Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
To get a better perspective on how to deliver Engineering Consulting Services’ (ECS) annual internship summit in a virtual environment, Alan Ninan and his colleagues had to elevate their view from “10,000 feet up.”
Ninan, ECS’s university talent assistant, worked closely with the firm’s university talent manager to adapt the event to the virtual environment.
“We have become extremely intentional about every decision we made,” Ninan says, noting that all of ECS’s approximately 70 interns this summer will be connected through a virtual summit.
“We always come back to the fact that we value the safety and the overall experience for the intern. We put ourselves in our interns’ shoes and asked ourselves how we would feel during a virtual summit, what would start diminishing the returns for their engagement and fruitfulness, and more. We gathered data from the interns themselves and started piecing together the details for the summit.”
They also adapted their existing resources—such as the intern handbook and welcome packages—and created a new agenda that was based on all of the insight, data, and feedback they collected. The agenda for the virtual summit includes a welcome from ECS’s CEO detailing the firm’s commitment to the internship program, interviews with previous interns, dialogue on how to be a successful intern, and information on how to succeed in this job market.
“We will culminate the virtual summit by providing the interns with steps for growth,” says Ninan, who adds that ECS has incorporated the NACE career readiness competencies and information from the NACE Community Library to make the summit’s programs more student-centric.
“We want to showcase that we are still hiring full-time employees. However, the overall goal of the summit is to give the interns a view of who ECS is and the tools they need to succeed during their internship with us academically and professionally beyond their internship.”
Besides the shift to a virtual format, perhaps the biggest change to ECS’s intern summit is in the length of the event, dropping from an original duration of four-plus hours for the live event to an hour or less for the virtual program.
“This is something that we went back and forth on,” Ninan explains.
“It seems like a small issue, but after a great deal of deliberation, we leaned on the important fact that college students are bombarded with technology right now. They are overwhelmed with online classes, conferences, webinars, and more. Strategically, we chose to dramatically shorten our intern summit to avoid intern fatigue.”
ECS has yet to determine if its virtual intern summit will be live or pre-recorded. Ninan says the firm will comply with CDC standards and “train up” its local offices to adjust to the ever-changing landscape.
“Together, we will teach our interns professional adaptability, give them a chance to engage with clients, help them develop their virtual etiquette, teach them how to follow up, and work with them on new networking practices,” Ninan says.
“We will give them more labor-intensive and specialized projects so there is more mentorship and coaching than we had previously intended.”
Ninan offers several tips for holding a virtual intern summit:
- Begin with empathy—In light of the unique circumstances, it is critical to understand you interns’ needs and capabilities, and what is most valuable to them to reach their academic and career goals. Add this value in your programming.
- Define your major objectives and goals prior to your execution stages—This should be an area of intense focus in your planning. Defined goals will help you trim the unnecessary information that you might feel you need at the moment.
- Do not reinvent the wheel—Leverage your network. Connect with fellow professionals in your industry.
Ninan points out that accounting for the coronavirus pandemic has helped the ECS team become more creative.
“We have created intern engagement that we had never thought of before,” he says.
“It has not only let us shape a new summit, it has given us a fresh perspective on all of our work. We have reflected on and changed how we interact in this virtual environment. We are committed to developing interns who are well-rounded. This has not slowed us down; instead, it has ramped us up to be stronger and better than ever and we are going to set new standards for future intern classes.”