Strategies for Getting a Full-Time Offer at the End of Your Virtual Internship
If you’re having a virtual internship this summer/fall, congratulations! While this internship format might not be what you expected, most of your peers have had their offers rescinded so you’re really lucky to be part of the small group of students whose work plans for the 2020 summer/fall cycles are still intact.
Having recognised that most of you are going into an unusual internship structure this year, my friends (listed at the bottom of this article) and I have taken the time to outline some strategies that you can employ to still get that full-time offer at the end of your internship (assuming this is available at the company where you’re interning).
These are strategies we used to get full-time offers at the end of our own past internships, which we think will be helpful to you despite the different circumstances. The strategies shared here aren’t in any specific order so feel free to read/skim through at your own pace and deep-dive into whichever tip piques your interest the most.
Always put your work first
A common misconception is that internships are more of an opportunity to network than to actually get work done. However, the quality of your work defines you work ethic, which invariably tells a lot about you as a person and as a potential employee. During your remote internship, you won’t have as much opportunity to network as you would’ve if your internship was in person. So if you really want that return offer, prioritise the quality of your work. Always make sure you go above and beyond with your deliverables and always strive to do more than you were asked. Use the internship as an opportunity to earn credibility for your work ethic.
Talking to people during your internship is not half as important as being clear on why you want to talk with them. Clarify to yourself why you want to have a conversation with Person X and be able to articulate that to them when you reach out. Approaching them with “I want to learn more about your journey” is not as impactful or as meaningful to them as if you’d said “I’m a sales intern in Department A, but I would love to learn about sales in Department B to get a holistic idea of Company X’s business. Would love to chat with you to get an overview of your job!” Employees are working much longer hours from home than they were at the office, so they’re less likely to accept as many requests from interns to just chat. Give them a reason to accept yours. Make it meaningful.
During my internship at Facebook, we (i.e. interns) had a Q&A with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO. One of the interns asked her what she thinks makes a great intern. Her response was: “If you focus on helping people, you’ll learn a lot more and people would love having you around. I promise.” I wrote that down for myself, but I’m sharing it with you today. This COVID-19 period is stressful for a lot of people. Your managers and people on your team will most likely be more stressed than usual. Try to find opportunities to help them. Take some workload off their plates. You’ll learn a lot more, and they’d love having you around. I promise.
Organise your projects and your approach to them
You’re most likely going to be given a more robust project to work on, which takes more workload off the company’s almost burnt-out employees. With everything going on in the world, it’s a bit too easy to get overwhelmed. The only way to avoid this and ensure you produce your best work with your projects is to get organised. Spend time in the beginning to really understand each project, what it entails, and what is expected of you. This will help you make sure you’re solving the right problem and have a clear approach to tackle each one of them. Leverage digital tools to track your progress and make sure you’re delivering on schedule.
Seek help when you need it
Nobody expects you to know it all as an intern. Granted, you were hired for your skills but you’re most likely going to be the least skilled and the least experienced person on your team. You know this; your team knows this. When you’re given a difficult project to work on, as you most likely will, the team not only appreciates it when you seek out help, they expect you to. It shows that you’re aware of gaps in your knowledge and are willing to learn. Rather than wasting hours trying to figure your way out of a tricky problem, spend a few minutes chatting to someone on your team to get help. It’ll be better for you, for your team, and for the company.
Balance your energies
Let’s face it, jobs are disappearing at a really alarming rate. So you’re most likely going to be competing for an even more limited number of full-time jobs with your fellow interns. As a result of this, most of your peers will work painfully hard to impress their managers and win the love of their team in order to earn that job offer at the end of the internship. This will mean working ridiculously long hours to a point of potential burnout. You don’t want that. You were hired for your talent and the additional productivity you’ll be adding to the team. You can’t perform at your best when you’re exhausted. If you need to take some time off your desk to eat an apple or watch a short movie in order to rejuvenate, please do. You don’t need to overwork yourself to be productive.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, you’re going to struggle with this. However, as much as you can, resist the temptation to perfect your deliverable before you submit. Think and operate like a startup. Once you’ve gotten a firm grasp of what you’re meant to deliver, quickly create a ‘prototype’ version of it and start getting feedback early. The earlier you start getting feedback, the more time you’d have to iterate multiple versions and be able to submit the ‘perfect’ deliverable. This doesn’t mean that your first version should be total crap. Absolutely not! Try to get it as close as you can to the final version, then share it with your manager and your team for feedback.
Communicate with your team all day long
As you’re not going to be in the office with everyone, it’ll be difficult for your manager and your team to have oversight on what you’re working on and how you’re faring. This is why it’s important that you keep them in the loop. You can ping your manager in the morning with a note that outlines what your priorities are for that day. In the evening, send a quick and concise summary of what you completed and what may be carried over into the next day. You remember those great communication skills you said you had during your interview? Now is the time to let it show. Communicate effectively; communicate often.
In a perfect world, this should go without saying. However, there’s clearly a need for this to be reiterated. As an intern, you need to realise that there’s very little you know compared to the full-time employees who’ve been working in their roles for years. So while your energies and creative ideas are welcome, pay attention to how you deliver them. Before you suggest changes that will revamp existing structures and processes, try to first understand why they’re set up the way they are. Trust that there was a rationale behind the current state of things. Understand that rationale first, then suggest improvements if necessary. Also, don’t talk over your managers for god’s sake! Learn to rein in your excitement.
Ask targeted follow-up questions
You’ve overcome the first hurdle by asking for help. But in more cases than not, you’d find that the responses you get will only confuse you further. In those cases, follow-up with sensible follow-up questions. Don’t go “I didn’t understand anything you just said. Could you explain more simply?” No, don’t do that. Show that you’ve at least heard a bit of what was explained, repeat that to them and specify what part of their response still needs clarification. Mention points from your own understanding and have your manager, or whoever provided the initial response, clarify whether what you have in mind is aligned with what they meant. The quality of the final response you get depends on the quality of your follow-up questions.
Proactively look for opportunities to add value
Don’t limit yourself to the scope of your internship project. Go out of your way to find areas you can support your manager or your team. You could look for ways to automate some of the activities that the team spends a lot of time performing manually (eg: note-taking, meeting scheduling, feedback collation, etc.). Notice your manager is swamped but has a hard deadline to meet? Volunteer to take on some of their work or assist with bits of it. You could also add value outside of work. Create opportunities for the team to stay emotionally connected. Take the team bonding online by organising a Netflix Party, a virtual karaoke session, or even a surprise virtual birthday party for one of your colleagues. At a time like this when distance eats away at the social fabric that unites the energies of the team, you can find creative ways to keep the team’s bond alive.
Create genuine personal relationships
Now, this is going to be hard considering the circumstances. You’ll most likely not have the opportunity to bump into people at the office cafeteria and start a conversation with them. This is why you’ll need to be strategic about building personal relationships. Identify one or two people in your team or in the broader company who you admire or who you’d like to stay connected with even after your internship. Ideally, these should be people you have something in common with. Send them an email or ping them, asking them to get on a quick video call with you. Remember to clearly articulate why this is important to you. After that conversation, follow up with them throughout your internship by periodically checking in and finding out if they’re okay or if they need help with work; and also get their thoughts on things that are on your mind. Get to know them beyond their job.
Don’t hesitate to speak up about personal challenges
I have a working hypothesis that a lot of us are going to come out of this lockdown either a little bit more insane or a little bit saner than we were when we went into it. This will depend greatly on how we manage our personal challenges during this time. For a lot of people, especially those who naturally lean more towards extroversion, being locked inside for weeks will inevitably affect their mental health. If you’re one of such people, it’ll be more challenging to perform at your best while dealing with mental instability. It will be even worse if someone around you is infected with COVID-19. Talk to your manager about these things, and have them reorganise your workload or your deadlines accordingly. Don’t suffer in silence. The success of your internship depends on your productivity, which could be inhibited when you bottle up challenges in your personal life that are affecting your work.
To save everyone’s time, which is incredibly scarce this time around, try looking for solutions to the challenges you encounter in your work before reaching out for help. Do your homework first. When you do so, you show the person you reach out to that you’ve taken time to look for solutions, and you didn’t just lazily reach out to them without even carrying out basic research. Help yourself first. That’ll make it easier, and quicker, for others to help you.
Help out with COVID-19 response projects, internally and/or externally
If you have some extra time and you’re looking for something to work on, seek out COVID-19 projects that your company is working on. In any way that you can, contribute to the company’s efforts to assist essential workers, infected citizens, newly unemployed professionals, and/or struggling small businesses in your community. Not only does this allow you to justify the privilege you have of interning at a time when the global job market is experiencing a tight squeeze, but it also allows you to interact with other employees outside your direct team on volunteering projects.
Now more than ever, show enthusiasm and excitement!
I’m going to keep this last one short and sweet. In spite of everything going on in the world, your enthusiasm is very important to the company. Everyone is stressed and, now more than ever, they need a breath of fresh air and rejuvenation. Bring your energy and your excitement to the team. Most importantly, let it show! If you’re not excited to be there, no one else will be excited to have you.
What other strategies do you think (fellow) virtual interns can adopt to secure job offers at a time like this? SHARE in the comments below.
This article is the result of a collaborative effort between me and some of my friends. The strategies outlined in this article were shared by these amazing interns-turned-employees:
Ama Asomani-Adem (Bank of America) • Hawi Tiyo (Dalberg) • Kwasi Korboe (Goldman Sachs) • Lucas Lohr (Facebook) • Mrittika Majumdar (LinkedIn) • Sisekelo Dlamini (Goldman Sachs) • Temitope Stephens (Bain & Company) • and me 😁
Feel free to reach out to any of us if you’d like to chat further about any help you need as you navigate your virtual internship this year. We wish you all the best!
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.