How to Onboard Interns Successfully in 2021

Intern Onboarding is changing along with the rest of the way we work. Here is how to ensure interns remain engaged while starting their internships.

November 29, 2020

So you’ve done your work and have secured a remote internship at a time when internships are hard to come by. Congratulations! Now is the time to show you are an even better employee than the company thought they were hiring. Here are 5 tips for ensuring that you learn a lot, contribute a lot, and leverage your internship experiences toward future opportunities.

Set Up a Clear Workspace

Let’s face it, working from home can become a day-to-day drag. Without any way to distinguish the work space from the play place, both productivity and personal enjoyment suffer. We recommend setting up a clear and organized space that is dedicated entirely to work. Have a clean and open desk, all the supplies you’ll need for work, a water bottle, a comfy chair, and preferably a window nearby. Set up this space and utilize it only when you must complete work. Over time, this designated space will send signals to your mind that it is time to be productive and creative.

Then, once the work is done, you can leave your desk space and enjoy the rest of your home, reserved strictly for personal enjoyment.


Saying that communication is important may be an overused sentiment, but it remains as true as ever. Nobody can read your mind. People who know you well may be able to understand your non-verbal communication, but much of that is going down the drain when you are on a Zoom call. As such, you must make sure that you are speaking your mind and conveying your thoughts, ideas, and progress to your co-workers. When in doubt, speak up. You’re there to leave your mark and be memorable.

Set Clear Goals and Expectations

Before the internship program begins, come up with a list of what you want to learn, what you want to improve on, and what you want to take away by the end of the internship. Then, when the internships starts, speak with your mentor/manager about these goals. Let them know what you want to achieve. Check in with your manager regularly about your goals during the internship. At the end of the internship program, have an exit meeting with your manager to discuss how they may help you with your goals beyond your time in the internship, whether you will return to the company or work somewhere else.

Most established professionals, especially intern managers, will be eager to help out young interns. To get the most out of the internship program, however, you must make it easy for them to help you. Structure your thoughts and proposals in a way that make it easy for managers to say yes and give you valuable advice.

Be Proactive

If interns could get away with doing little work before, that’s doubly true now. It’s so easy with distractions and the lack of virtual accountability to coast through your internship program without making actual contributions. But that’d be a complete waste of everyone’s time. Put in the effort to show that you are engaged, and make sure that you are holding yourself responsible for your own learning. This looks like asking lots of questions, voicing your ideas and opinions during team meetings, seeking feedback on your projects, and seeing where you can be of service to the team. A proactive team member will be more effective, and intern managers will recognize you as a valuable asset.

Make a Portfolio

Internships tend to be pretty short, and a lot happens in not a lot of time. You’ll likely have assignments galore, projects to attend to, and creative segments here and there. It’s easy for things to be checked off a list and forgotten about. However, it’s important to keep running documents of everything you’ve done. This way, you’ll have access to all of your accomplishments, writing, creative content, and anything else you’ve done. This will be useful for showing off your skills, abilities, and internship experiences to future employers.

Once you have all of this down, your skills and accomplishments will continue to grow and you will have greater access to more jobs and interviews. Your portfolio (and brain power) continue to grow! Harness your internship experiences for future success.