Remote internship survival guide
Women & Design // WID Insights
Stuck at home, wondering how whiteboard sessions and coffee breaks would be like in the 'real world'? Who's to say a remote internship can't give you (nearly) the same experiences?
Internships were like the training wheels when you first started cycling, or the gutter pads guiding your first bowl. The 'standard' next step, after university was to immerse yourself completely into industry experiences gaining and understanding everything that school didn't prepare you for. What happens when you're forced to take the same experiences - sitting at home? No more lunch hour networks, coffee breaks, whiteboard brainstorming sessions or workshop hours? Can we still get the same value out of internships?
I underwent a virtual internship long before internships had to be virtual - a time when they were optional. At that time, I wasn't too sure if immersing myself into a virtual internship was the best idea. Like any other graduate, I tried hard to apply for my visa, figure out a way to just get myself there. Alas, things didn't work out and I had to undergo the internship virtually - when I look back at it, I'm grateful it prepped me for the sudden realities of work from home. What followed, were months of valuable and insightful experiences that shaped the creative I am today. I credit my best abilities, to the experiences my virtual internship provided. Here's how you can too! These are a few things that helped me get the best out of my internship -
1. First impressions matter.
The first thing I made sure to do at the start of my internship, was go through the employee handbook and company guidelines. Luckily, the on-boarding process was completely digital and all I needed to know (from introducing myself to understanding their ways of working) was ready for me. What I found really helpful, was the checklist the studio provided that guided me throughout my on-boarding.
Introduce yourself! Send out an email saying hello. A nice tip would be to introduce yourself in a quick one-liner, and then add a nice and fun fact about yourself. Finish it off with your role at the company, and add a nice 'excited to meet you' at the end. Don't copy a template, let your personality shine!
2. Familiarize yourself with the logistics.
Nobody likes to be thrown off on their first day. Make sure you figure out what software's, apps, and interfaces you will be using throughout your time at your internship. Learn the workflows before your internship, show up prepared!
Get to know your virtual office to the best of your abilities, understand feedback processes, file sharing platforms, figure out the vibe of the office (through the first few impressions), and most importantly know your work-play balance. Don't get lost in work, there's more to an internship than just deliverables. You learn how to communicate, pitch, present yourself.
3. Overcommunicate, you're allowed to.
As an intern, it's your job to ask questions. At this stage, there's no thing as a 'dumb question', and neither are you under any limitations. Go wild, go big (okay, but not too wild too). The way I approached the internship was to see every interaction as a learning experience. Each meeting, I would question my mentor to the max (not to a point of annoyance), and understand how I could do better. What could I improve upon? What areas was I missing? Your mentor is someone who is there for you to question, learn from, and confide in. They want the best for you, but they won't spoon feed you - it's in your hands to take charge of your learning. Soak in anything and everything!
4. Don't. Slack. Off.
Create a routine that revolves around efficiency. By the end of my second week, my room looked like a studio with post it's on walls and scribbles on the whiteboard. It was hard not to, this was a studio I'd worked hard to get into, and I was going to use every minute to make it worth it! Working at home brings lot's of challenges with it, I'm not going to lie. It's tough to figure out a way to maintain a healthy work-life balance all in one environment. But there's no way around it - make that schedule, stick to it, know that sometimes things don't go according to plan, accept it. Self-discipline will forever be your biggest weapon. Use it wisely!
5. Accept that you have so much more to learn.
It's okay if you don't know anything, that's why you're an intern! You're still figuring things out. If I were to tell my intern-self one thing - it'd be to make mistakes. It's okay! You learn from mistakes, and if you've done it, you've learnt from it, and grown. You're already a better designer than you were yesterday - you're doing great! No one is perfect, and no body knows it all. It's a learning process, and everyone is a WIP. Stay humble, keep learning and you'll be amazed at how many things there are to learn.
P.s. Document your time! Write a journal. You'll be happy to look back upon it years from today :)
So, all in all, these are a few of the many things that helped contribute to providing me a great virtual internship experience. Don't sit there with your camera off and mic on mute. Participate! Challenge yourself, talk to professionals, question things! You've got an opportunity to learn from experts in the field, seize it!
Take each day as a fresh start, and have a few goals that you'd like to tackle by the end of your internship. I hope these helped you, and I can't wait for you to have an inspiring internship!
Dhruti (a.k.a. @minimalcacti)