The Millennial Guide to Surviving Quarantine Internships
2020 has been an unprecedented record year so far. I have always embodied the phrase “expect the unexpected”, but there’s really no way to expect a global pandemic that results in a nationwide quarantine lockdown. Combine that with college classes and an online internship, and it could have been a recipe for disaster.
So, the World Ended. Now What?
A summer internship is like a rite of passage when graduating college or university, albeit a somewhat reluctant one for many. Working through the summer isn’t the most appealing prospect, but the experience and connections made while interning make up for the longing stares out the window and intense FOMO. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was obvious that missing out on beach days wasn’t the only problem I’d be facing this summer.
I immediately thought the internship I was offered would be rescinded — understandably — and there came a wave of uncertainty. Would I have to extend my semester and graduate later? How would I restructure the plans I made for after graduation? I thought my entire life plan was destroyed. This anxiety was quelled when I was told my internship would continue as planned. Although, it wasn’t really ‘as planned’; instead of working out of the agency office I had been wanting to experience, we’d all be working from home.
Then came a new area of confusion: how would the onboarding process work? Like most people, I’ve never had the experience of working from home, let alone being virtually trained. I have this to say about it: not the worst.
I was worried about coming in as a newbie on a big team and not fitting in because of the absence of in-person interactions, but I was introduced to every single employee one-on-one, from first-year associates to the CEO. The onboarding experience was surprisingly smooth; I felt connected to the people and the agency from the beginning and confident in my ability to contribute to the organization. That’s a difficult accomplishment to achieve in a virtual work environment.
Despite the pleasant hiring experience, I was still slightly disheartened that I wouldn’t get the chance to work in “The Cube”. Arcane operates out of the most typically millennial agency office — and it’s beautiful. Entering the digital marketing world as a blank slate, I was prepared to be immersed in ‘agency life’. I heard stories about the in-house beer tap, the rooftop patio, and the Dogs of Arcane, and imagined myself entering the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of agencies. However, thanks to COVID-19, I’m still waiting on that experience. One thing that brought me solace in knowing that I wouldn’t be living out my agency dreams is that, for the time being, nobody else was either. We were all in it together.
The New Normal
There was a slight learning curve when it came to adjusting to the #WFH life. One thing I quickly realized was that if I was going to keep up with the seasoned professionals in this climate, I would have to put in a lot more work than anticipated. I was new to the agency, new to digital marketing, and new to working remotely.
For any internship to be successful, it’s up to the intern to get the most out of the experience, but an online internship requires more initiative than usual. It’s one thing to look for work when you run into managers and account directors on a daily basis, but working from home forces you to venture even further out of your comfort zone to create opportunities for yourself. And to do that, you need confidence — confidence to message people out of the blue to look for opportunities, confidence to ask questions and look for clarification, and confidence to speak up during a company-wide virtual meeting.
In fact, completing a virtual internship required me to polish and boost many other qualities, too. Time management, for example. I’ve always considered myself organized and punctual, but the absence of a conventional work environment can make getting distracted much easier. My solution? There’s no such thing as too many calendars. Also, syncing devices is the key to success. I have a calendar on my laptop, my phone, and in a notebook. I have the agency’s preferred project management tool and email software downloaded on my laptop and my phone. And I have notifications for everything enabled on both devices. I didn’t want to lose out on meaningful work opportunities because of at-home distractions. I ensured I was prepared for every project, request, and task that passed my at-home desk.
Now, your first thought about an online internship during a pandemic lockdown might be a negative one, but it wasn’t all awkward Zoom meetings and bad quarantine jokes. There were some silver linings!
- Quarantine internships not only save gas but time, too! If I was interning under normal circumstances, I’d be travelling from home to school to the agency and back again.
- I also cut back on the amount of time I spend getting ready every morning. Nobody is really paying attention to what you look like in a virtual meeting with a dozen other squares on the screen. Plus, if I had a particularly rough morning and didn’t get the chance to style myself as per usual, there’s always the ‘stop video’ option.
- Another underrated benefit of quarantine internships? Proximity to the fridge. Not having to spend additional time packing a day’s worth of food, every day, is a real privilege.
- And, if you’re a slight introvert like me, getting valuable industry experience from the comfort of home is a definite plus.
- The setup also allows for a great work-life balance. It’s always been my career aspiration to be able to work remotely, so living this experience has taught me how to prepare for that.
Beyond the obvious pros and cons of this quarantine internship, one realization stood out to me particularly: strong company culture is paramount to business success. From the start of my internship, I immediately felt that the people of Arcane are Arcane — the employees don’t take on Arcane’s culture, the employees are the culture. Everyone involved at the agency embodies certain commonalities that allow the agency to maintain its identity as a hardworking, results-driven, friendly, creative, welcoming, and enjoyable place to be.
I said it once and I’ll say it again: it is no small accomplishment to have a corporate culture so strong it exudes through computer screens.
It is of the utmost importance to choose an internship host (or any job) that aligns with your personality and embodies the same values as you. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking to go through the internship process, so the first option available might seem like the best, but finding a company where you fit in is so much better. Working with industry professionals who go above and beyond the call of duty to teach, listen, laugh, and show true hospitality has made this quarantine internship incredibly meaningful.
So, while I didn’t get to meet the company dogs or enjoy a midsummer draught beer on the sunny rooftop, I can honestly say I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on much by interning from home. Because even if I’m at my kitchen table, I’m still at Arcane.