Part Five in Our Virtual Internship Experience Series:
Allison Heil, Class of 2021, participated in two internships this summer, one with Must Love Sports and another with the Chicago Cubs.
How has your virtual internship evolved since you first started?
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had planned to intern for the Chicago Cubs. This was my dream internship, and I was crushed to find out it had been suspended. Even though professional sports had come to a halt, I was determined to take that time to grow my network in the sports industry. Must Love Sports was perfect for that. Through this program, guest speakers around the sports business landscape joined weekly to give us insight into their careers and provide advice. It was a struggle in the beginning (our first meeting was interrupted by faulty WiFi), but once all the technology was figured out, the program took off. It started with a list of guest speakers, email lists of students, and lessons on professional development. As the weeks went on, we adapted in order to get the most out of our guest speakers and the other students. We were put into groups based on our specific professional interests and assigned mentors. This made the program extremely personalized, which is hard to do through a computer screen.
While participating in the MLS Summer session, I received an email from the Cubs, saying that they wanted to offer a virtual, educational program for those whose internships with the team were canceled. Through this virtual internship, we participated in an informational and educational leadership speaker series with members of the Cubs’ front office, as well as the opportunity to build our personal brands and professional networks. This was the first time the Cubs have done anything like this, so we worked with our supervisors to maximize the benefits.
How do you make the most of your internship?
Ask questions and follow up. The biggest thing I’ve learned over the course of my virtual internships is that it is important to thank speakers, ask questions, and stay in touch. If there is someone in your field that you especially admire, or want to stay connected with, send them an email or a LinkedIn request with a note. Schedule a short call to learn more about them, introduce yourself, and maintain that connection. These people truly want to help the next generation of professionals in their industry. All it takes is the effort from the students’ side!
How do you develop a good working relationship with your supervisor?
My supervisors were eager to get to know the interns, so I made sure to match that energy. For Must Love Sports, our supervisor scheduled one-on-one meetings with all 250 interns. After that meeting, I stayed in contact with her through Slack and email, updating her on steps I was taking to network, as well as talking about sports in general. This built a personal connection, which is crucial to establishing a strong relationship with a supervisor. During my Cubs session, it was easier to build these strong relationships because there were only five interns. But, it is imperative to go beyond the Zoom meetings and get to know supervisors via email and phone calls in order to network further.
What do you do to stand out (in a good way) from the other interns?
When interviewing for a job, I was always told to show how I could offer something that would benefit the company. When you’re an intern, this plan must be put into action. To stand out, be the first to volunteer to help, take on an extra project, and stay late to finish it. In the Must Love Sports program, I connected my supervisor with one of my mentors, the Senior Vice President of Programming & Acquisitions at ESPN. A fellow Trojan, he had tons of advice for the rest of the students in the internship program. He ended up becoming one of the mentors in our mentorship sessions. Turning past connections and experiences into tangible actions in your internship is key to standing out.
If you’ve done a previous in-person internship, how does your virtual internship compare to in-person one?
While a virtual internship doesn’t allow you to have the same experience in an office setting, it offers extremely valuable lessons in professional communication and reliability. Because we are all connecting digitally now, I learned how to conduct myself professionally via email, Zoom, and other digital channels. In the future, I strongly believe that internships and jobs will either be somewhat or completely digital, so this was a crucial learning moment for me.
What advice would you give to others who are thinking about virtual internships in the future?
Go for it! As I said, there are essential lessons you will learn from virtual internships that are unique to the digital experience. Also, it is an easy way to build your network with those you wouldn’t necessarily meet in an in-person internship. In such an uncertain time in the job market, a virtual internship is a great way to make use of this time.
Anything else you want to share about the experience?
I want to thank my supervisors. Without their willingness to help us grow professionally in the sports industry in a time when sports are uncertain, I wouldn’t have transformed as much as I did this summer.
Thank you, Allison! If you have a virtual internship experience that you would like to share, let us know. For more inside information on the virtual internship experience, check out parts one, two, three, and four in our series.
Interested in finding a virtual internship of your own? Visit our guide to virtual internships for details.
Already have a virtual internship and looking for more tips? Check out Five Tips for Succeeding at Your Virtual Internship.
The USC Career Center is open – in person and online – and all of our services and resources are available to you, including advising, job and internship opportunities, programs, workshops, career fairs, and more. Contact us with any questions.