The Remote Internship: How to Navigate Unprecedented Times as an Intern or Company
After being sent home from school, told I won’t be going back to campus in the fall, and having to WFH in a house full of little children and stressed parents, I was hoping to be in New York City for my Simulmedia internship this summer.
Sadly yet understandably, all nine of us Simulmedia interns got the call that our coveted summer internships were to be conducted remotely (or possibly not at all).
Unlike many of my friends, I at least still had an internship. Many companies and firms cancelled, or dramatically altered the length of, their summer programs in the wake of the pandemic.
As students, we count on these internships to find a job fit and establish the necessary connections and relationships we need to be successful after graduation. Not knowing if my internship would be cut-short set in that gut sinking feeling that I would begin to slip behind my peers in terms of real-world experience.
You probably already know what happened by the title of this article. It lasted. And it has been like no other internship I’ve had before. Simulmedia has an entrepreneurial spirit and a mindset to never settle, the community is incredibly inclusive, and everyone is willing to hop on a Zoom call at any point to chat with you. This is key to a successful intern program whether in or out of the office.
But don’t just take it from me. I sat down (via Zoom call) with four interns and an exec at Simulmedia who shared their successes, challenges, and advice for students and companies considering remote internships. Here are some of their perspectives:
“You have to be very determined, you have to stick with it. There were several times [during the career change] when I wanted to give up. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Her advice for future remote interns: Stick with your projects and put your energy into helping and achieving your and others’ goals.
“Within the first two weeks, my supervisor found out that I could do Photoshop and I liked gaming. After a few conversations, I was put in charge of creating the whole pathway of events [for the new gaming ads] from what they look like in game to what happens after you’ve clicked the ad.”
His advice for companies considering remote internships: Interns should have the opportunity to create their own projects and work on almost anything that is currently happening in the company.
“The first week was rough in terms of understanding all of the different sections of the business, but every time someone opens their mouth I learn something.”
His advice for companies considering remote internships: The onboarding process is often difficult for interns, especially in a remote setting. Encouraging employees to reach out to interns as being available to answer questions or just have a simple conversation is invaluable.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You don’t learn more unless you ask. Ask to sit in on meetings. Ask to meet someone in a different department. Especially in an internship, be proactive and reach out to whoever you want and ask questions. It won’t go unnoticed.”
His advice for future remote interns: People say it all the time, ask questions. But it’s really true. If you want to learn, you need to do it yourself and develop the confidence to speak up.
“When you think about internships, they default to summer. That is when talent was available. Hiring cycles were built around that. With remote, it is very possible that you have some really talented students with available bandwidth and companies with important meaty projects they want to staff capable talent on. This is an incredible opportunity.”
His advice for companies considering remote internships: Remote internships have opened up capabilities for year-round opportunities for students and companies. Take advantage of this and begin planning now.
While a remote internship is undoubtedly difficult, they can still have an immense impact on the individual and company. They make working more accessible year round to a diverse array of students who might not be able to afford to live in big cities during college.
As an intern on the Marketing Team, here are some key pieces of advice I have for prospective interns and companies considering remote internships:
1. Prioritize social interaction.
It’s difficult to mimic the traditional in-person social events in a remote program. At Simulmedia, we’ve hosted an intern virtual game night and an intern social hour where we answered questions inspired by Project Connect, a program at Amherst College (my school) designed to help build social connection, promote empathy, and reduce prejudice. However, I recommend creating even more opportunities for authentic interaction such as a drop-in Zoom lunch or coffee hour. It is critical to put as much emphasis on social events as you do for constructive work because interaction is essential to personal development and inclusion.
2. Take breaks from the screen.
I’ve been in countless Zoom calls and working on the computer for hours on end. I was in 10 Zoom meetings in one day. Zoom fatigue is real. Take a few minutes for yourself, go outside, get a snack and reset every once in a while.
3. Send cold (internal) emails often.
Emailing or messaging someone within a different department of your internship shows your intrinsic interest in expanding your horizons. Scoring an internship is only the first step. To excel at your job, you need to show that you value the experience by taking advantage of every opportunity you can. You can build connections and maybe even score a full-time interview by simply writing an email or direct message, asking to learn about their role over virtual coffee, and starting a conversation about how you can get involved.
If you’re interested in learning more about Simulmedia’s internship program or career listings visit our About page here.