This piece is not taking aim at anyone. I understand that because of the coronavirus and the related economic upheaval, some businesses are being forced to cut staff or even close their doors. I know how gut-wrenching that is. However, I’m hearing from some students that the internships they hustled to line up for this summer are falling through now because even employers who are still open for business are not sure how to pull off an internship in the current conditions. If true, that’s disappointing.
Why Our Firm is Not Cancelling Internships
For many students, internships are more than just gigs to fund their summer vacations. (Side note: I wrote a post about why an internship absolutely needs to be a paying job.) Often an internship is required for graduation. It’s real world experience that is going to be the second most valuable thing on a student’s resumes as they launch their career. Most importantly, it’s the validation that they are choosing a field where they’ll find enjoyment and success – very hard to know without ever having applied their classroom learning in a work environment. I don’t think anyone would argue against those points, but there are some barriers that many of these employers seem unable to overcome. I want to share how our firm is adapting, in hopes that fewer interns lose their hard-won opportunities in 2020 and beyond.
The Challenge with Bringing on New Interns
Physical distancing, of course, presented challenges for bringing on our interns. Getting our existing team moved to 100% working from home has been quite an exercise. The sheer logistics – do people have the equipment and access they need? – are child’s play compared to the emotional adjustment – do people feel isolated and forgotten? You can safely assume these challenges are multiplied for new people who haven’t already worked side by side with our team. Add to that the fact that our interns live out of state and have never even set foot in our office. (We hope that they will visit us when it’s safe, however.)
The other major concern we had was how to structure work for the interns. Traditionally, we have had them design and deliver a week long summer camp on financial literacy. This summer there aren’t going to be any summer camps. We had to think through how we’d use that time to fill our interns’ experience with meaningful activities. Additionally, in summers past, we trained interns as a team and assigned much of their work to be done as a team. That spirit is still important to our firm so we have some re-imagining to do now that they will not be sitting side by side. These are issues. They aren’t reasons to walk away from having interns, who are a key part of our talent strategy. The solutions are all rooted in technology and communication – lots of both.
What We’re Doing to Make Sure the Plancorp Internship is Still a Great Experience.
- Our technology team is giving themselves more lead time than usual so that laptops will be fully configured and shipped to our interns’ homes ahead of their start date.
- Video conferencing tools will be used by our interns and the rest of the team all day, every day. We have invested in a video conferencing corporate account. Free versions of these services are great for keeping up with friends but not sufficient to support the needs of our clients and employees.
- We’ll need to use written documentation, pre-recorded videos and live instruction via screen sharing to accomplish training for our interns. Everyone learns differently. We want to deliver content and check for understanding in multiple ways.
- Interns have mentors who assign work and play a key role in making the interns feel connected to our firm. This summer, the mentors will need to check in more frequently than usual and have structured agendas for those meetings.
- We still want our interns to experience our culture. Since we won’t be bumping into each other in the hallway, our social interactions will have to be scheduled and intentional. Virtual happy hours and coffee chats will be regular occurrences.
As we do all these things, we are bound to make a few stumbles and learn from them along the way. It will be worth it to continue to grow the talent who are the future of our industry and give them the opportunity to get real world experience. Our team is working hard to get everything ready and we look forward to welcoming our interns next month. If you are an employer on the fence, please consider keeping your commitment to interns this summer. I’d love to hear creative ways other firms are making it work. Please feel free to comment or reach out directly to bounce ideas.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be used as investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. All investing involves risk. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against a loss. You should consult your own investment, tax, legal and accounting advisors.