By the SMU Social Media Team
With many internships upended by this tumultuous year, many companies are now offering an alternative—the remote internship. Without the real-time back-and-forth of the office experience, does working from home put interns at a disadvantage?
Not necessarily, says Wendy How, Senior Manager at the SMU Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre. “Having an independent, careful and thoughtful mindset can help one do well in a remote internship. Young talent who show that they are willing to learn and committed to excellence are always sought after by companies.”
Here are some of her tips to making the most out of a remote internship.
1. Use online access to build rapport
Wendy How, Senior Manager at the SMU Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre
While most students feel that in-person time with supervisors and colleagues during an internship is a critical part of their learning experience, there are upsides to a remote internship. In some cases, for instance, young interns could find it easier to connect with senior executives through widely used enterprise online platforms.
Referring to the use of Microsoft Teams in his internship, SMU business programme undergraduate Brendan Tan shares: “The hierarchy sort of flattens. Everyone in the team, regardless of rank, is just one message away. For example, I could be working on a project with a partner and the nature of Instant Messaging allows me to ha
ve direct conversations with the partner. This probably wouldn’t be as easy as in the office.”
Tap on this opportunity for easier access to find out if regular check-ins with your supervisor would be possible. Plan your request with care. Draw up a clear agenda—for example, that you want to use these sessions to update them on your projects, seek clarifications, and get feedback on your work. A tip from another SMU student: summarise the day’s progress on your assignment and share it with your supervisor.
Use the same approach if you would like to connect with other potential mentors whom you want to learn from. You could even try asking if it would be possible for you to sit in on higher-level project meetings, so that you can understand the bigger picture and how you can better contribute.
Don’t neglect building rapport with your colleagues. Remote working can be isolating. Try scheduling online happy hours or coffee breaks with your fellow interns, or co-workers who share your interests. This can be a good way of getting to know them better outside of work.
2. Be more observant
Without in-person interactions, body language, intonations, and other visual and verbal cues may be harder to parse. To gauge the overall mood of meetings and your supervisor’s opinions, pay closer attention to the dynamics of online interactions.
To grasp the work culture of a company, also observe your supervisor’s and colleagues’ habits and routines. For instance, do they stop messaging and revert to email after work hours? Or do they continue communicating until a certain time? Try to model your own work habits during the internship after such prevailing norms.
3. Take a lot more initiative
Regardless of the nature of your internship, you have to research the requirements and expectations of the posting carefully, and make sure you have the necessary skills and experience before applying.
Once you land an internship, double-check these expectations and requirements, and strive to adapt to changing needs and make it your goal to pick up new skills and knowledge swiftly. Be resourceful when it comes to learning on the job, and take the initiative to ask your colleagues questions about key areas you want to know more about.
During this period of restructured working arrangements, it is likely that your colleagues have their hands full adjusting to the new normal. Instead of expecting your colleagues to correct your mistakes, be more meticulous about the standard of your work to show that you can be trusted to operate independently and productively.
4. Respect the time and space of others
Mutual respect is the key to any successful professional relationship. When you are asking for feedback and guidance from your supervisors and colleagues, make sure you abide strictly by any time limits or scheduling constraints they may have.
In a larger meeting, introduce yourself and identify the department or team you are from when speaking for the first time. Wait for someone to finish his or her point before sharing yours. Alternatively, raise your hand to ask for a turn in the conversation.
As the boundaries between work and home life become more permeable, it is also important to be efficient in your working methods, so as to do your part towards preventing burn-out and to show respect for the private time of your co-workers. For example, send emails only when needed and keep them succinct. This will help to reduce email load for your team members.