any email sent to a prospective employer or any other superior, be sure to be as professional as you can be in your email. Address your potential supervisor by name, using “Mr.” or “Ms./Mrs.” when known followed by their surname. Always ensure that you maintain a professional tone throughout the email, avoiding the use of slang or other instances of casual language. Remember, this first email will set the tone for your future professional relationship with this person and can easily determine whether you will be offered an interview or not, so make a respectable first impression. If an application is required to apply to your internship of choice, indicate that you are attaching it to your email or have already submitted it on their dedicated website. Last but not least, sign the email with your full name, including your email address and phone number so that there will be no chance for an interview offer to be missed.
- The Interview.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the pandemic-era search for an internship is the interview process. While a supervisor may have preferred to conduct an in-person interview in the past, the new norm for interviews is by video chat or phone. Phone interviews are quite simple, as they have been used as a standard in the interviewing process for decades. However, interviews over video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom and Skype, are becoming increasingly more common due to the pandemic as they allow for a lot of the qualities of an in-person interview to be conducted in a contact-free environment.
For both phone and video interviews, the tips remain largely the same as if you were going in for an in-person interview. Wherever you apply, you should always follow the basics: Study the organization ahead of time, prepare answers to some basic interview questions, dress professionally (even for a phone interview), be ready to accept the call early (or late), and maintain a professional tone throughout the entire interview. Remember, one of the keys to getting anywhere in life, personally and professionally, is to be respectful toward those around you. Respect, confidence, and a drive for success will be some of your greatest assets as you begin the interviewing process and work toward securing your internship.
- Completing an Internship in the Digital Age.
Congratulations! You found a listing for your ideal virtual internship, you indicated your interest by sending a professional email to your future supervisor, and you studied and practiced your interview skills to pull off a great conversation between you and your future supervisor over Zoom. Now what? Now, it’s time to be the best virtual intern you can be.
Virtual internships may follow a number of different models, however most will likely follow an asynchronous model of work. What this means is that you will likely be completing your work as an intern on your own time, rather than having to do so during a specified time block. While deadlines will still be a part of your internship, you now have the freedom to complete the work necessary for your internship on your own time. This can take a lot of practice to get right, as it is easy to lose motivation or forget about deadlines without proper organization. It is not necessary to set up a specific time to work on your internship, but it is highly recommended as it will allow you to properly track when you will complete tasks and work on larger projects. On top of that, it is important to manage both your time and your tasks while working as an intern, as not keeping these two aspects of the job organized can lead to many problems down the line. There is no doubt that it will take some time to get into the swing of things, but trust in your abilities and you will succeed in a virtual internship just as much as you would an in-person one. Believe in yourself, and the results will follow.
I hope this article gave you a bit of insight into the process of finding an internship during the era of COVID-19. While this pandemic may be a temporary installation in our lives, the skills we develop during it are not. Even after the pandemic is over, the experiences you will have in your virtual internship will follow you throughout your professional life and assist you as you begin to apply for bigger opportunities in your field. So, while we may be limited in what we can do right now, remember that your skills reach beyond the screen and will help you achieve your aspirations as you pursue both virtual and in-person aspirations in the future. Good luck with your virtual internship search and remember to stay safe!