Summer internships are a great way to get hands-on experience in your field before you begin the postgrad job hunt. Some companies will even hire their interns for paid full-time positions after graduation. But with remote work on the rise, you may find yourself planning for a remote internship. While still valuable, it’ll pose a different set of challenges than an in-person role. If you’re worried about getting the most out of your experience, we’ve got your back. Here are eight research-based strategies that’ll help you knock your remote internship out of the park this summer.
1. Develop a routine
Even if you have the flexibility to work wherever and whenever you want, you should keep a similar schedule to your mentors (or supervisors) and coworkers. Logistically, it makes sense for you to be dialed in to work during a time when others are available to assist you. Within those hours, develop some consistent work habits, like checking your email first thing in the morning and scheduling a time for tasks that need to be completed daily. Research shows that having routine processes can help free up cognitive energy for your more challenging tasks.
2. Eliminate distractions
Have you ever been so focused on something that the world around you seemed to melt away? You were probably experiencing something psychologists call “the flow state,” which promotes peak productivity. Research from McKinsey & Company found that working in this state could make you up to five times more productive. The best way to achieve this is to avoid as many distractions as possible. While your dog may bark no matter what you do, many distractions are avoidable; you can silence notifications from social media while you’re working, and there are browser extensions that make it easy to temporarily block distracting websites. The Harvard Business Review recommends checking your email in batches rather than breaking from your primary task every time a new email comes through. It’s also a good idea to maintain an organized workspace, as visual distractions can make it harder to focus.
3. Get clear expectations
Good managers know that clear expectations improve employee performance, so your internship supervisor will likely do their best to communicate the results they’re looking for. But if anything seems confusing or vague, it’s your job to ask for clarification and specificity. You should understand not just the work you need to deliver and any deadlines you have but also how the process should look and how your role relates to the overall goals of the company. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need more direction—internships are a learning experience, after all.
4. Prioritize and schedule your tasks in advance
Planning your work week in advance allows you to focus on the tasks at hand rather than worrying about unfinished business. If you’re unable to plan a full week ahead with your internship, at least try to adhere to a daily schedule. Use what works best for you, whether it’s a to-do list, planner, or productivity app. Some people prefer to prioritize tasks using the Eisenhower Matrix, which can help you identify what you need to work on first and what can be completed later. Your layout should look like this:
5. Regularly connect with your mentors
Loneliness and issues with collaboration and communication are two of the most cited problems with remote work, according to a 2021 State of Remote Work Report from Buffer. Your mentors or supervisors may forget to check in on you if you work remotely, but having regular communication is important to both your happiness and success in the internship. Utilize your company’s communication channels—such as email, Slack, or Microsoft Teams—to stay in touch throughout the day, and consider setting up a weekly video call with your supervisor. Being the one to request a weekly check-in will show initiative, which you’ll learn more about in the following tip…
6. Look for ways to take initiative
Common job interview questions ask about your experience solving problems, correcting mistakes, or thinking outside the box. You may never have these experiences to discuss in future job interviews if you don’t make an effort to be involved during your internship(s). Get creative and suggest solutions to recurring issues in your department. Offer to spearhead new strategies, design new processes, or complete projects outside the scope of your role. If you feel that you still lack the skills to be able to take initiative, shadow people you see going above and beyond their job description and ask to assist with their projects.
7. Work in sprints
Highly productive people are successful in part because they know how and when to take a break. The creators of productivity app DeskTime found that the most productive workers spent about 52 minutes completely focused on a task, followed by a 17-minute break from that task—but this only works if you dedicate yourself to the task at hand and completely eliminate distractions. You can monitor your attention span and adjust your break routine to meet your needs. During your break, you could get some physical activity, grab a snack, or chat with a coworker online.
8. Take care of your needs
A summer internship can be stressful, especially if it’s unpaid—you’ll likely need to work a paid job simultaneously, enroll in summer courses, or have other obligations. It’s okay to work hard, but if you neglect your physical and mental health, you’ll undermine your success. For example, getting insufficient sleep can make it more difficult to focus and may lead to anxiety and depression. Exercise can help you get better sleep, and it can also make you more productive over time by increasing your mental output. To ensure you perform optimally at your summer internship, get plenty of exercise and rest.
If you’re not accustomed to working independently, managing your online internship effectively can be difficult, so it’s important to use the tools and resources available to you. Take advantage of productivity apps and browser extensions that cut distractions, and learn from those around you at your company or in your personal life. Choose someone whose work ethic you admire and ask them how they stay productive when working away from the office. With time, you’ll grow accustomed to the strategies and processes that make you effective as a remote worker.
We have so much more advice to help make you the best intern you can be in our Internships and Careers section. Check it out!