It is an understatement to say that we are living in uncertain times. On top of this, many of us are experiencing the learning curve and obstacles that come with adapting to a virtual environment, including myself.
I studied abroad in Switzerland before the pandemic hit and when I was sent home, I had a difficult time wrapping up course instruction online. I found it challenging to be an active listener on Zoom for hours a day. During this period, I learned that my summer internship was going to be transformed into a remote working environment. I felt very fortunate to still hold an internship opportunity despite the climate in our country, but it was definitely a wakeup call that I would need to adjust my habits and set myself up for success for the duration of the summer.
I started fresh by giving myself a clean slate and took a virtual 6-week class through Harvard Edx once my junior year of college concluded. Through this experience, I was able to work to actively listen, manage my time, and ultimately build upon my current skillset in a virtual environment. It did not hurt that I was also able to include a new certificate of completion to my LinkedIn and resume! Adding this structure to my days in quarantine enabled me to feel more equipped to operate a full workday from the comfort of my home successfully in the coming weeks.
Prior to my first day on the desk, I also made a point to develop a workspace that would foster an efficient working environment. Being a college student on a college budget, it was very important to me to make my desk and workspace affordable. I utilized Facebook Marketplace and old items in my house to create a comfortable and productive workspace that was separate from my bedroom and areas that I associate with relaxation. By doing this I was able to “commute” to my designated desk space every morning alerting my body that it was time to focus and work.
Once my summer internship program officially began, I set out with a goal for myself to have a plan to maximize my experience by the end of the first week. At the end of the first week, I had a plan with specific work objectives, but more importantly, I committed myself to reach out to at least three new people to schedule a virtual coffee chat each week.
One of the largest obstacles in a remote environment is developing relationships with coworkers. There is no more opportunity for quick conversations after meetings or lunch outings. In a remote environment, it is easy to fly under the radar and complete the tasks that are asked of you. In order to stand out and get a true understanding of a company’s culture, being intentional about building relationships is key. By making a point of reaching out to three new colleagues for virtual chats each week, I extracted an invaluable experience from my remote internship. I learned much more about the industry than I expected from hearing people’s stories, I received a true understanding of the firm’s culture and built long-lasting relationships.
I concluded my internship with a newly developed network and a solidified understanding of what direction I want to take my career upon graduation. Both of these achievements can be attributed to the numerous Zoom and phone calls I made this summer to receive human interaction and build valuable relationships that will go well beyond my weeks as a remote intern.
Do not be afraid to reach out to someone in your company or industry in a virtual environment. Everyone can spare 15 minutes in their calendar to get to know you and share their experiences. In many cases, both parties will ultimately benefit from creating a new relationship and understanding of one another.