Getting the most out of a virtual internship

To quote the most boring version of a Jerry Seinfield stand-up, “What’s the deal with virtual internships?” Like everything this past year there was the good, the bad, and the lonely. 

The good: I interned this summer at Spark Foundry, a media marketing agency based in New York City. I was based in Philadelphia, PA; Providence, Rhode Island; and Estero, Florida. If this internship was totally in-person I wouldn’t have been able to accept it and probably never would have thought to apply for it. Everyone I worked with had been working virtually since last March, so they were used to it. All of them were nice, understanding, and very accommodating. When my initial manager left the company halfway through my internship, my two closest team members went above and beyond to help me out. With everyone’s help I was exposed to a lot of interesting projects, and learned skills that went beyond what Temple has taught me. 

Now onto the bad and the lonely (which are really the same thing): working online was tough for me. It felt awkward to be inserted into a team of people with their own workflows, preferences, and attitudes, while not being able to actually meet them in person. Talking to people only in meetings meant I had to get to know everyone through the context of work alone, with personal anecdotes rarely slipping through. In addition, there was some downtime where I felt like I was just waiting around, with nothing to do and no one to talk to.

Don’t get me wrong; I had a great time throughout my internship. As I said earlier, everyone was super supportive and went out of their way to help me out. I was welcomed and made connections that will (fingers crossed) last a long time. But if you have the chance to work remotely and find yourself feeling as I did, here are three tips to break through the wall of loneliness: 

  1. Seek out one-on-one time with people you think are interesting. People love talking about themselves. If you ask for fifteen minutes to get to know someone, in person or online, odds are they will say yes. After you talk to them you should feel much more comfortable when interacting with them during a meeting or while working on a project. If they say no, who cares… you’ll only see them on Zoom anyway! 
  2. Ask serious questions. If what someone said is unclear to you, or you’re interested in a topic and want more information: ask! Trying to figure out the how and the why behind work will reflect well on you. It could open doors for new interesting work, and/or create connections you wouldn’t have made otherwise. 
  3. Keep a list of everything you’ve worked on. This was one of the best pieces of advice I got before my internship began. Not only did it fill dead time during the day, I used the list to remind myself that I have been doing interesting work and I have been learning, even if it feels like a bit of a slog in the moment. Best of all, this list will help you fill out your resume for future opportunities. 

4 Comments

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  1. Elias, you’ve really taken things a step further with the advice you’ve given us about internships and I think your advice was really valuable. During my summer internship, my coworker also suggested that I set up one on one meetings with people that I thought were interesting, just to get to know them and see if they have any words of wisdom to share with me. I met some great people! Keeping a list of things you’ve worked on is not something I’ve done in the past but I think this tip is super helpful, especially for when it comes time to be interviewed for a future job and they ask about your experience. Oftentimes we do work that we don’t even realize the significance of, and this is something I will be sure to practice going forward. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hey Elias, I really enjoyed hearing about your experience this summer. I think that your tips on getting the most out of a virtual internship were very helpful. I was also interning virtually this summer and have found these same techniques to be very advantageous. I especially agree that keeping track of each task you perform is a great way to kill dead time during the day. Virtual internships have their disadvantages, but they also give you the opportunity to get positions that you wouldn’t be able to get in person.

  3. Hey, Elias. It was really interesting reading about your experience and I found what you wrote here extremely relatable. My internship was also a virtual one, and while it was awkward at first, working with people who had experience and were able to help, made things much better. Like you, I learned a lot outside of what I’ve done at Temple and had a great time. I think your tips are great suggestions for interns; whether they’re working virtually or in person. Thanks for sharing and good luck in your future endeavors!

  4. Hi Elias,
    I love the structure of your blog post! Your story was very interesting and I agreed with many points you made. I too had a virtual internship. However, I believe if it were normal times and I had all my classes in person, I would have missed a great opportunity that only came to me because of everything being online. I would have never experienced a corporate style job, work setting, and culture. Although, online school and job positions can be difficult at times, I do think there are many positives as well.

    I also love your 3 tips on breaking through the walls of loneliness. Those tasks and personal duties are very important in maintaining a good work ethic and organization within your job responsibilities.