Thoughts and Advice from Employers Remote Internship Toolkit

We asked employers from various companies and industries to share their advice on remote internships - what their expectations are, what tips they have, and how a remote intern could stand out to them.

What are some expectations that you will have of interns?

  • Students are expected to be resourceful, self-motivated, have a willingness to learn and ask questions. Being new to a team and not having face to face interaction or hands on work can be very challenging, but this is a great time for students to show their ability to get the job done when no one is watching!
  • Resourceful: Students should be able to find answers when management is not around.
  • Self-Motivated/Willingness to Learn: No one will be around to push you. You have to want to learn!
  • Ask questions: If you are confused on an assignment or task, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. We would prefer you ask for help and complete the task correctly rather than not ask and have to redo it.

- Alyssa McCoy, Arthrex, Inc.

I expect our interns to work with their supervisors to understand what is expected of them and know what should be prioritized on their project. An intern should also have a readiness to learn, feel comfortable asking questions, and be eager to jump in to assist as-needed. - Sama Naqeeb (T’17), Accenture Technology

A virtual environment makes open and proactive communication even more important than it is during “normal” business operations; in an office, you can drop by someone’s desk with a quick question, and read someone’s nonverbal queues to interpret what kind of day they’re having. None of that can happen organically when we’re all physically separated. For interns especially, this concept is critical because the beginning of an internship can be incredibly overwhelming. You’re learning a new role, trying to understand a new company, trying to meet everyone and remember the names that go with the faces – now in 2020, you’re doing all of that over email and conference calls. For that reason, I implore interns to be brave and bold in vocalizing their needs, questions and challenges. There’s nothing you’ll say or ask that we haven’t heard before, but we won’t know how to position you for success if we don’t know what you’re missing. I also encourage interns to make an extra effort to learn about their company’s culture, since that piece won’t be as obvious when you aren’t physically immersed in it. Do your research, reach out to make connections through the company, and learn about who the company is and what they stand for. You’ll inherently feel more aligned to the work you’re doing if you can sense the greater purpose behind it. - Christine Archer, SAP Internship Experience Project Global Lead

  • Increased Communication: Keeping your manager updated on your progress is always important in an internship, but it is even more important when you are working remotely. Whatever the normal cadence for checking in with your manager would be, we recommend doubling that communication. Even if you are not having a conversation, sending them an update on a frequent basis where you can keep them posted on your progress is more important now than ever.
  • Ask For Help: As part of the increased communication, make sure you are asking for help. It might be easier for a manager to see what you are struggling with if you are working in the same room together every day, but in a remote environment you need to be extra clear about obstacles that you are facing. It is important to note that asking for help does not only mean asking for help on your internship projects, but also being willing to ask for what you need on a personal level. Whether you have a family member that gets sick or you are struggling to find a good place to work, make sure your manager knows what you are going through so that there is no disconnect.
  • Bring Solutions: One of the best parts about having interns is having a fresh perspective from people who are not in your organization every day. As all businesses look to adapt to the current environment, fresh perspectives have never been more valuable. Don't be afraid to take on a project that didn't fall under your initial job description or to make a suggestion that could help the business to cope during this difficult time. Employers need all-hands on deck now more than ever.

- Kyle Mumma (T'13 Daytime MBA '18), Founder & CEO of NextPlay

The Forest Service offers several internship programs, each with unique benefits and requirements. A primary expectation is that interns familiarize themselves with their internship program to fully understand its requirements. Overlooking these requirements can result in dismissal from the internship or an inability to convert into a permanent position – which is often a benefit of Forest Service internship programs. Another expectation is clear and timely communication. Communication is key to building positive and productive working relationships with your supervisor, team and other coworkers. In the weeks after accepting an internship, students will receive communication from both their supervisor and the human resources staff requesting several onboarding forms. Ideally, students will prioritize completing these forms and alert their supervisor or human resources if there are any challenges. Timely responses ensure that internship start dates are not delayed. During the internship, clear and timely communication includes regularly providing status updates on assignments, requesting additional work once assignments are completed (instead of pulling out cellphones!), and informing your supervisor of your needs such as help completing an assignment or needed schedule adjustments. - Michaela Hall, USDA Forest Service

What tips can you share with students for working remotely?

Schedule the days with yourself in mind! Remote work is an adjustment but it also provides flexibility and ownership of your schedule/calendar. Block time and hold yourself accountable to that time. Your calendar doesn't just have to be for meetings. If you're feeling behind on a project, block time on your calendar dedicated to that project. If you know you are more productive throughout the day with a walk at 3pm, block off walk time. You are in control of your days so take advantage of this and build your calendar with productivity and self-care in mind! - Juliet Wilson, Campus Recruiter, Appian

  • Try to avoid distractions by setting up a workspace in your home that is quiet and organized. TV’s should be turned off and cell phones should be set aside.
  • Be conscious of your time. Set deadlines for yourself to complete certain tasks/projects each day. Schedule a check-in with your supervisor or manager to ensure you are staying on track. Keeping a to-do list can also help with this!
  • Be professional. Staying in your pajamas all day can be very tempting, but you will be more productive if you maintain a normal working routine by getting ready as if you were going into the office. You’ll be thankful you did if you are asked to participate in any unexpected video calls or meetings!
  • Take breaks. When working from home you may find yourself sitting at your computer all day and forget to move or eat lunch! This can make you fatigued, so be mindful of your health and well-being and schedule a few breaks for yourself throughout the day to rest and recharge!

– Alyssa McCoy, Arthrex, Inc.

My tips for working remotely are to take breaks and stay hydrated! Also whenever possible, I like to schedule virtual “coffee breaks” with my teammates to help us stay connected, when we can’t be in the office together. - Sama Naqeeb (T’17), Accenture Technology

Try to approach the internship the same way virtually as you would in the office, however best you can. Create a schedule and stick to it, finding a working environment that is comfortable, inspirational and free of distraction (as best you can). Build in brief breaks to reset and rejuvenate. Use your self-awareness when you tackle your tasks – if you’re more alert in the morning, block off time early in the day for your most arduous work or onboarding efforts. I tend to get tired in the late afternoon, so I try to save that time of my day for personal development activities or creative project work – something to wake me up and give me my second wind. Be sure you’re clear on timelines and deadlines, so you can prioritize tasks appropriately and avoid feeling unnecessarily overwhelmed. And be camera-ready – you never know when someone in a meeting will be expecting web cameras to be on! -Christine Archer, SAP Internship Experience Project Global Lead

The Forest Service’s Southern Region Recruitment Team is responsible for recruiting in 13 states and Puerto Rico. To best service this area, our team members are remotely stationed at different locations across the south. As part of this virtual team, I have a few tips to share on working remotely. First, I suggest that students designate a workspace. While this could be a separate room such as a home office, a workspace can also be a table and chair in a quiet corner of the house. The goal is to have a comfortable location that is free from distraction. When you’re in that space, you are ready to work and when work is finished, leaving your workspace helps create necessary boundaries and balance. Building relationships when working remotely takes more effort. You won’t have the usual chances to chat with your coworkers around the water-cooler or in the breakroom. To create these relationships and build your networks remotely, I encourage interns to reach out to their teammates and coworkers regularly. Don’t hesitate to conduct informational interviews, volunteer to assist with team projects and ask questions when you’re uncertain. Working to stay informed and “visible” when working remotely helps integrate you into the team and agency. - Michaela Hall, USDA Forest Service

When working from home it’s important to figure out what works best for you - this will take time and adjustment. We’ve gathered some tips that will set you up for success and help keep you productive.

  • Setting up your "office” space - You’ll want to set up a workspace that will separate you from “home”. This will create a productive environment and allow you to feel like you’re in the office. Whether you have a separate room for your office or it’s in your bedroom, consider everything needed to mimic your desk at work. This includes setting up a proper desk with a monitor keyboard, and mouse.
  • Plan, Plan, Plan - Creating a schedule for yourself will be extremely helpful - it’s easy to work longer days when you’re at home. Plan your day out to have a beginning and end by using your calendar to block out time for when you won’t be “in office” anymore. This also applies to blocking out time for short breaks or meals.
  • Take a break - Make sure you are considering different methods for short breaks into your workday. It’s easy to not get up from your workstation when at home. You’ll want to get up to take a short walk, eat lunch away from your desk, or just take a mental break. Remember to carve out this time and put it in your calendar.
  • Health + Wellness - When thinking about ‘taking a break’, remember to take time to think about your health + wellness. This can be overlooked sometimes, but taking small breaks to be active and give yourself a refresher is a great way to stay productive. This can be taking the time to go on a short walk, a workout, meditate, anything that will refresh you.

- Layal Alqtaishat, Veeva Systems

On the plus side, remote workers tend to be more productive than office workers by a fairly significant margin. One study shows that remote workers do about 1.4 additional days of work per month relative to their office peers, which would mean nearly a week of added productivity over the course of an internship. Obviously there are tradeoffs for all of that added productivity. Remote workers have a difficult time unplugging and creating separation between work and regular life, which leads to additional work hours on a daily basis. A consequence of this inability to unplug is that remote workers are significantly more likely to experience loneliness and the anxiety or depression that comes with it. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to capitalize on the productive work environment of a home office while mitigating against the loneliness that comes with it.

  • Set Goals: Start every day by laying out your priorities for that day so that you have a sense for where you want to go. These goals could be tactical things that you need to accomplish, or they could be a mindset that you want to embody. If you find that your list of goals is always tactical, take the time to identify a separate word for the day that helps you to stay centered and focused. Checking those goals off your list and sticking to your predetermined mindset will help you to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and give you space to stop working at a reasonable hour.
  • Schedule Your Day: Try to have your days resemble your normal life as best you can. Take lunch when you would normally take lunch. Workout when you would normally work out. Maintain a sleep schedule that feels normal. Keeping your schedule tight will give you a sense of normalcy and allow you to fall into a comfortable rhythm without working more than you need to.
  • Minimize Distractions: Create a workspace for yourself that is specifically for work. Avoid working in spaces that are typically reserved for other activities like eating, watching TV, or sleeping. Try working in bursts- something like 40 minutes on followed by 10 minutes off- so that you can maintain your focus for the long-haul. Given that everything we do revolves around technology, especially in a remote internship, try to minimize tech usage during your breaks so that you can come back to work feeling refreshed.
  • Stay Connected: The most important step towards minimizing the feeling of isolation is maintaining a connection with your family, friends, and classmates. Studies have shown that a sense of belonging can enhance persistence in the face of even impossible tasks, so belonging is extra important right now. Take advantage of your company's chat tool if they have one. Set up a weekly Zoom call with your friends. Call your parents before you start work in the morning. Chat in your section GroupMe over lunch. Do what you can to avoid feeling the sense of loneliness that often comes with remote work.

- Kyle Mumma, (T'13 Daytime MBA '18), Founder & CEO of NextPlay

What would make a remote intern stand out and excel at a remote internship?

A remote intern can stand out by delivering excellent work, on-time, and pitching in to help their team, when they can, even if that means going beyond what’s expected of them.

- Sama Naqeeb (T’17), Accenture Technology

While this current pandemic landscape certainly presents a unique internship experience, I think it’s a great opportunity to demonstrate some critical skills and behaviors, such as adaptability, agility and a growth mindset. We’re all learning how to navigate this “new normal” together, but the reality is that businesses will always be facing some sort of new normal. The way that companies operate and compete must constantly evolve in this world of cutting-edge technology and ever-changing customer needs. To that end, this is a chance for interns to raise their hands, make their voices heard, roll up their sleeves and show their new colleagues and leaders that they’re ready to contribute right away. If you show that you can learn and make an impact remotely during a global crisis, you’re signaling the potential to navigate any future challenges the business may face! Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it shows that you’re committed to learning and stepping outside your comfort zone. Be open-minded and curious, and don’t be afraid to volunteer your support wherever it’s needed. Realize the value that your unique perspective brings to the business, and seek ways to make the difference that only you could make, even if it’s from behind a computer screen. - Christine Archer, SAP Internship Experience Project Global Lead

Students stand out when they go the extra mile and are open minded to new things. From a new outsider looking in, it may be easy for you to spot areas of improvement within an organization. For example, if you find that the company you are working for could benefit by changing a certain process or using another software platform, please let them know. Being open minded is also very important, especially with the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. You should be willing to listen to other ideas and opinions, learn new things and consider alternative approaches to problem solving. Having an open mind can make you more adaptable to any work environment, including your new remote workspace. – Alyssa McCoy, Arthrex, Inc.

This year, the Forest Service onboarded interns virtually. Many interns will work remotely until it is safe for them to report to their worksite. As virtual employees, students can take a few steps to ensure the best internship experience. First, regular communication with your supervisor is key to building rapport and gaining an understanding of expectations. Providing routine work updates and responding to requests in a timely manner builds confidence in your productivity. It also gives you and your supervisor a chance to understand each other’s work and communication styles. Working remotely also requires increased initiative. Supervisors can’t (and don’t want to) constantly monitor an intern. It’s up to the student to gain an understanding of their assignments and team, request help as needed, provide timely feedback on progress, and request more work if needed. Interns are often one of many employees managed by a single supervisor. An intern who can quickly integrate into their team and manage their work assignments will make a lasting impression. Finally, I encourage interns to take advantage of all that is offered during the internship. These offerings may include virtual and in-person trainings, access to internal networks, and skill-building assignments. Use your internship as a stepping stone to boost your resume, expand your networks and gain a get a realistic picture of a career field. - Michaela Hall, USDA Forest Service