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5 Tips for a Successful Remote Internship

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By Amy Xie, CCIT Intern at the Mosaic Institute

When the University of Toronto announced that in person classes would be suspended due to COVID-19, I was relieved. The thought of no longer having to commute to early morning classes seemed like a blessing. It wasn’t until the new school year when it was announced all fall classes would be online, that worry crept in. Not only would I have to navigate online classes, but I also secured a position at the Mosaic Institute as a communications intern. As an intern, I was looking forward to being in the office and interacting with people. Instead, my experience ended up being quite different. Face to face interaction was replaced with Zoom calls and commutes to downtown Toronto were replaced with commutes from my bed to my desk. Interning remotely is a challenge, but we made it work. Here are five tips I’ve learned for a successful remote internship:

1. Set goals and expectations early

At the beginning of the placement, both the intern and employer should set goals and expectations for the term. As an intern, what are you hoping to learn from the experience? As an employer, how can you help the intern achieve their goals while also achieving goals of the organization? Establishing expectations from both sides early on provides a clear direction and guides the work for the rest of the term. During my orientation with my supervisor, I made a list of both training and development goals. One of my main focuses was to expand my professional network and build meaningful connections.

2. Dedicate specific times and space for work

Working remotely can blur the lines between “home” and “work,” so it’s important to set clear boundaries. Which days will you be working and from what time? If your placement is not full time, which days are you expected to be available? Dedicate a space in your home for work, to help with productivity. It can be an entire room or a specific desk. If this isn’t possible due to space restraints, you can create a routine surrounding work. Start off your work days with a small habit that gets you in the zone, and make sure you stick to it. It can be as simple as making a cup of coffee. I like to start off my work days with a cup of matcha tea.

3. Maintain clear channels of communication

With remote work comes a lot of meetings. Pre-COVID, you could simply pop into someone’s office for a quick chat. Now, communication has to be more intentional. Take initiative and be proactive by asking questions and communicating your needs with your supervisor. Consider using Google or Outlook Calendar to schedule your meetings. Your team may also consider alternate forms of communication besides email, such as Slack, for quicker exchanges. Project management tools such as Asana, can help manage tasks and priorities. Experiment with different platforms to see which ones are the best fit for you and your team.

4. Check in on progress frequently

Remember tip #1? Setting goals are important, but that’s only half the battle. It’s important to reflect on your goals and check in on the progress you’ve made. This can also help you evaluate and modify goals throughout the term. I like to start off my work days with a morning check in with my supervisor, to create a game plan for the rest of the day. Develop a system that works for you and your employer, whether that be a daily check in, weekly check in etc. Using project management tools like Asana, can also help keep track of goals and progress.

5. Be flexible and adaptable to the current context

Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, being adaptable is key. You can achieve this by having an open and positive mindset. Acknowledge that sometimes there’s no clear answer and that everyone is still learning to navigate a world with COVID-19 together. Everyone’s situation is different, so a little patience and understanding goes a long way. Being receptive to change and being compassionate are essential to a successful remote internship.

At the start of my placement, I had doubts about my ability to make the most out of my internship, but I’m glad I took the plunge. Through my experience interning at the Mosaic Institute, I was able to expand my skills and make meaningful connections. Interning remotely can be challenging, but with the right mindset and dedication, you can still gain valuable experience like you would in person. If you’re nervous, that’s okay. Just take the first step and you’ll figure out the rest. You’ve got this!

*Amy Xie is Mosaic Institute's Fall 2020 CCIT Intern. She is completing her BA in Communications, Culture, Information & Technology and Professional Writing at the University of Toronto. Amy is interested in environmental sustainability, LGBTQ+ rights, and the political economy of technology. As an intern at Mosaic, Amy is looking forward to being part of an organization that inspires positive social change. In her free time, she enjoys painting, travelling, and cooking.*