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Internship – Keep It this Summer – Big Idea #1

By April 8, 2020August 10th, 2020No Comments
university of maryland graduation from 2014 - students apply for internship

One of my last semester’s students (I’m an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland) asked me for advice about how to keep his internship, which looks like it is going to be canceled. This is the second student I have spoken to and thought to share my advice. [Note. This article prompted additional thinking and brainstorming. As such, during the following week, I wrote a lengthy article called, “Internship – Create Your Own – Big Idea #2” (read).

Given the unprecedented state of affairs today, ALL organizations offering an internship are contemplating three things right now1:

  1. Cancel the internship entirely
  2. Wait and see what happens over the next month to two months
  3. Transition to remote internship

Even if your internship was canceled, look at the suggestions below and consider your options. A little initiative and persistence could pay off.

The challenge is two-fold:  many people do not know how to manage remote workers and many people are not experienced at long-term remote working.

As a result, you MUST answer the million-dollar question your employer is asking: “Will the internship be helpful to us?” You have to think about the employer and understand their situation:

  • Priority is to current employees
  • Priority is to preserving and conserving cash flow
  • Priority is surviving in the short-term
  • Priority is for planning for the long-term

My big idea for you is in #1 below. #2 and #3 are also options. Still, #1 is what will be your door opener to what is perhaps already a closed-door because of COVID 19. #2 and #3 are your backups.

1. Send them an example of work you would do during your internship

Do this today… seriously. Think about what you can do now, to show them how committed, driven, and creative you are. And demonstrate, to erase any doubt, you can be a productive member of their team remotely. Select something of value to them you already spoke about during the internship interview process. If not, based on your interviews and what you know of the organization, spend quality time researching and developing something they will appreciate and be able to use in the short-term.

Whatever you do, it must have the reaction of, “Wow! We have to keep [your name] as our intern.” Literally, to keep your internship depends on what you send them.

Don’t delay. Send it to them this week.

2. Ask to set up a trial/test period

Ask to set up a trial period of two weeks. If it doesn’t work out, no problem, you’ll part ways on a friendly basis. And you’ll know you tried. Some individuals and organizations are not ready or equipped to manage remote workers.

3. Consider doing the internship for a reduced salary or for free

There are IRS guidelines, employment guidelines, organization guidelines, etc. governing how to compensate interns. I am not a lawyer. We are in uncharted waters. You need, you want the internship experience. In the end, it’s up to you.

Take the Initiative within the Next Week

Be polite and professional when reaching out to your employer. Ask for a quick telephone call, or better, video call (demonstrate now how well you work remotely). They already know you and like you as they offered you the job. Explain to them how you can add value remotely. This is your elevator pitch to explain, “Why keep the internship?” Even better is to share a personal story of when you took the initiative in the past and how it made a difference then and how you apply that experience to the internship. By taking the initiative today, you WILL stand out.

Don’t be pushy. If you feel you are getting resistance, it’s time to withdraw. The economy will get better and you don’t want to burn any bridges.


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1. A shout out to a friend and colleague, Janet, for sharing this insight from her own research on internship programs.

Photography Source: Flickr, maryland govpics // New Design © Copyright 2020, The Chief Storyteller®, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.