There’s no doubt the pandemic has drastically changed the way we work. Offices are closed, most meetings are now virtual and networking has become a day-to-day challenge. Although industries have found solutions for most of the year’s obstacles, in many cases, internship programs have been left behind. As these programs are essential to business owners and students alike, it’s important to have a clear transition for interns to work virtually in 2021. Here are five important things you can be doing to improve your virtual internship program.
1. Collaborate with similar companies within your industry.
Virtual networking has proven to be a consistent challenge for business owners during quarantine. Past years have shown that interns will reap the most benefits from your program by having plenty of opportunities to network, and 2021 will be no different. Creating a virtual environment for students to connect will allow for continued growth within your industry and will offer a positive work experience they want to stick with.
Several companies are already taking a different approach to curating events for their hired interns. For example, in order to combat this year’s networking challenges, Activision’s internship program for 2020 students teamed up with two other major companies within the gaming industry to offer broader networking opportunities for each of their own students. This has allowed their students to create connections throughout their entire industry while also offering adequate feedback to help develop future virtual internship programs, if needed.
2. Be prepared for the year ahead.
Because of the continued challenges surrounding COVID-19, many businesses are gearing up for virtual operations to continue throughout 2021. Preparing a virtual internship program for the year ahead will add an extra level of accountability for new interns to come. Be sure to utilize your current 2020 interns to get feedback on how your business handled the challenges of a virtual program and what positive changes can be made. Run a survey for your current interns to gather their feedback on how to improve the program, and then be sure to action that feedback!
3. Use your full stack of resources.
During a normal year, your company’s notable key speakers would only have availability based on their travel schedule. With many people still working from home, we now have new opportunities for influential speakers and executives to be present for your networking events. Be sure to fully utilize these resources for interviews and speaking events, as it could make your interns feel more connected within your company. Some companies are seeing success with virtual roundtables, happy hours and brown-bag lunches.
4. Offer online social events.
Implementing a virtual events schedule for both employees and interns will help build company culture throughout quarantine. These events can be designed specifically for interns to communicate with one another, or they can be curated to help students connect with your full-time employees. Regular online events can help your interns feel a genuine connection with your company and will make them feel more comfortable with joining your company within a virtual environment.
5. Create summer-long projects.
Assigning a months-long project where students must communicate with employees on a regular basis will keep your interns fully involved throughout the summer. Frequent check-ins and progress reports will keep their engagement levels high while working from home and will also add to their level of comfort when asking questions down the road. Projects can also help interns feel like a strong member of your community by working on tasks that will actually help improve your business.