Virtual Internships—A Pandemic Opportunity

“Normal” work operations have been significantly affected by COVID-19, prompting companies to rethink how they approach most aspects of their business. Many companies are typically preparing for their summer internship programs this time of the year. University students are hired for the summer months to learn the business, experience the work culture, and participate in department or project work. Internships are a win-win for both the company and students—Temporary expansion of the workforce increases productivity, and valued contributions may result in a job offer after graduation.

However, with stay-at-home and work-from-home orders still in place in most states and considering the uncertainty of what workplaces will look like when these orders are lifted, it may seem like internships won’t be possible this summer. But, if we can work from home virtually, what about having interns work virtually also? Rethinking ways to continue this valuable experience remains important at this time, and internship talent could result in even more wins as businesses navigate these unchartered waters.

Virtual Internships—A Pandemic Opportunity

Fortunately, a Virtual Internship Resource Guide has already been developed! This employer guide for creating and facilitating successful virtual internship programs is being offered by Gamma Iota Sigma, an academic fraternity that provides educational programs, networking opportunities and support with professional development for university students interested in careers in insurance, risk management, actuarial science and related fields.

Find benefits for both the company and students in the guide along with ways to prepare and keys to developing successful virtual internships, including the following.

1. Facilitate a robust onboarding and orientation

Ask your senior executives to record a brief, personalized video welcoming interns and offering advice for success as they embark on their internship journeys.


2. Build organizational commitment

Items like a company-branded T-shirt, notebook and pen or other career-fair giveaways can be an inexpensive and impactful way to make the intern feel like part of the team. Send the intern a welcome packet to arrive before or at the beginning of the internship. Consider including a hand-written welcome note from the intern’s supervisor, coordinator or mentor.

3. Facilitate ongoing communication and feedback

Plan regular check-ins, such as a 15-minute catch-up meeting every morning.

4. Develop their network

Consider rotational opportunities or an “intern swap,” in which two teams trade interns for a day to give them each exposure to a new area of the business.

5. Foster intern collaboration

If you plan to have more than one intern in your organization, consider grouping interns into teams for a joint project that would help them learn while benefiting the organization.

6. Build internship virtual programming

Organizations often incorporate wellness and fitness into employee networking opportunities. Consider how you can make these opportunities virtual to engage your interns. Consider a virtual lunchtime walking group or encourage friendly competition through a steps challenge.

7. Finish strong

Schedule a video conference meeting toward the end of the internship to share feedback on the intern’s performance and discuss next steps. Let the intern know how they can apply or be considered for future full-time positions.

[Related Reading: 5 Tips to Keep Working-From-Home Employees Connected During the Coronavirus Pandemic]

Learn More About Virtual Internships

See the Virtual Internship Resource Guide on the Gamma Iota Sigma website and check out their other helpful resources like the COVID-19 Early Career Talent Implications: Internship and Recruiting Impact and Resilience Opportunities.

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is a sustaining partner of Gamma Iota Sigma. The Foundation’s partnership has helped increase faculty and university students’ awareness of career opportunities in the employee benefits industry and the value of the CEBS® designation.

Find more coronavirus-related resources for employers and plan sponsors on the Foundation’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources page.

Members also have access to free live and on-demand webcasts including the upcoming:

Sandy Tellefson, CEBS
Manager, Education Services, CEBS/ISCEBS at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

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