The pandemic disrupted almost every aspect of our daily lives and caused us to adapt and collaborate in ways we never could have imagined. For students, that meant adapting to a new internship experience.
This year marks West Monroe’s 15th summer hosting an internship program and the second year hosting a fully virtual and award-winning program. With that in mind, we’ve provided tips on how to make your virtual experience successful—and while we’ve compiled these tips with West Monroe’s virtual internship in mind, many of them also apply to in-person internships!
You may be virtual, but companies still want to see that you’re taking this opportunity seriously! Show up on time for all meetings, trainings, and social events. Keep your camera on so co-workers can connect with you and see that you are remaining engaged. Participate as often as possible: Whether you’re in a training, meeting with a client, or catching up with your mentor or manager, be actively engaged. These actions may seem small, but your professionalism won’t go unnoticed. At West Monroe we’ll even help you practice professionalism by hosting a session during your second week called, “From Backpacks to Briefcases.”
Your internship is a place where you can and should bring your whole self to work. Companies want you to be yourself…that’s why they hired you! There will be times when you can share your personal interests and hobbies like virtual team-building meetings—be sure to participate and allow your colleagues to get to know you outside of your job. We offer virtual volunteer opportunities, social networking events, coffee catch-ups, employee listening sessions, Chief & employee resource group (ERG) events, and more so we can get to know our interns and build relationships. Get involved outside of the day to day of your role by networking with your peers and others at the organization so they can get to know you—and you can get to know them!
Interns are given numerous tasks and projects throughout the summer. While not all projects may feel important, they all give you a chance to showcase your skills and help your manager with something they may not have time for. It’s up to you to figure out how you can take the task you were given to the next level. As an example, when thinking about what your manager needs from you, remember the why. Take steps to provide support in a way that makes things easier. So instead of just pulling X data, pull the data and include what you see as some key insights that the data suggests. Small actions go a long way in showing your manager they can rely on you while also challenging yourself to think and act one step ahead—just like a consultant.
Staying engaged on Zoom meetings is tough! At this point, you’ve likely had your fair share of Zoom classes, but the virtual workplace is much different than a virtual classroom.
Whether virtual or in-person, determine what it is that keeps you engaged. Maybe you’re someone who needs to take diligent notes to keep your attention. Perhaps you’re someone who can only stay attentive if you’re at a standing desk. Maybe you need to sit next to an open window or take a quick spin around the block during your breaks in the day. Create a morning routine: Put your cell phone in your desk, log out of your personal email, make yourself a cup of coffee, and show up for work like you would if you were commuting to the office. Talk to you manager and others in your intern class, too—they may have some great ideas for staying engaged that you haven’t considered but would be willing to try!
An internship is essentially a trial run of a potential career path. Don’t just go through the motions to get the job done in the short-term—consider your long-term goals, too. Is this the type of role you see yourself in for the next year? For the next five years? Does the work you’re doing excite you? Challenge you? Motivate you?
Once you’ve answered the question of what you want to be doing, ask yourself where you want to be doing it. Take notes on the way people treat one another, the relationships you form, the mentorship you receive, and the support you get from leadership. You are going to have a jam-packed summer and it might feel like your priorities are focused on project work, practice integration, and getting to know your team. All of these are incredibly important, but make sure you carve out some time to be introspective and reflect on how you’re acclimating to your work environment.
At West Monroe, you will have an assigned Career Advisor and a transition Coach who will be excellent sounding boards and resources as you navigate your internship and consider your long-term career goals. Wherever you are working this summer, seek out a mentor who can help guide your professional growth.
Any company that invests in an internship program wants their people to succeed—for West Monroe, our program is an important source of talent and our goal is to bring you back full time after you graduate. However, no one is going to be more invested in your professional success than you are. Whether you are proud of your work and want to showcase your achievements or need a little extra help in a specific area, it’s your responsibility to find the people who can give you what you need during your internship. Ask for constructive feedback and be open to what they might say. Take time over the summer to network with others and connect with a mentor. Take your career into your own hands and be open to new experiences. We think you’ll find people are more than willing to help you on your journey.