• Yulkendy Valdez

6 Steps to Designing a Great Virtual Internship Program

Employers across the US are deliberating whether to cancel or not to cancel? Virtual or no virtual? It’s the classic Shakespearian question of to be or not to be, but luckily less ominous. So what do you do?

Well, It is not that easy. Most of what is happening with COVID-19 is out of our control. However, if you decide to move forward with a virtual internship, you have the control to create an amazing experience for your interns while saving lots of money 💸💸.

The costs of team lunches, in-person intern events, and office equipment are no longer required for programming happening during 2020.

Here are six steps to build an internship program your college interns will remember for years to come:

1. Make time to discuss your personal lives throughout the program

Depending on the communication channel you are using, whether it is email, text, Slack, or another platform, share at least one personal experience a day from sharing pictures of your dog to your favorite plant.

Also, use a lot of emojis and gifs in your messages. Gen-Z talent love to see that you care about them and that your brand is relatable 💙.

2. Develop virtual mentoring and reverse mentoring initiatives

Gen-Z’s love technology, but not at the expense of human connection. It is important that you develop a robust mentoring program. In the beginning, create a survey that potential mentors and interns fill out, and use this data to match interns with employees according to their needs.

This is also the perfect opportunity to run a reverse mentoring program. Gen-Zs have a lot to teach us on how to leverage digital technologies to connect with potential customers and employees 👩‍💻.

3. Who said the open-door policy doesn’t apply to virtual internships?

Interns cannot longer knock on your door or have lunch with you at the cafeteria. Managers, internship coordinators, and other team members should make it really easy for interns to schedule time with them. Scheduling tools such as Calendly can be very helpful with this.

This doesn’t replace structured daily and weekly check-ins over Zoom (with video of course!). The idea is having an open calendar for students to pick your brain or ask clarifying questions for projects if issues pop-up or if they have brilliant ideas that they want to share 📅.

4. Create incentives via project-based learning and gamification

Gen-Zs want to be encouraged to learn and develop their skills. What better way than making learning fun like a game?

Evidence shows that virtual internship programs that are project-based and include simulations and case studies are most effective. One way to take it up a notch is to put interns in teams, provide badges and create leadership boards as intern teams make progress over the summer 🏆.

5. Ensure interns have access to a project management system

To manage projects and collect deliverables, there are tools such as Asana, Trello, Monday.com that your interns would love. They can comment on any tasks and write questions. This is a very easy way to maintain transparency and alignment. This will also help them feel like they are part of the team and that they are contributing to meaningful work 💡.

6. Keep DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) top of mind and part of every decision you make

The reality is that you don’t really know someone’s home environment as your interns come from different backgrounds (race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status). It is important to be flexible and accepting if there is background noise. Interns may have family members in the house, or pets running around.

One easy way is to make sure you are integrating everyone’s experience is to consistently seek feedback on the program. Even having the interns run some of the activities! On a weekly basis too, so they can foster strong relationships. Who knows if one of your interns is a meditation or yoga expert and can run a virtual class on Zoom? The sky is the limit when it comes to virtual internships. You know what they say…

Turn them into fantastic virtual internships 😀😀

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