Internship from Home: Optimising Your Impact

Intern1Last evening HBO was screening ‘The Intern’. Robert-De-Niro plays an intern who is well past his career and he is seen helping his boss Jules, tiding over her professional as well as personal crisis situations. A compelling story emphasizing that people can make great contributions irrespective of their positions in an organization.

My own experience of working with interns have been quite rewarding. In fact, one intern changed the way we used to look at salesperson’s productivity by questioning what should be measured – efforts, processes or simply orders(outcome)?

This year Summer internship for MBA students is on a rough patch – many offers getting declined, or delayed and in many of them which are on course, interns are working from home. Let me first talk about the last two types- delayed and interning from home. The key questions and my answers are as below:

Does working from home reduces the value of my internship?

As an intern, you would be working on a specific project and you will have a mentor from the company who will supervise your work. Work from home is a reality for all and therefore, this does not create any unique constraints for you. However, you may feel that things would have been much better if you could go out to meet customers, channel partners or even your mentor for a face to face conversations.

It’s not happening – so accept the reality and flip the question – now that I have to work from home, how do I enhance the value of my internship?

For starters, understand and analyse your deliverables into two parts – (a) conceptual applications and (b) pieces of evidence from data ( primary or secondary ). As I write this, I remember one of my bosses who would say – ” Contrary to popular belief, sales actually happen within the four walls of your office”. He used to emphasize on two aspects- what you are going to do; is it conceptually sound? and, are you analysing data with the best degree of incision to see the intersection of concept and insights? Now you would realize that both parts can be achieved with little preparation and ability to ask the right questions. The conceptual application part can be best handled through regular interaction with your mentor, Professor and alumni in the company. Most of the data will be provided by the firm but what if you need to speak to some of the distributors or retailers to get some first-hand insights? Make use of the tools available to you to make calls/video calls etc and schedule follow up calls if you need to. If you want to collect some structured data through a survey – go ahead and make use on any of the online survey tools. Analyse the data using Excel, SPSS or Smart PLS; there are many trial versions available. Stay focussed on how are you going to best answer the questions embedded in your project. That would decide what kind of value you added to the company.

Also, I want to prescribe two self-management tools to help you reach your internship goals. First, indulge in a lot of positive self-talk. Yes, talking to yourself is not a disorder; it actually helps you firm up your resolve to achieve your goal. A brief conversation with self such as – if I ask my mentor for additional data, he will be providing that to help me bring more insights/I can ask for help from people I know and they will guide me,/I have the necessary skills and knowledge to do a great job. The second tool is about mental imaginary – It is a powerful way of reminding yourself that the work that you are doing will lead to positive outcomes and you amplify that feeling by imagining what would happen if those outcomes are recognised by the company – like imagining that on the final day of your internship, there is a mail going from the division head recognising your contribution. Try these!

My internship offer is withdrawn – what should I do?

Relax, everything is not lost! The next best thing is within your reach. Try reaching out to your Professors in your school and ask them if they can take you on board for any of their research projects or possibly help them write a couple of case studies using secondary data. You could even think of a problem that a company is facing and construct a research design to find answers to that problem. You can then reach out to your Professor for a possible mentorship.

Maybe, this is a big opportunity for you to create an even bigger impact through your internship.

However, to be able to do so, you must reject dysfunctional assumptions and beliefs such as; if I have not interned in a good company, this would hurt the prospect of my final placement / working with a faculty and working with an industry mentor are two different things and the former may not provide a great value. The key point is that everyone knows the constraints that guided your choice and who knows – you could just be getting even more impactful by doing an independent project!

I can not emphasize enough that under the current circumstances, the constraints are universal and its manifestation in different aspects of the business are more or less comparable. As an intern, you must accept that the value has to be created within these boundaries however, do not ignore the pockets of opportunities embedded there. Identify them, craft a plan, pursue it and deliver the best value that you can.

Be brave!

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