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Here’s how to stand out in a remote internship

Image via @ainocollin/Instagram

Words by Eleanor Wilson

Put your best (virtual) foot forward.

With the world sitting in a unique buffer period between lingering COVID outbreaks and post-pandemic freedom, the professional sphere is adapting to the prospect of working from home, or ‘WFH’ becoming a somewhat permanent addition to office vocabulary.

Despite Australia generally maintaining a lengthy COVID-free streak, recent ABS data shows 44 per cent of employed Australians worked from home at least one time throughout a four week period in May this year. 


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Evidently, Aussie workers seem content with a hybrid approach to work. But for enthusiastic interns eager to impress their bosses, a continuation of WFH internships may feel like the chances of bagging a prized post-internship job offer are delicately balancing on the choppy connection of their wifi routers. 

When the opportunity to immerse oneself in the world of office communication and logistics is taken away, there’s no doubt the traditional definition of an internship begins to warp. 

Helen Green is the director of Career Confident, a Melbourne-based career counselling and support service. She agrees that interning virtually restricts the networking opportunities present in regular workplace settings.

“In an office environment there is more opportunity to have casual interactions with colleagues, whether this be before and after meetings, at the printer, grabbing a coffee in the tearoom, socialising after work, or whilst performing day-to-day job tasks,” she explains.

Helen says there are plenty of ways virtual interns can impress their employers and be remembered for the right reasons. 

Presentation is key 

According to Helen, your personal brand is “even more important when working online”. “Make sure you are dressed appropriately for meetings, have a background image suited to your work, remove distractions insofar as this is possible, check your technology works and bring your personality,” she tells me. 

She says making an effort to engage in casual conversation, as you would in a regular office setting, will also ensure you are ‘seen’ by your employer, in turn strengthening your notability in the workplace. “Join Zoom meetings five minutes early to engage in informal conversation with colleagues. Be curious, show interest in others and their work and ask them how they are,” she shares. 

“Be prepared to introduce yourself to people at the meeting who you haven’t met though do give the meeting’s convenor the opportunity to do this first. Practice your introduction, keep it brief, and don’t be afraid to show your personality/sense of humour.”

Show initiative 

Aside from ensuring you are heard and seen while working remotely, Helen notes showing initiative is an equally vital part of impressing employers.

“Show interest in developments taking place within the company/industry and always show interest in collaborating with others and helping in any way you can,” she says.

“Always ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback as to how you might improve. This demonstrates initiative, good judgement, and confidence. Remember, they were in your shoes once!”

Observe your mentors

Finally, a remote internship doesn’t mean you have to miss out on observing all forms of in-office communication. “Set up regular meetings with your supervisor and see if you can have some short Zoom sessions with others in key roles within the organisation so you can learn about the various roles,” she revealed.  

“Apart from providing you with an additional opportunity to meet people and impress, this broadens your professional network and provides insights into future work opportunities that might interest you.” Above all else, Helen says it’s important to be mindful of your coworkers’ time and express your thanks.

Advice from a remote intern-turned employee 

As part of Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Fashion Writing Program, Izzy Wight undertook a two-month internship with Fashion Journal. Like many interns trapped under the grip of the COVID pandemic, all but two weeks of her placement were completed remotely, from the uninspiring confines of her living room.

But despite the virtual barrier between herself and her workplace, she managed to round off her placement with a promising job offer. While the intern turned FJ editorial assistant is living proof virtual internships can extend beyond an exit interview, she claims her job is still somewhat owed to face-to-face interaction. 

 

“As annoyingly serendipitous as it sounds, it was one of those right place, right time moments. On my second day in-office (I had been a remote intern for roughly two months already), the job position suddenly became available. I had definitely expressed interest in a job, but there were no open positions previously,” she tells me.

“While it was short-lived, I felt having those face-to-face encounters made the possibility of the job more tangible for both parties. It’s just easier to gauge whether or not that workplace ‘spark’ is there when you’re meeting in person.”

Despite contributing some of her success to a strike of luck, Izzy says there are other elements she believes also contributed to her scoring the job. “In editorial, the best impression you can make is by being efficient, understanding the content, and writing well, ” she says. 

“It can be harder to communicate online – so if you’re unsure of something, ask! Better to clarify a task sooner rather than later and it will save you (and your employer) a few of those headache-inducing moments”. 

Could a virtual internship actually be better than a traditional placement?

While interning remotely can undoubtedly feel isolating, the self-management skills you can gain from a virtual internship are expected to become more sought after, according to Helen. “The Foundation for Young Australian’s New Work Order report mentions that young people today can expect to have five or six careers and work will become increasingly interdisciplinary,” she tells me. 

“Employers will be increasingly interested in your ’employability skills’ These include communication and teamwork, creative thinking, problem-solving, digital literacy, and self-management. A virtual internship will allow you to develop these skills.”

While remote interning may be a relatively new idea now, a rapidly advancing world means the future of the typical workplace environment could look very different in the future. So be positive about the idea of remote internships — who knows, they could allow for a range of experiences unrestricted by geographical location.  

For more tips on how to make a good impression in the workplace, head here.

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