Dani Habegger doesn’t know what the future of internships looks like, but if anyone is qualified to make a guess, it’s the Fisher graduate.
Her experiences as an intern spanned a monumental shift in on-the-job learning. She was one of many students to experience in-person internships and virtual ones in 2019 and 2020, providing her with unique insights into the changing landscape of internships.
“Companies offering remote internships can still train and teach college students without having to offer a relocation stipend,” said Habegger, who interned first at Yelp, then with McDonald’s. “For interns, this can be beneficial because they don’t have to relocate and can complete their internship from home — saving so much money.”
There’s also a level of enterprise-wide perspective that virtual internships can provide.
“At McDonald’s, I was able to set up meetings with people all across the organization,” said Habegger, who eventually joined the company as a rotational technology specialist after graduating in 2021. “It was really nice to talk with people who worked not only in the headquarters in Chicago, but people in countries around the world.”
The experience differed from her 2019 internship at Yelp. In the office, coworkers were more easily accessible and communication was streamlined.
“I liked being able to easily talk with my manager,” she said. “I didn’t have to set up a meeting on Teams or wait 30 minutes for a response. I could just go up to her.”
It’s why Habegger supports some sort of in-person experience for students, even if it’s only a small part of an internship.
“It will help them to get a feel of how everything works,” she said.
Audrey Bledsoe, OCM assistant director of Undergraduate Career Services and Education, predicts companies will continue offering internships — or portions of them virtually.
“The key is flexibility,” she said. “It can save companies — and students — a lot of money to hold meetings and gatherings virtually rather than having employees travel long distances. However, I know that most students feel that they get much more out of being in-person than they do being virtual.”
Casey Spangler (BSBA ’21) also experienced the duality of in-person and virtual experiences. In 2019, she interned with JOANN Fabrics, where she was onsite in Hudson, Ohio. The following year, she completed a virtual internship with John Deere.
“I learned a lot about building confidence and how to keep myself motivated in the workplace in both of my internships,” she said. “At JOANN, I learned the lesson of asking questions, even if it feels like too many. I carried that into my Deere internship and asked as many questions as I could. Even now, in my full-time job, I continue to ask questions and think of new ways for the business to be more efficient.”
From her point of view, she also sees the future of internships as being virtual or hybrid in format.
“COVID-19 has introduced new and innovative ways to connect, learn and work. I believe businesses will take advantage of these ways to reach a more competitive and driven workforce,” said Spangler, who now works as a purchasing, inventory and logistics specialist at Kent Corporation.
Whether they’re offering in-person or virtual, Bledsoe said companies stand to gain by partnering with the OCM for internship talent.
“One of the best things a company can do is increase its presence on campus to foster interest and awareness among students,” she said. “We can help facilitate that through our student organization connections, Fisher career fairs, opportunities to speak in classes and setting up on-campus interviews.”