The New Normal: 3 Tips to Dominate Week 1 of Your Virtual Internship

Updated: September 2, 2020

By Johnnie Pope
Intern Program Manager, Discovery, Inc.


Let me start off by saying “Congratulations.” That’s right—let’s queue up those Post Malone lyrics. You’ve secured that coveted internship despite all the obstacles: Finishing college courses online, moving back home with family, or just trying to find a job. As an intern program manager, Memorial Day normally signifies the end of the school year and the time to prepare for all of our summer interns to be on campus. For students, the anxiety of making sure you’re all set to start is a constant theme. 

And that’s not to mention that this is the first time most if not all of you will be working remotely. It’s been an adjustment for me as well. Don’t fret: The rules might have changed, but we won’t let that stop us from having a great summer. Here are three tips as we adjust to our “new normal.”

Be Flexible 

Keep in mind that some organizations have chosen to not move forward with remote interns. It creates a type of complexity that not all companies are ready to embrace. You may also be interning for an organization where remote work is not the norm. So, as the great master Yoda stated, “You must unlearn what you learned.” 

Attitude is everything. If you go in expecting the organization to get it all right, you might be knocking on the door of disappointment sooner than you think. The skill of being adaptable to any environment is a lasting one as you transition from in-person to virtual worker. 

Master the Technology 

We are living in the digital age, powered by all types of tools. Technology keeps us connected in our personal lives, and the same is true at work. Virtual meetings are the new craze. For my organization, we use Zoom. The cloud-based application allows us to communicate via Zoom Rooms. 

Get familiar with the tools needed to meet your deliverables. Just this past week, I hosted a virtual intern orientation and virtual coffee breaks with students from all across the U.S. Knowing how to share my screen, adjust the room capacity, and chat helped provide a robust experience. 

PS: Don’t be afraid to ask your manager and/or the IT department for a demonstration if you need help.

Ask Questions and Network 

I know, I know: I said three tips, but this is more of a two for one here. One thing I noticed as a recruiter is that everyone knows what to ask during an internship interview, but rarely does anyone discuss with students what to ask while on the job. 

I got you! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The point of the internship is for you to learn. If you feel otherwise while interning, I recommend that you intern elsewhere next time. Our intern population consists of rising juniors, seniors, and graduate students. My favorite question is from soon to be graduates: “How can I make this internship a full-time position at the end of the session?” 

Another great follow-up, mostly pointed to intern managers and intern representatives, is “How can I network while interning?” You probably leveraged a network connection to obtain your current internship. Networking is a necessity career-wise. I try to make it easy for our students. We have designated intern mixers that are non-formal, just to eat and socialize. Interns from every department at each site are invited. Intern managers are included, and we also like to spice it up by having guests swing by. You never know when a talent might show up or an executive. 

Yes, I know what you are thinking: We can’t meet because it’s a virtual job. Allow me to bring it all full circle. 

Remember when I said to be flexible and to master the technology? Once you’ve identified that important network connection, a creative way to make your meetup fun is to leverage a virtual coffee break. That’s right! Send that invite, designate 30 minutes, and bring your favorite drink to the virtual room. Social distancing has forced us to find different ways to stay connected. Over the last few months, we’ve seen birthdays, weddings, game nights, and regular conversations hosted virtually. Why not add that to your work toolkit as well?