What I Learned from Completing Two Remote Internships


Photo courtesy Wouter on Unsplash

Isabella Szklany, Contributor

As COVID-19 pushed the lives of so many into a virtual space, adjusting to online school had some difficulties, but learning how to complete an internship in a remote environment was something I found more difficult. Changing to school online was challenging but not overwhelming. For most of a student’s life, we are used to completing work not in a classroom but adjusting to working remotely; and not being at the job required extreme discipline and determination on my part.

In 2020, I was extremely grateful to intern with two wonderful organizations. I interned with HEPCO INC., an engineering, IT, Telecommunications, and transportation staffing agency, from May to August. Here, I wrote blog posts, managed the company’s LinkedIn account, and led the company to redesign its website with a marketing agency.

From September to January, I then interned for a startup PR Agency, Odyssey PR, where I created media lists, pitched to journalists, completed monthly reports, and helped with various information documents.

With COVID restrictions making both of these internships remote, it was hard to adjust to working at home and staying motivated the whole time. Some days, I was so excited to get right down to work, and other mornings, it took all of my mental strength and copious cups of coffee to get my day started.

The two biggest lessons that I learned from my remote internships were discipline and the importance of being a self-starter. Also, realizing that blue light glasses pretty much saved me from taking my eyes out after hours of staring at a screen didn’t hurt either. But all joking aside, being a remote intern requires discipline like no other and a real drive to succeed in your future career.

At times, if I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do and was waiting for my supervisor to get back to me, it would have been so easy to turn a movie on Netflix and wait for an email. Rather, I had to block out the distractions that working from home brings and instead rely on my previous knowledge to look for something that needed to be done. Sometimes, I would read the latest industry insights, look up something brought up in a previous meeting, or continue to work on an ongoing project, like collecting a list of beauty editors.

Being proactive during a remote internship allows you to utilize the remote environment to the best of your ability. While the remote environment is limiting where it can seem that it is hard to get involved with all aspects of the company or volunteer to help another person on your team who needs help, there are so many online resources to help you learn more. For instance, webinars now are huge. Sometimes you can find them through an industry service that your internship is subscribed to or look for Twitter or YouTube live videos with those from your industry.

During my internships, I attended a couple of webinars and a Twitter Live segment with a reporter from CNN News. Unlike an in-person environment, a remote environment forces you to make opportunities yourself and not wait for them to present themselves. Don’t be afraid to let your supervisor know that you are interested in any webinars that might get sent their way or any type of mini-course you can attend. For instance, other communication majors can look for free two-hour social media marketing courses to brush up on their skills. While my remote internships were the only real internship experience I had, I am disappointed that I have yet to experience an in-person work environment. Still, it made me concentrate on my work and decide if this is something that I could be doing as a career. Because if sitting down to write a blog post or do research on the latest trends doesn’t appeal to you, you will never want to do it as a career or even for a few months of internships.

During my remote internships, I couldn’t help but think that if I was in-person, my judgment might be clouded by all the perks, such as getting to meet someone new every day, company lunches, or events. But without some of these distractions, I was able to separate the job from the environment and realize if this is something I can see myself doing in the future.

In terms of working from home, it did provide itself with a whole slew of other challenges. Living at home in a five-person household, sometimes there were many distractions, and if I saw someone in my family doing something or even going out to the store, I had to keep on reminding myself that I was working. I had to learn that it wasn’t like schoolwork, where unless I had an immediate deadline, I could say, “Oh, I can do it later.” Instead, it meant no, I am working, and I must stay committed to the hours of availability that I gave my supervisor.

Other times, the work-from-home environment was great. I could dress up or dress down for the day. I could sit at my desk, the couch, or stand up at the kitchen island. I could choose when I took a break and what I wanted to do on that break, like call a friend or take a short walk. And the days that I needed to get out of the house, I could visit my local coffee shop (socially distanced, of course) and do some work there.

One extreme plus of working from home is that I never got stuck running to get coffee orders, which has been depicted in movies and books as the intern’s job. Instead of catching coffee, I was clipping press hits, writing social media posts, press releases, sitting in on meetings, and getting a real feel for the type of work I would be doing if I was an actual employee. My remote internship allowed me to build the foundations of the skills that I would need to achieve in my future career, and I question if I would have learned even half of what I did if I was in-person.

My remote internships were not without their struggles, but I am so grateful for my experiences. I gained more confidence in myself, my skills and gained a clearer idea of where I would like my career to take me.