By Mystie Ng, Red Cross LA intern
During the past four months, many students had to adjust to learning environments as their schools and campuses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students transitioned quickly to a new, virtual learning environment, unsure when they would return to campus. This year’s students are the first to experience an internship amidst a pandemic and this required an added level of flexibility and new skills.
Internships are a great way to learn more about a career field and to gain skills and experience that can be applied in the future. This summer, I interned with the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region in the Communications department. Previously, I worked with the Red Cross Youth and Young Adults (YAYA) program as an executive board officer for the Claremont/Pomona chapter. I also served as the president of my school’s Red Cross club.
When applying for the internship, I knew we were going to move to a virtual platform. I looked forward to learning more about both communications and the Red Cross. However, I was sad to not work with the team in person.
Along with so many of my fellow students, I learned that working from home can be both amazing and challenging. For example, one challenge that arose was my network. My wifi would constantly drop during meetings, making it hard to hear what the presenter was saying. It would also cause problems when everyone in my family was on a call as well.
Another challenge I faced was waking up for those early meetings. The commute is only two steps; however, I often underestimated the amount of time it took me to get ready.
Despite all the challenges, I adapted and overcame any difficulties that might have existed from working remotely. I learned how to successfully work during a virtual internship.
Here are a few things I’ve learned:
1. How to communicate effectively
Working in an office requires effective communication. However, working remotely from home requires another level of communication and comes with challenges that do not come up when working in an office.
For example, in an office setting, you most likely will not run into connectivity issues when attending a meeting. At home, the connection can be unstable and drop at any given time. By communicating to your supervisor that you are having connection issues, it eliminates the question of where you are and why you are not on the call.
2. Time management
Another challenge I faced while working at home was all the distractions. In an office, you only have your computer and phone. At home, you have a couch, bed and many other distractions, like TV and Netflix. Working from home, I learned how to manage my time to ensure that I am on task and not getting distracted.
One method I learned that worked for me was the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique involves working for 25 minutes and taking a short 5-minute break between every 25–minute segment. I would complete different tasks assigned to me, like video editing or posting on social media, during the 25 minutes of work. During the 5–minute break, I would usually stand up and stretch or take a quick power nap. This method helped ensure I stayed on task and maintained a balanced work schedule.
3. Looking forward
As my internship comes to an end, I have learned to always let your supervisor know when you need help or are having difficulties. I also learned more about effective communication and how to manage my time to ensure that all tasks are completed. I will never forget our Thursday morning meetings where we participated in team bonding exercises such as trivia and Scattergories to learn about each other and participate in fun activities outside our normal work.
Working from home has been an interesting and difficult experience. As we head into this new normal, I feel better prepared to take the skills I learned to my college career and beyond.