Internships for the post-pandemic era: time to do things differently

The original article was published in Polyxeni Ntavarinou’s Linkedin page.

Covid-19 has radically changed the landscape of the economy, workplace, social life and education. Internships for university students were no different; many of those positions were moved online with mixed results. Yet, the opportunity of hands-on professional experience is not something that should be hindered in a time where technological advancement can transcend social distancing. It is necessary to make the best out of the situation and see how the virtual internship can be optimized for interns and companies alike.

Step 1: Change of internship culture

Assuming that a virtual internship is feasible in the first place, the days of unstructured, unclear and meaningless tasks such as photocopying and running errands, are over. An intern can no longer be an extra set of hands for the odd jobs in the office. In this case, a shift in culture is urgently needed; what if a win-win situation could be created for both sides, where a company can benefit from a fresh perspective while the interns gain professional experience and transferable skills?

Step 2: Plan ahead and organize

From a company’s point of view, a virtual internship program requires a lot of planning ahead. Specific projects, with specific deadlines, along with online team management (virtual meetings etc.) require a solid amount of coordination. However, this is an investment that can pay off in the workplace.

Firstly, clearly defined tasks allow for better collaboration and better outcomes. For the interns, it could be a good opportunity to take on a challenge that will have measurable and provable results. For a company, assigning tasks according to its needs allows for a more effective use of the interns’ skills and a flow of new ideas. Overall, it will contribute to a program that creates value for both sides.

Secondly, remote team coordination is something that needs to be integrated into contemporary business culture and daily operations. As such, a company can only benefit from having the possibility to function remotely. Having a system like that in place is yet another safeguard in times of uncertainty. Also, it might be a good idea to test what works and what doesn’t in a low stake situation, such as an internship project. On the other hand, interns will have to get accustomed to working remotely, without direct supervision and conduct themselves in a professional manner.

Step 3: Build an internship programme for your company

A well-structured internship programme doesn’t have to be the privilege of large corporations. Even small companies that recruit interns can benefit from having a plan tailored to their needs. After all, it should be a mutually beneficial process; as the company gives the opportunity for early career development, the interns have the chance to contribute with their freshly acquired theoretical knowledge, motivation and generational insight.