What We Learned From Our (Remote) Interns This Summer

What We Learned From Our (Remote) Interns This Summer

As summer draws to a close and in the spirit of Labor Day, we recently asked our summer interns to share their experiences about working at ShinePR. Their insights shed light on ways we can enrich our intern program next year. Special thanks to MV and Alicia for joining our team this summer, assisting clients, and providing their candid feedback and thoughts.

First Days Were Easier

Starting a new job is almost always nerve-wracking. But being in the comfort of their own homes helped both our interns ease into their new roles. One shared that concerns like choosing the perfect work outfit, figuring out the commute, and even finding the right office building and workspace were virtually eliminated. Our other intern felt without these distractions, she had more time to focus on the work and adjust to the team dynamic.

A Different Way of Communicating

Our interns felt they benefited from the infrastructure already in place, in part because our entire team works remotely. Our project management, email, and file sharing technology provided them with many ways to communicate and share ideas with the team.

However, having all these tools sometimes made decisions about communication more complex for one intern. When she needed information, it could be challenging to know whether a message, email or Zoom call was her best option. This led to some constructive conversation among team members and the creation of guidelines for what types of communications are best suited for which channels and when.

Technology Isn’t Always Your BF

While Gen Z is typically considered more “tech savvy” than other generations, our interns still faced a learning curve when it came to familiarizing themselves with new software and technology. The potential of technology failure was an ongoing stressor for one of our interns. If the project management software was glitchy or an email wouldn’t send, she would have appreciated having coworkers nearby to assist in real time. While both interns felt team members were always responsive to their questions, it still didn’t feel quite as simple as grabbing a coworker walking by.

Our learning here is to enhance our training and technical assistance capabilities for future interns.

Is this type of work for me?

From creating social media design templates to developing new service offerings, our interns got to experience all the pillars of our business. They were split on whether being remote affected their ability to assess marketing/PR as a potential career path. One said she thought it had no effect, since she evaluated her internship based on the type of work, which would be the same whether onsite or remote. The other saw pros and cons to being remote. Industry culture is harder to gauge when offsite, which plays a part in choosing her career path. However, working remotely also allowed her to isolate the work from the rest of the intern experience, so she could evaluate what she really liked most: the work or the culture.

We’re considering pairing future interns with mentors both inside and outside our organization to help paint a broader picture of what our industry is like.

Getting to know coworkers

From asking a coworker where she got her shirt to starting organic conversations, being remote made it harder to connect and build personal bonds for our interns. Being remote also meant that coworkers worked in different places and sometimes different time zones, which made it more challenging to connect around relatable experiences. At the same time, they also appreciated the unique opportunity to learn about coworkers’ lives and experiences that were different from their own.

We’re evaluating how we can help facilitate more social interactions for our interns.

Remote impact on personal brand

Without the opportunity to be co-located, our interns found alternative ways to share their personalities and presence, both of which are strongly tied to their own budding personal brands as young professionals. One believes her brand is built by the way she communicates with her team, the way she small talks, and the way does her work, which can be cultivated whether onsite or remote. Another intern thinks other tools like LinkedIn profiles, resumes, and even Instagram handles become even more important when you can’t create an impression in person.

Advice for employers

From their experiences, our interns have thoughts about ways to ensure a great intern experience. They think it’s important to fully describe what it’s like to be a remote intern—which can often include being in front of a computer screen for many hours straight without casual human contact. And it would be helpful to develop work schedules that include frequent breaks and time to socialize with coworkers.

They believe interns should be encouraged to be proactive, especially when it comes to scheduling check-ins and progress reports. And the thing our interns most appreciated hearing and feeling: Everyone on the team is committed to their success.

Bottom line

Interns our team bring a fresh perspective to our work and workplace culture, and their observations and feedback ensure that we are learning through the process, too. We are so grateful to MV and Alicia. Thanks, ladies, for your meaningful contributions this summer!

Martha Holler

Martha Holler is the co-founder of ShinePR and has over 25 years of experience in public relations. Her expertise is amplifying brand purpose and delivering tangible and measurable results for her clients.