Let’s be real. If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re probably one of a few things:
a) Splitting your time between LinkedIn, USC career sites, and your resume files
b) Spending far too much time on Zoom
c) Spending far too much time resenting the fact that you’re on Zoom
d) All of the above
And though most of us—myself included—probably belong to that last party, the silver lining is that none of us are alone in this sentiment. I mean, how many more days of an unprecedented brand of existence can we take? In a time when everything feels surreal, our minds can start to blur the facts: one year has ended, another has begun, and yet another college semester will be experienced through a five month long staring contest with our laptop cameras. Almost a year into a remote setting, and still all of our efforts of the past 11 months feel akin to running on a treadmill—marathons go by, and at the end of it all, you seemingly haven’t moved an inch.
But briefly, we have these head-rushing, razor-sharp moments of clarity, when the proverbial Jell-O is nailed to the wall, and our milestones sink in. Maybe you nailed an interview with your dream internship, or found a project you can’t wait to work on, and most importantly, maybe you got away with doing it all while wearing ratty sweatpants. And because these victories can be few and far between in a year that’s been trial after tribulation, it’s all the more important that we keep steering forward. So with that, here are five tips for you to survive, thrive, and make the most out of your virtual internship this semester.
Tip #1: What you put in is exactly what you get out.
Let’s start with the most obvious. You know that law of science that says matter can neither be created nor destroyed? Well, even in a time as unprecedented as now, the same logic holds. You can’t expect huge returns on your internship experience if you aren’t putting in the work to begin with. It’s one thing to simply execute your duties, but it’s a whole new stratosphere of impressive when you actively support your team and preemptively complete what’s asked of you. Log into your job every day with this attitude: the more you put into your work, the more your work will reward you.
Tip #2: Make it easy for yourself to succeed.
I know, easier said than done. But here’s the thing. You know yourself and your needs better than anyone. If you’re the kind of person who can’t be productive unless you schedule out every aspect of your day, then set up a daily checklist and calendar to hold yourself accountable to your tasks. If you’re the kind of person who holds your phone right in front of your Zoom screen so you can discreetly scroll through TikTok during morning briefings, then put your phone far out of reach before your meeting even begins. If you’re someone who gets distracted by your own face on screen (because truthfully, who doesn’t?), invest two minutes of your time in watching a YouTube tutorial on how to select, pin, and order videos on your Zoom call. You get the point.
Tip #3: Keep records of everything you do.
A month into your internship, if someone asks you what progress you’ve made, what projects you’ve worked on and what results you’ve seen, you should practically be able to pull out a list then and there and read your accomplishments off the page. Pretty often, we forget to give ourselves credit for the work we do, and keeping a portfolio of your accomplishments is going to make your life easier for years to come. This isn’t to prove a point, or to flaunt your work. This is to provide tangible proof of the added value you bring to your workplace. Quantify the things you do, and check in with yourself. If you find that you’re not doing enough, then this is the perfect way to track your contributions and push yourself to do more.
Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to reach out.
By this, I mean reach out to your supervisors, your coworkers, your fellow interns, etc. Though “coffee chats” aren’t exactly normal right now, you can still set up a 20 minute call to learn more about that person and their journey, interests and advice they have. Show up prepared, be courteous, and seek out ways to connect with the network at your fingertips. In a normal world, you would’ve been buying your team coffee and doing them favors in the office. Now, you need to do your best to express that same gracious and personable attitude that will leave the best and most genuine impression possible of you for everyone you meet.
Tip #5: Take advantage of the virtual aspect of things.
Though this last piece of advice can almost seem infuriating to receive, it’s also one of the most valuable things we can do as we buckle down and wait for “normalcy” to return. Just like we might’ve taken things for granted back when we met in conference rooms instead of on laptop screens, there are so many things we may be taking for granted now. In a virtual setting, there are a million opportunities that open up, whether those are meetings that you suddenly have the prerogative to sit in on without having to go into the office on your days off, the ease of setting up meetings with new people, or even just the fact that you can wake up in the mornings and commute 30 feet instead of 30 minutes. Reframe your thinking, and suddenly many of the drawbacks of virtual work are no longer drawbacks at all.
The truth is that we don’t know when, how or if our beloved status quo will ever return to us. It’s likely that as time passes, more and more of these virtual components will be here to stay. So in the face of a changing work landscape, the best we can do is just to help ourselves work our best. And with these five tips, you’re equipped with everything you need to make the most of your virtual internship. The only thing that’s left for you to do is start.