3 ways to improve virtual internships

Sep 22, 2020 | Work experience/internships

RMP Enterprise, Ashurst, HSBC and Inside Sherpa discussed ways to improve virtual internships in a recent ISE webinar. Lizzie Brock from RMP shares trends and advice

RateMyPlacement has over 500 reviews from students who have undertaken virtual internships this year due to Covid-19, giving exclusive insight into what works and what doesn’t.

Overall, we’re really pleased that virtual internships have been given the thumbs up, with students rating them an average of 8.2 out of 10. This is actually higher than face-to-face experiences, which come out at 7.8 out of 10 across all 70,000 reviews on RateMyPlacement.co.uk pre-Covid.

To help employers create a quality virtual internship for prospective candidates, here are three trends and ways to improve virtual internships:

1 Create a social scene

Two of the lowest rated reviews were around the social scene and activities employees can get involved with outside of work. This is understandable as students aren’t able to meet each other like they used to.

But there are plenty of ways to engage students socially in a virtual environment, including the use of current graduates to facilitate the social side.

HSBC do this well, with over 20 graduates supporting the Early Careers team to take full responsibility for all social activities and sharing them.

Other more specific examples include hiring chefs to do virtual cooking classes, virtual painting classes and facilitating virtual escape rooms, which the likes of Ashurst do. Providing a virtual community for students is incredibly important and anecdotal evidence shows it actually reduces the cliques that happen in-person.

The following students highlight other successful social initiatives:

“The social opportunities were limited due to the virtual nature of the internship. However, we had a weekly social for all the interns, which was organised by the social committee chosen from the interns cohort. We also had an intern lunch every Friday. During the socials we played games such as Scribble, Werewolf, online card games, GeoGuesser etc. Even though online socials can’t replace in person meeting, it was still good to have them in place.” Expedia virtual internship student, 2020

“The community project is a fun way to dive into the FCA culture and values, while making good friends with other new interns.” FCA virtual internship student, 2020

But, whatever you do – make sure it’s consistent! This student cited interns in different locations had varying experiences, which impacted their experience:

“Belfast interns apparently had a social event but for those of us in England and Scotland there was absolutely nothing which was quite poor in all honesty. Somebody made a London meet up in the LinkedIn group but it was very much intern led – there were no formal networking or social events that were organised.” Virtual internship student, 2020

2 Provide graduate buddies

Having a graduate buddy is more important than ever when it comes to virtual internships.

The opportunity to reach out to someone who was recently in your position and new to the business was highly valued. The following students explain how useful, insightful and reassuring being assigned a buddy was:

“My buddy would regularly check in to ensure that I wasn’t too overwhelmed with work or in the opposite case, to ensure that I had enough work to keep me busy.” Expedia virtual internship student, 2020

“The buddy programme gave me a better understanding… The buddy told me what the atmosphere is like, what day-to-day looks like at the bank and how challenging the work really is.” Deutsche Bank virtual internship student, 2020

“Throughout the week I was able to freely get in contact with my trainee buddy and also get in contact with other trainees around the firm… Everyone was willing to answer questions.” Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner virtual internship student, 2020

3 Provide structure

Students commented on how impressed they were with employers organising their virtual internships.

Whether it was the pre-boarding zoom discussion to ensure everyone could meet each other before starting like SAP did, or sending around agendas in advance like Teach first and HSBC below, students gave widespread approval for the level of detail and diligence put in across the board to ensure they received a positive, interesting and beneficial experience.

“It was very well structured. They provided us with a two-day time plan a few days before which was very useful, and they stuck to it very well. They had a good mix of breakout rooms, large sessions, and talks and interactive activities and breaks, which was very good.” Teach First virtual internship student, 2020

“The onboarding process was extremely well structured, as well as our two virtual induction days. These experiences provided a lot of guidance into what to expect from the internship and how to make the most of it.” HSBC virtual internship student, 2020

In terms of improvements, one student suggested it would have been useful to have activities tailored to the specific role they’d applied for:

“It would have been good if there were some activities related directly to what department we were interested in… there were no activities specific to the role I had applied for, which was disappointing.” Virtual internship student, 2020

With all students inducted together, it’s hard to please everyone. Providing multiple touchpoints for students to feedback will help you to understand what works, and what doesn’t.

Final thoughts

Overall, virtual internships are here to stay. With winter and Easter insight events not too far away, the likelihood of these being virtual is high given the current government recommendations.

With early signs showing that virtual internships are higher rated than all other experiences on RateMyPlacement.co.uk, it will be interesting to see how the feedback progresses as employers learn how to tweak, improve and find best practice.

However, be aware of digital overload, as what was novel and en-vogue this summer, may not have the same impact next time!

ISE members can watchThe future of internship and placement programmes’ webinar with RMP Enterprise, Ashurst, HSBC and Inside Sherpa by signing in to the members’ area of the ISE website

Find out more about joining the ISE community


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