Career Advice for Job Seekers

3 tips from Alper Portfolio Group on making a virtual internship successful

Patty Alper
November 16, 2021

Internships are such a valuable pathway from academics to jobs, from graduation to the workforce, from young adulthood to professionalism. Indeed, the pandemic has put a kibosh on the ebb and flow of this essential runway by forcing a virtual arrangement. Of course, working in a real office, dressing the part, getting there on time, proximity, team work, water cooler conversations, conduct, interfacing—are all part of the education, even before the intern has been given an assignment.  So how does a virtual internship fit exactly?

Here are three tips from Patty Alper, President of the Alper Portfolio Group, a marketing and consulting company:

First Tip: Identify Team, Duration of Internship, Scope

Virtual internships require more handholding and differing kinds of assignments. I suggest ahead of time, knowing your team that will be working with the youth. If it is virtual, you will need more assigned  staff to check in more often. ( approximately every three days to once a week). Which department will drive the internship assignments?—(Data, Communications, Research and Development, Sales or all of the above allowing interns to  choose by preference)  What is  the duration of the virtual  internship? -Who in Human Resources will be overseeing—Are you working with Corporate Social Responsibility or other administrative coordination. 

Please get your ducks in a row:  Define clear expectations from your own staff, train them on best practices in working with youth, revisit their virtual demeanor, and have defined, achievable goals such that the interns can succeed. All of this should be outlined before you ever identify virtual  interns to work with your program.

Second Tip: Project Based Mentors 

Now that you know the department, and the intern assignments—you are prepared to fill positions (virtual or otherwise) with the right intern candidates.  My bend is toward Project Based Mentorship ®–because I believe that helping youth succeed requires role modeling, guidance, methodology, and  training. You can’t just throw kids off the deep end and expect them to swim. Particularly in a virtual environment. Equip your interns with an achievable project, and give them mentors to collaborate, answer questions, play devil’s advocate, teach new skills, be patient, and be supportive.

Third Tip: Remember Interns are Students 

Yes, students do need to learn the rigors of the work world. But they are not there yet. Remember, Interns are students. Especially in a virtual environment, it is harder to be self motivated and driven. Try to vary the engagements between group zooms, one to one virtual mentoring, an occasional Starbucks interaction, and even a socially distant in- office gathering that is a blend of training, and pizza. Have zoom guest speakers describe their different departments and how they interface, and bring the intern cohort for a live or virtual tour of your offices. Keep the engagement interesting, changing, and with new updates, company plans, challenges, new clients, new products—

The big idea is to make the interns feel a part of the organization and its goals, such that after six weeks or two months they know much more than their own task—Instead they have a real concept of a business and where they fit into the whole.

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