Starting Your New Remote Job or Internship



By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

 In the pandemic world we are all confronting these days, more of us are now working remotely than ever before.  It’s a new, and different experience than what most of us are used to in the face-to-face work world. As a result, it could be more difficult to hit the ground running in a new, virtual position than it is under normal circumstances.  Since there’s a strong possibility you could be working remotely this summer in an internship, co-op, or entry-level job, here’s some suggestions on getting started. 

Realize that your training/on-boarding could be much different virtually than in a face-to-face (F-2-F) environment.  Even though you will be working virtually, some companies may elect to have you come to the office for a socially-distanced meeting to get the ball rolling on company policies and their online systems.  Others may do your orientation via an online platform like Microsoft Teams or Zoom.  Communicate with your supervisor to find out how they’ll handle this important introduction to your new position.  Then be sure to spend time with your company’s training materials and orientation documentation.  And, thoroughly familiarize yourself with those online systems, networks, software and apps you’ll be using.  

During the onboarding process, you’ll want to get a thorough understanding of your role and responsibilities. Be sure from the start that you and your supervisor are on the same page.  You need to be clear particularly clear, given the remote nature of your position, on her/his expectations since that person will be evaluating your performance.  You will also likely want to set up a regular weekly, or twice weekly one-on-one virtual meeting with your supervisor.

An important part of the orientation period is learning how your team communicates virtually.  Is there one or two platforms or protocols that everyone relies upon? Or do different members of the team have flexibility on preferred channels of communication?  For example, some organizations might prefer e-mail as a communication medium while in others, an e-mail might sit unread in an inbox for days.  If you urgently need to communicate with your supervisor or a team member, what’s the preferred way to reach them?  Knowing this ahead of time will mitigate the potential of remote communication problems.  

As you get ready to start the virtual internship or job experience, the first thing you’ll need to address at your home is the physical environment in which you will be working.  You will likely be sitting more than you would in an office environment where you may be getting up to socialize, go to meetings, or walk around the corner to the copier.  If at all possible, have a dedicated work space and be sure to get up and stretch at least for a few minutes every hour.  Take a quick walk.  At all costs, avoid working from your couch or even worse, from your bed.  Experts say working from bed particularly can result in potential sleep problems.  You should also establish a strict work schedule and structure, at least initially, so that you develop good remote work habits.  

As you begin working, anytime you are not sure about something, above all else - ask! When your supervisor or a team member gives you an assignment, schedule some type of virtual meeting to discuss the project, your role, what you need to accomplish, to be clear on deadlines, and to understand how it fits into the larger goals of the organization. This doesn’t have to be an exhaustive meeting. But it is particularly important in the virtual/remote situation because it’s not as easy as walking around the corner, popping into your supervisor’s office and asking a question about something if you are working F-2-F.  If something comes up you don’t understand, get in contact with your supervisor or a team member to clarify the issue.

Now that you are working on projects, get to know your colleagues and remind people who you are.  Since you won’t be meeting up with people F-2-F in the hallway or lunchroom, you will likely have to make an effort to introduce yourself a couple of times so people in the organization remember who you are and what you are doing. Specifically ask for feedback from team members and your supervisor.  You’ll need to be intentional about that in the virtual environment, as opposed to the F-2-F office where you can more casually ask about your work. And, get to know team members as people, too. At appropriate points in time, ask them about what they do, what their degree is in, and ask for advice. In that way you’ll also begin to build a network of contacts. At some point it can be really beneficial to schedule a video chat for coffee or a happy hour to just have a casual conversation.

Pay attention to the prevailing style of communication by team members, then try to emulate that tone in your messaging.  If communication within the organization is formal, you’ll want to avoid using casual language, slang terms, sentence fragments, emojis, other graphic images, etc.  Be clear and concise in your written communication dealing with projects and work issues/matters. If you are speaking during a video or phone conference, be sure to identify yourself if there are team members in the meeting who may not know you, and be specific about what you are asking or want to discuss.

We all know that when it comes to technology, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. So what are you going to do if your computer gets a virus or crashes?  If you lose power or the Internet goes down, how are you going to handle that situation?   Think about the “what if” scenarios in advance so you can react quickly if a problem arises.  

Lastly, virtual technology creates the potential that we are on-call 24 hours/day.  But experts tell us that we are all more productive and less stressed out if we unplug from our technology for at least a few hours each day and if we also get away from our work.  Sure, there are times when we all have to do some extra work to finish a project that’s on deadline.  But, having a regular work routine and schedule will protect you from getting burned out. 

For additional perspective and more tips on getting started on your new remote internship or job, you can read more at the following links: 

Tips for Remote Employees Starting a New Job by Robert Half

First Day At Your Remote Job? Here’s Everything You Need To Know by Fast Company