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EDITORIAL: We cannot forget value of in-person internships

As companies continue to provide fully remote internships, young people's careers may suffer in the long run

While fully remote internships may seem beneficial, young people can greatly benefit from in-person work experience in their early careers. – Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Many Rutgers students can attest to the immense pressure of the dreaded internship grind. Hours are spent skimming LinkedIn, Handshake and Glassdoor in an attempt to find open applications and hopefully hear back from companies with a first-round interview offer. But more and more internship opportunities seem to be fully remote.

At the height of the pandemic in 2020, it made sense to see most internships transition to fully remote. Approximately 54.8 percent of internships that summer was remote, while the largest companies (by size) were especially inclined to go virtual at 71.2 percent, according to a study.

In addition to this, many students' educational experiences were largely virtual for an extended period of time, and extending this remote environment to the workplace could exacerbate negative effects for these young adults.

Clearly, remote work is here to stay, as it stands at approximately 27 percent to date and is projected to make up a quarter of the work provided for the foreseeable future. But as the world returns to a widespread state of normalcy, it is important that companies remember the value of in-person internships.

While it may benefit a company to offer fully remote work so that it can recruit from a much larger pool of candidates on a global scale, a study from Glassdoor found that 70 percent of interns had a negative outlook toward remote work in comparison to the 40 percent of part-time and full-time employees who shared this sentiment.

There is no doubt that a virtual office space can be beneficial for hired employees, especially for those who have children or are caregivers for family members. Being able to eventually work from home a few days during the week can also be a motivational incentive for employees who have been at their respective companies for several years.

They deserve a break from the stress and hassle of commuting, among other things, and interns can benefit from this kind of relief as well. A virtual internship could actually be ideal during the school year while balancing classes and not being able to commute or relocate.

But ultimately, interns are in a very different chapter of their career and their lives, and full-time remote internships, like those over the summer, may not be optimal.

The purpose of an internship is to train young people for the real world. If a person starts their career virtually for a significant period of time and then receives a job offer later in their career that is in person, they may not be equipped to handle that new environment. As such, it is more beneficial to transition from in-person work to virtual work later in one’s career.

This can be attributed to a number of factors.

Eighty-seven percent of employees attest that in-person time in the workplace is essential for collaboration with coworkers and fostering relationships with others, both of which are very important for an intern to experience, according to a 2021 survey from PwC.

For one, in-person meetings facilitate quicker discussions and make it easier to read body language, so you do not have to wait for people to unmute or turn off cameras, especially if you do not have the privilege of a quiet workspace at home or have a poor WiFi connection.

The other important aspect of an in-person work environment is the opportunity to effectively network within a company — 79 percent of Americans said that networking helped them progress in their career, and 95 percent of professionals said that in-person interactions play an essential role in creating long-lasting professional relationships.

These strong connections in the workplace are largely responsible for future opportunities granted to a person, whether that be their next internship, full-time offer or promotion, as 85 percent of jobs are taken by people who networked their way to get there through personal and professional contacts.

Young adults should not be robbed of this vital in-person experience early in their careers as it clearly helps them propel their future careers forward. It is important that we do not forget how to properly interact with one another because of excessive remote work. And not to mention, in-person interaction can just make the overall experience more enjoyable.

While the idea of doing work from the comfort of your home or even your bed (even though it is detrimental to your health) may seem appealing, one could miss out on lunch breaks with fellow interns or other potential team-building activities organized by the company.

Humans are social creatures, and an internship can provide a group bonding experience when everyone is together in the office. Being at home, behind a screen, on your own can feel isolating, and it can become difficult to separate your workspace from your personal space as everything tends to blur together.

If companies want a more social and efficient workforce, they should invest in their interns via in-person opportunities instead of becoming complacent with fully remote options.

Hybrid work seems to be the way of the future, enabling employees to work and stay home while they are sick to keep their coworkers safe as well as prevent burnout from too much office time. But fully remote internships may hurt interns more than help them, even if they appear convenient on the surface.

While there are valid financial concerns when it comes to commuting and relocating for in-person work, companies can mitigate these concerns by compensating employees for those expenses. While it is more expensive for the company to do this, they should not hinder a young person’s career when in-person work clearly benefits both parties in the long run.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 155th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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