This past summer, I was a remote MBA intern.
It was an interesting experience, doing a virtual MBA internship during a pandemic. As expected, I learned a lot – about the field, about the company I worked for, about remote work, and, more generally about being a successful intern.
Some background info: my internship was Navy Federal Credit Union and lasted for three months during the summer of 2020. I was assigned to work out of the Florida office, but because of the pandemic, I never left home in Baltimore.
The remote-work internship experience was a new experience for me as the intern and for Navy Federal as an organization. And it ended with Navy Federal extending me a job offer, which I was happy to accept.
Here are a few of the lessons I learned along the way.
Your manager is not your babysitter. Show initiative.
Like all of these insights, this one applies to working in an office and to remote work. But not being in the same physical space as my manager really brought this lesson home for me.
In an internship, you’ll typically be assigned some amount of work to accomplish, and inevitably there will be certain times when working on those specific assignments just won’t be possible. During these times, it is not solely up to your manager to conjure additional tasks for you. Your manager likely has lots of other work to do, work that does not involve looking after you. These moments are a great opportunity to show that you can take initiative and come up with tasks for yourself. In some cases, you may want to clear with your manager what you plan to do before you start. I think you’ll find that you’ll impress your boss as a self-starter who doesn’t require constant guidance.
Network, network, network.
One benefit to this era of working remotely is how easy it has become to reach out. At Navy Federal Credit Union, our communication was done virtually through e-mail and instant messaging. That made it very easy for me to communicate with people in different departments and positions since they were all at home, just like I was. The drawback here, of course, is that you lose out on the “water cooler conversations” that you might typically have when working at the office. However, the ability to reach out to so many people so seamlessly makes up for that in my mind.
During my internship, I was able to speak over Zoom to department heads and co-workers in different states, which would have been much more difficult in person. While this insight came to me intuitively while working from home, it would certainly apply to an in-person internship, too. You can always take that initiative and set up a Zoom call at the office.
Do good work but also make a good impression.
I think there is a temptation, especially in an environment where you are not seeing your manager and co-workers in person to “let the work speak for itself.” I get that. However, although doing good work is absolutely important, it is also important to make a good impression. You have to remember that at an internship, you are being evaluated not only for your performance, but also for your fit in the organization.
Companies want to see that you exemplify their values and culture when considering you for a permanent position. Learn your company’s mission statement, make a positive impression with everyone you meet, show that you not only do quality work, but you also are the kind of person that other people want to work with.
–By Braden Walden. Walden is a current MBA Candidate set to graduate in 2021. Originally from Chicago, he has lived in New York, Seoul, Washington D.C., and Baltimore. Following graduation, Walden is set to start a new career at Navy Federal Credit Union.