Virtual Internships: Virtually impossible?
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
From the Covid-19 Pandemic emerged virtual spring weeks and summer internships, alongside work from home graduate schemes. It can be a daunting experience, trying to immerse yourself in a company whilst sitting in your bedroom. When considering how to make the most of virtual schemes, there is no better person to ask than an HR professional with years of experience in organising internships and assessing interns! I spoke with Michelle Boyle, the EMEA Campus Lead for Private Banking and Markets at Citi, and someone I am lucky enough to have worked with during my spring week and virtual summer internship. We discussed her tips and tricks for learning, developing, and shining in a virtual environment.
Q: How would you advise interns to make the most of networking when they cannot walk
around the floor or meet people at in-person events. Do you have any tips for online
A: Despite the virtual world most of us are working in, networking remains a key
element of internship programmes, and some of the main networking principles can be
applied to virtual networking. Be strategic – determine what you really want to get out of
your efforts to connect with people and tailor your approach based on the end goal. For
instance, if you are keen to learn more about a specific role within an organization, focus on
who can help you with that. You want to identify people who are in that role and who will be
able to provide real insight into what it entails. If you don’t know anyone in that role, ask the
people you do know for names. More often than not, people are willing to help! Also, most
organizations will have internal ‘phonebooks’ and Google-Esque search functions – be a bit
of a sleuth if need be! Don’t be shy to make initial introductions and when you do connect
with someone, ask for suggestions on who else might be able to provide insight. Be prepared
for those conversations, think again about what you want actually to get out of the session –
prepare questions beforehand. You want to make sure you leave a positive impression, you
don’t want the person you meet to feel like they gave up their time to speak with you, and it was more of a tick the box exercise rather than a robust discussion. It’s important to remember that in addition to working from home, people are juggling homeschooling,
caring responsibilities, etc. and aren’t always working the normal 9-5. Be prepared to be
flexible in terms of timings for networking sessions, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t
hear back from someone right away or if they say no. If someone says no, ask if they can
suggest someone else.
Q: What would be your top tip for standing out while on zoom calls with lots of people,
for example, the whole intern class?
A: It can be challenging to stand out in larger Zoom meetings. Some of the simple wins are
having your camera on, dressing appropriately, and paying attention to the presenter(s)! People do notice blank screens, wondering eyes or mobile surfers! Most sessions incorporate time for Q & A, so you want to be prepared for when the opportunity to engage with the
presenter(s) arises. If materials have been shared beforehand, read through them, pay
attention to what is being discussed and have a few questions in mind. You might not get a
chance to voice your questions, but it will be noticed if you use the raise your hand function.
Q: Could you give any advice about integrating into a team and how to add value
A: Don’t be shy! Reach out to introduce yourself to new colleagues and make an effort to get
to know them. Join in any virtual quizzes, networking events, etc., that might be happening. If
they aren’t happening, think about setting up an activity yourself. A colleague of mine
organized a virtual Pancake Bake Off this week in honour of Pancake Day – went down a treat with the team! In terms of adding value, make sure you understand your particular tasks – ask for clarity if you are uncertain about anything and put the same level of effort into completing them as you would if you were in an office. Ask others on the team if they
need help or volunteer to get involved in projects/pieces of work even if they aren’t the most
glamourous. Teams will appreciate your willingness and support, and it will be noted.
Q: How have Citi been adapting their programmes to still give a valuable experience to
A: Citi has been fantastic in adapting our programmes for the virtual world. As an organisation, we have truly pulled together to achieve what would have been thought impossible not even a year ago. We are collaborating even more with our colleagues across EMEA as well as in NAM and APAC to ensure that our interns and graduates continue to benefit from robust programmes and best practices. We have introduced new elements to our graduate programmes to ensure the graduates stay engaged, connected with their peers, expand their
networks and develop their careers.
Q: Lastly, for those readers who don't know much about Private Banking, who should
consider a career in it and why?
A: A career in Private Banking can be very challenging but also very rewarding. Most people express interest in being an actual banker. Being a Private Banker requires effort, creativity
and resilience. Building a book of business is challenging and young bankers need to be prepared to be told no/ be ignored by potential new clients first staring out! Landing a new
client can take anywhere from 6 -18 months, if not longer! An entrepreneurial spirit and
keenness for developing relationships with clients is a must. Private Banking is not transactional – bankers need to build, understand, maintain and grow their client relationships. Apart from being a banker, there are plenty of other great career opportunities in Private Banking including Portfolio Management and Investment Counselling.
The trend towards virtual working has accelerated and is unlikely to fully reverse, even
when Covid-19 restrictions relax. It’s time to brush up on your zoom introductions, declutter
that old desk in the corner of your room and head this advice!