Early in the year—in the good old days before social distancing—we offered an internship to an ambitious college student (named Lauren Bradley) studying communication. Then the pandemic hit, offices were closed, and employees across the globe were now working remotely.

With everything else going on, we asked ourselves:

  • Was this the right time to take on the responsibility of having an intern?
  • Could we help Lauren gain the internal communication experience she sought?
  • How would an internship take place with our team working remotely?

We quickly realized that this was something we could all rally behind, as we have in the past. Offering an internship this year was more important to us than ever before because:

  • The college environment had also changed, and students were scrambling to finish their studies and build skills in their fields of interest. We didn’t want to add to that worry.
  • We’re an internal communication firm—and we believe in practicing what we preach. After all, we had already introduced new methods to help our team members collaborate. So we had confidence we could provide a meaningful experience for Lauren.
  • This would be an opportunity to pay it forward by sharing our knowledge.

To set up everyone for success, we focused on four key areas. Follow this approach to work with your next intern:

1. Do your homework
Start well before the intern’s first day. We put together a dedicated team to prepare an internship curriculum and serve as mentors. The team also lined up colleagues to work with Lauren, clearly setting expectations about colleagues’ roles in helping out.

2. Get started on the right foot
Onboarding is critical in the best of times and is even more important for remote employees. It’s more challenging to get a feel for an organization’s culture when everyone is working from home. To bridge that gap, we introduced Lauren to the team during a weekly staff meeting. She talked about herself and what she hoped to gain from her time with us. This set the stage for upcoming conversations during a series of meet-and-greet conversations.

3. Build knowledge
Students are hungry for real-world experience. To provide that virtually, we gave Lauren an assignment based on a client measurement project from several years ago. She also learned about our other service areas to round out her knowledge of employee communication. Plus, she wrote intranet articles and a blog about her internship.

4. Create connections
One of the most valuable aspects of any internship is having the ability to expand your network. Lauren had met only a few people in person before we moved to work from home. Our team members were generous with their time as they are when meeting in person. Lauren learned about job responsibilities across functions and received career advice from all levels of the firm.

How did it go? I’ll let Lauren tell you: “Although my internship was fully remote and different than expected, you all adapted to make sure I still had the opportunity to learn and grow.”

I’m so proud of our team for their flexibility and dedication, and for providing a rewarding experience to an ambitious college student.

Good luck, Lauren! And way to go, team!

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