Online working has become the norm since the beginning of the pandemic. Board-room meetings have been switched for Zoom calls, and for many this has been a major shift. Invariably, there are a number of pros and cons to working from home or less explicitly, for some, simply not working in the office.
What is it like to be an intern working online?
Internship programmes are that first step for students or graduates entering into the workforce. The task is often to practically apply some of the knowledge gathered in lecture halls and tutorial discussions, which has too been based online for many since the beginning of 2020.
For context, I decided at the start of 2021 that I would like to take on some form of independent practice in a socially and economically-driven firm. This aligns with my degree in Economic and Social Studies [BESS] in Trinity College Dublin, where I am entering Final Year. I stumbled upon the Ireland Spain Economic Association [ISEA] via Linked-In. I was living in Madrid, Spain at the time and wanted to gain some on-the-ground experience with Spanish people or business.
I saw an internship as a potentially formative experience. The ISEA added another dimension as it links both Ireland and Spain by means of networks and trade. This international scope excited me, especially between two cultures which I connect with personally. Students and graduates take on internships for various reasons such as; figuring out if they’d like to work in a certain field of work experience in their field, monetary benefits, CV credentials, graduate programs, and the likes.
Two key questions come to mind; 1. How does my online internship experience align with my core aims? 2. To what extent have my aspirations been fulfilled given the online nature of my work?
How does my online internship experience align with my core aims?
I believe the success of my internship lies in the fact that despite working online, many of my core aims were fulfilled. I believe this is largely testament to the people within the ISEA. Online meetings with President Juan Valverde provided me with insights and nuggets of sector know-how. Once I had been versed in who the ISEA are and what they do, my first instinct was to look into who engages with the ISEA and why. The nature of the ISEA´s network on a human-level intrigued me. A lot of this analysis, on a demographic basis can be done using previously gathered data. This gave me scope to create some of my own content very early on. Needless to say, to go that extra mile, a hybrid way of working would have been optimal.
To what extent have my expectations been fulfilled given the online nature of the work?
I believe real-life engagement could certainly have heightened my experience. This aligns with my personal interests to connect on a human level, and gather on-the-ground insights. Despite positive online engagement, this experience surely could have been enhanced through activities like; sitting in on meetings, attendance at events and real-life networking. I can imagine there are many who like me, think physical engagement lends better to gaining real-life experience.
There is much to be said for online working and interning, and I have certainly reaped some of these benefits. When afforded the opportunity to be more flexible with working hours, one can fit work around their day; starting earlier to extend a lunch break for example. Time can be manoeuvred, while still being just as productive and this is also thanks to cutting out commutes! Commuters now save valuable hours of the day which were once spent cooped up on a bus or countless other transport means. Another pro has been exemplified by those who took a leap of faith and relocated for work. The tales of those working online and enjoying new environments, or for many Irish, better weather, are ones for celebration if not envy. I was lucky enough to be able to incorporate travel into my internship, the ISEA proved the perfect excuse to get to Spain ´during my interning period this July.
I am very grateful for my experience for a number of reasons, one of which is the future-focused reality of online work. Firms have begun planning and adopting hybrid working models. An online internship is for many a fast-track look at the hybrid capabilities of our future work. My expectations were certainly fulfilled, even with careful consideration of the online nature of the work.