Tips for college students looking for internships in a remote-work world

Summer internships go virtual
Posted at 7:34 AM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 07:34:12-04

Summer is just a couple of weeks away, but college students are already starting summer internships.

Money for the most competitive internships is through the roof, and some could make $9,000 a month.

These are the highest-paid internships, according to the job site Glassdoor.

Median Monthly Pay: $8,811

2. Facebook
Median Monthly Pay: $8,023

3. LinkedIn
Median Monthly Pay: $8,009

4. Amazon
Median Monthly Pay: $7,954

5. Salesforce
Median Monthly Pay: $7,710

Internships are still down compared to before the pandemic and for a second year, most internships are remote. Interns are also missing out on some of the skills employers expect in the workplace.

That means new workers, employers and their coworkers will all have to adjust as we transition from the COVID-19 job landscape back to normal as part of our rebound.

Sophie Martin is a rising senior at Michigan State, studying computer science. This week, Martin begins her summer job.

"I'm starting my internship with Cigna Health Care as a front-end engineering intern," she said.

This is her second summer at Cigna Healthcare and her second summer interning virtually. Sophie says she knows she’s fortunate.

"I had heard from a lot of other classmates of mine and career professionals at the university that the job search was going to be tough," she said.

According to the Hiring Lab at job site Indeed, internship listings are down nationwide.

Even as the economy overall is bouncing back, internship job listings are still down 39% from 2019 and down 15% from 2020. In metro Detroit, the environment is a little better than the nation as a whole

"We are seeing an increase in internships over the summer of 2020 where the internships really came to a standstill," U of D Mercy Career Services Coordinator Gene LaPouttre said.

He says if you do see an internship, there is a great chance that the opportunity will be remote.

"There are pros and cons to the virtual internship. One of those is it may offer a more flexible work hour for the student," he said.

Students can do an internship with a company on the other side of the state, or anywhere in the world. But there are tradeoffs.

Virtual interns gain less exposure to the overall company culture and the work isn't typically reflective of the actual day-to-day work of an entry-level employee. They’re often more like special projects.

"You miss out on some of the team-building skills, you miss out on some of the professional development skills, know those career competencies that a company is looking for out of a new graduate," LaPouttre said.

Sophie has been able to pick up these skills during her internship. She attends meetings and even though they’re virtual, she is exposed to the larger team. Cigna has given her a mentor and that has been a big help.

"I was really fortunate that they put someone in front of me and they became a great mentor," she said. "But you can't just meet people in the hallway, you know, in the same way that you could in person."

For students who couldn’t snag an internship this summer, there are steps you can take to develop job-ready skills.

Volunteering is a great way to make connections and show off your skills.

Check out your school's career services office. Detroit Mercy has a mentorship program that connects students with alums in their field to insight and career development

Professional associations are also a good resource. If you have to work to earn money for school, that's fine too. You can still develop skills for the workplace.

After all, dependability, teamwork, coachability and drive are welcome everywhere.

Some students will have had virtual internships for half of their college career and may not have any significant officer experience.

LaPouttre says employers intentional about transitioning employees into the workplace.

Consider starting with a hybrid schedule before full time in-person and set the new employees up with a mentor to give them a source of guidance. Finally, supervisors and managers should build time into their schedules to coach.