Let's Start Focusing on the Positive about Remote Internships
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Posted by: Amanda-Asquith Caya
With COVID-19 still running rampant and most colleges and employers continuing to work from home, the conversation has shifted to the big question of what to do about summer internships. Summer is typically the most popular time of the year for organizations to offer robust internship programs and for college students to take part in hands-on learning experiences in the world of work. In this unprecedented time though, it seems like the news about summer internships has been all bad, with many companies cancelling, delaying or shifting their internships to remote. Due to their nature, remote internships cannot offer the same type of learning environment, networking experience and hands-on approach that career development professionals recognize as being so helpful to career growth and that organizations see as an experience to get to know candidates and build their recruiting pipeline. However, not all is lost, and actually, a lot can be gained.
Increasingly, career development professionals have been recognizing the importance of job seekers’ abilities to be agile and resilient. Dr. Jim Bright’s Chaos Theory of Careers teaches us in today’s unpredictable world, even now more than ever, the importance of allowing for openness and curiosity in career exploration when it comes to an ever-evolving world of work. Especially in our current situation of rapid change and new information daily, this is an essential time to work with students on embracing the unknown and building skills that will help them in years to come. Shifting their summer internship plans rapidly and adapting to this new work reality, may, of course, be difficult, but it gives students the opportunity to flex their ability to pivot and grow with the times. In a world that is continuing to shift at an increasing rate, students, and employers as well, who can adapt successfully to these changing times will be even stronger once we emerge from our current crisis. Companies will also find that candidates who thrive in this environment will serve as strong employees in the future as well, able to handle any challenges that come their way.
While the shift has happened more quickly than anyone predicted due to the current crisis, the role of technology not only in the internship and job search but also in the workplace will continue to increase in importance. As we know from knowledge about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the so-called “rise of machines” technology is overtaking everything that we do, and has only increased its pace as staying safe at home has continued. Remote internships offer an additional opportunity for students to continue to develop and refine their technological skills. Generation Z is already the most tech-savvy group yet, and remote opportunities will only improve their abilities. Additionally, as workplaces continue to utilize new technological advances and move online, regardless of COVID-19, the experiences students have as remote interns will prepare them well for these changes and allow them to handle new technology in a company-setting with ease.
Additionally, while students may not be getting the hands-on experience that we typically associate with an internship, the important thing to note is that they will still be getting experience with a remote internship. This experience will be different than anything imagined, and in that lies its strength for both students and employers. For organizations, the sky's the limit in terms of creative ways to engage summer interns remotely. There’s freedom in testing new ideas and seeking new solutions, thereby uncovering additional skills of current interns and potential future-employees that would not have normally been seen in an in-person internship. There’s opportunity to mentor interns in a deeper and more meaningful way, to connect interns to share their experiences with one another and to offer new types of projects for development and growth. For students, there are new opportunities to participate and engage than what might have been offered before. Their voices and ideas have never had more weight when offering changes and solutions to internship providers and their companies. They will learn skills about networking, working on projects and learning remotely that they would not have before. Their abilities have never been more tested and offered more opportunity to rise above and shine in a difficult situation. For both students and employers, this is also an enhanced opportunity to discover cultural fit, for under duress is when our truest colors and biggest strengths arise.
So, let’s start focusing on the positive about remote internships. It may not be the world we imagined, but it offers all of us the chance to innovate and grow in ways we never thought possible. And that is worth embracing.
About the Author
Amanda-Asquith Caya has served as the Internship & Experience Manager at UC Santa Barbara Career Services for the past four and a half years. As a member of both the employer relations and counseling teams, she is passionate about programming and education for students, staff and employers around experiential education.