In this post, Ria shares an overview of her online internship experience. Read on to find out more!
My name is Ria, and I am an undergraduate studying BSc (Hons) Mathematics with Management and Finance, beginning my final year in September. I have completed over 12 internships spanning across seven industries, dabbling in Banking, Sales, Marketing and even a stylist for a music video! I ran my own start-up for five years, XTRA.art and then headed Sales and Marketing at a VR Tech Start-up, Memento. As much as I enjoyed a short-lived affair with entrepreneurship, I believe I have a lot to learn from working under global leaders at large firms and building a network from working in a multinational corporation. Nevertheless, whether it’s intrapreneurship (manifesting an entrepreneurial mindset within a company) or entrepreneurship, I love innovating and coming up with creative solutions.
Pandemic & changed plans
I had planned to keep this summer free as I had squeezed in three internships last summer in different roles at different firms. Hoping to spend the summer travelling across Europe and attending festivals amongst igniting shelved ideas for start-ups, I wanted to spend the last summer before graduating enjoying myself before joining full-time employment in the following year. As lockdown had been announced in March, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit idle at home without having anything to do or learn. It felt bittersweet, knowing that this year I didn’t really push myself to apply for summer internships and that way I didn’t have to feel the pain when they would be retracted because of COVID-19.
Ultimately, it was the fear of sitting idle that pushed me into the arms of a virtual internship. My intuition also encouraged me to think about upskilling and determining how to become digitally savvy. Knowing that the onset of a pandemic would cause turmoil in the future job market, the only way to future-proof myself was to begin to think of courses to make me more attractive to future employees. Unknowing of when measures would relax, I started applying for anything and everything, so I didn’t consciously decide to try out a virtual internship it just seemed to be the only option.
Applying and interviewing virtually
I had begun my search in April and had several companies email back reporting they hadn’t updated their job vacancies. To my dismay, these companies no longer needed the interns or the extra help because of the unfortunate market conditions. – this was incredibly frustrating. I then juggled applications and interviews between my exams in May. My first memory of a virtual interview had been of a pre-recorded ‘question and answer’ interview that I had completed in my first year. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy the experience when I did that interview in first year and neither was I successful. Fast forward to May this year and I had begun my live virtual interview with nerves and self-doubt.
Once I had gotten over oddly seeing myself speak on the screen and the realisation that there was someone real and live on the other end of the zoom call, I had started to adjust to the experience. There were many ‘pinch-me’ moments where I had to remind myself that this was as much an interview as it would have been if it were to be held in ‘real-life’ because there are moments you start to over-analyse your behaviour on the screen. Despite this, I had completed my third virtual interview and had acclimatised to it. I do believe the more virtual interviews you do the better you get.
Eventually, I was successful in securing a research role with a private equity firm. They had asked for the usual CV and cover letter – as now it isn’t enough to just turn in a CV, but nearly every post I applied for asked for a cover letter. There was a brief 15-minute casual virtual interview the following week and I started my placement that Monday!
The real virtual internship experience
You eventually acclimatise to virtual interviews; it’s the same with the actual internship. At first, it feels odd to start to work with people you barely know let alone get to barely see in the day, but you learn to adapt. It does depend on the firm you’re working for and the type of people you’re interacting with from the firm. You will find it is a lot easier to hold video chats with naturally social people then quieter individuals, although, this is the case even in ‘real-life’. Despite being an extrovert, I generally find virtual interactions a lot more tiring than in-person interactions.
I find that I end up spending a lot more time working because there’s no real distinction between home and work life anymore. Therefore, time management and looking out for your well-being is vital when working from home. Another difficulty was not being able to build that network with others at the firm, not just your immediate daily contacts. I think it’s important to build working relations with as many people as you can whilst on placement but with a virtual internship, organic networking becomes difficult.
Advice to students
It is extremely important to set expectations very early on in your internship. That could be the method of communication – email or Whatsapp – and the frequency – a catch-up call every afternoon or every Monday morning. What I found worked was setting a clear agenda on what I wanted to discuss and the context of the discussions before I had every virtual interaction/meeting with professionals of the firm. This way, the conversations were meaningful and productive.
Nevertheless, give a virtual internship a go! You can only gain experience from it because more hiring processes for graduate jobs will become virtual so it’s best to get in as much practise of your virtual professional self as possible.