Liz Irons, Priscilla Mbimadong, & Sahithi Vemula

Like most of us, this last year has been unlike any other for college students. From spending our 21st birthdays popping champagne in our childhood homes to having our college activities and events upended, we’ve managed to power through the previously unimaginable.

When it comes to our professional lives, the coveted “perfect internship” also looks a lot different than in years past. As we close out the semester and more offices—including Reservoir’s—begin to transition to in-person work, we now have an opportunity to reflect on the ways in which the unique challenges of interning during a pandemic have helped shape us into the resilient young professionals we are today. Here are some key lessons we’ve learned while interning remotely:

Know When To Speak Up

Interns at Reservoir benefit from a great support system, including regular manager check-ins, team meetings, and lunch and learns. But communication is more difficult in a virtual environment—you can’t stop by a teammate’s desk if a quick question comes up. This generation of pandemic interns has learned to speak up and ask for direction when needed, a critical skill in any profession.

Stay Organized

No one is looking over your shoulder as a remote intern, so organization is key. You might begin the day sifting through emails and Microsoft Teams messages to create an itemized to-do list of the day's tasks. That list is valuable and will guide you through the workday…that is, until you’re faced with an additional last-minute deadline. Learning to juggle your regular duties—from morning news media scans to research projects—and adjust when a new deliverable pops up is a valuable skill for any work environment, especially if you’re working remotely.

Take Breaks

While working on a variety of different projects from the comfort of your own home, it can be easy to get swept into work and lose track of time. With pandemic workforce burnout creeping up on professionals in all fields, we’ve learned the importance of taking breaks. It’s not always easy to take that time, especially when you’re just starting out and trying to become more acclimated to a new work environment, but research shows that breaks actually make you more productive. A recent study from Microsoft found back-to-back meetings can decrease your ability to focus and engage, causing a measurable buildup in the brain of stress-related beta waves. Incorporating walks into your routine is one way to add breaks into your day, and it may even boost your brainstorming ability. A recent study from Stanford University examining mental tasks that require imagination found walking boosted creative thinking among participants.

Connect with Teammates

Connecting with colleagues is a critical part of any internship—but that can be challenging in a virtual environment. Fortunately, our team at Reservoir has taken the time to form connections with each of us, while also giving us a feel for the company’s culture. Every day at Reservoir is an opportunity to learn and meet new people, each with their own unique experiences across the media and healthcare continuum. “Sitting down” with teammates a quick coffee chat has helped simulate those key water cooler conversations from the comfort of our own homes.

In a year of many challenges, the shift that we’ve all been forced to undertake has made us more resilient, driving us to develop key skills faster than previous generations before us. From shuffling between online classes over Zoom to joining client calls on Microsoft Teams, we’ve all been able to learn and grow in ways we didn’t think possible. Starting an internship during a pandemic has made us the young professionals we are today and we’re grateful for that experience—even if that means missing out on the delicious snacks in the office kitchen.