College Success

Virtual Internship Tips from a Friend

For a couple of individuals in our community, virtual internships are approaching our docket soon. I’m personally very excited, grateful, and terribly nervous about experiencing an online shortened rendition of my original nine-week long program. In efforts to mentally prepare myself for the upcoming experience, I gathered a couple of handy tips and a helpful podcast in regards to keeping mentally sane and productive during quarantine.

As many of us are ending online college semesters and quarters, I spoke to a couple of friends regarding what were best practices and lessons learned throughout the recent change in our world order. Here is a curated list of a couple of transferable tips for our upcoming virtual internships.

Communication is key.

Previously, we had to communicate with our professors about time differences and real-life circumstances affecting our lives now, transfer the same constant communication with your manager or human resources contact. Although an online internship is probably a new and bizarre experience for interns, the organizers of our internships are also on the same boat with us.

They’re probably organizing this online version of our internships for the first time as well. Be patient and make sure to voice when you have a question, concern or are simply feeling overwhelmed they want to see you success, too.

Create a separate and unique work space.

Before you begin your internship, make sure to set a little space you identify as your work-only space. For example, while I was taking online classes in bed, I had a very hard time staying focused. The moment I commandeered a specific side of the dining room table and a specific chair as my own, I was able to focus with the least amount of distractions as possible.

Physically separating your work space will encourage to get out of bed in the morning and complete your tasks at your very own makeshift “home office.”

Create a set of routines to structure your day.

Time management & scheduling. I love my agenda it’s my most trusted confidant. Whether it’s physical pen and paper or an online app like Google Calendar, I recommend writing down your tasks at the very beginning of your day and penciling in around what time you envision yourself completing each task.

As meetings and coffee chats come rolling into your day to day, planning ahead when you will complete each task will lessen the anxiety of making sure each task is completed. Additionally, if you need to take notice of notable time differences with your main office, penciling in independent work time before or after your office opens might help you maximize your daylight hours.

Make sure to schedule in down time. Let your creativity flow and make sure to relax. Your best work is produced when you are at your happiest, so please make sure to schedule in lunch time with a family member, a quick walk outside, a couple hours of painting, or your creative outlet.

Having a daily or occasional task which relaxes your body, or exercises the left side of your brain, will help you let go of some stress and increase those dopamine levels. Remember, you are only human, don’t be afraid to bring your entire self to work (even if it’s online).

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. Habits aren’t created overnight but little by little, one day at a time. Once you’ve created a schedule you feel comfortable with, dedicate your energy to repeating it until you feel it ingrained into your day to day (yes, that means you should wake up at the same time every day).

Creating lasting habits and routines for that matter take time, but are definitely beneficial in the long run. I’ve found that routines help shape my most productive daily structures, which then help create the most productive versions of myself.

Coffee chats are the new office hours.

I know that one of my biggest concerns coming into a virtual internship is making sure I build those personal connections and relationships which are much easier to build in person. In the same way you would call your friends on Zoom to have study or workout sessions, invite a new coworker or fellow intern to have a coffee over Zoom.

Take advantage of the fact that there are many managers and other analysts who are willing to accommodate an online experience and reach out to them when you are in need of advice or have any questions at all. By engaging in an active role and interest in getting to know the firm and your teammates, you’re able to demonstrate to your employer you’re emotionally mature and ready to face any challenge face-on by making the best out of your current situation.

Ask for reading material about your division before your internship begins if they haven’t shared material already. Research the latest news from your company and make sure to be up-to-date with the industry you are entering before you begin your internship. Although at times the best training will come directly from within your company, sometimes coming in with some background knowledge beforehand helps calm down any pre-internship nervous jitters.

(Bonus) Podcast:

Additionally, one of my favorite podcasts recently released a Coronavirus Bonus set of podcasts. The Happiness Lab is a podcast produced by Dr. Laurie Santos, a current Professor of Psychology at Yale University who developed The Science of Wellbeing. She recently started producing podcasts relating to the coping of our current uprooted lives.

Stay healthy everyone, don’t forget your heart, mind, and soul are integral parts to your wellbeing.

On a final note, I’ve learned that my best friend this quarantine has been building and developing routines. Adapting to this new situation has become possible because I’ve been able to test out different schedules, and have figured out which one works best for my current home life and I imagine it will adapt as I incorporate a new work schedule.

We are living a new reality, and as humans, the only way we can find solace in this new reality is learning how to adapt by taking small steps every day.

Maxine Vidal is a junior at Columbia University studying Financial Economics and Computer Science. She’s originally from the Dominican Republic and is looking forward to an online rendition of a summer internship in asset management. Her other interests include playing golf, volunteering for the Aspiras Foundation, and supporting/representing the Forté initiative on campus.

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