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How Does an Internship Work in Times of Corona?

"In a crisis, you have the special opportunity to learn more about yourself."

Heike Hülpüsch, Director Career Center at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, tells in an interview how the Career Center reacted to the work and travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus, how it advises students virtually on their internship, and how networking takes place digitally.

Most of our BSc and MSc students had already confirmed internships for the coming semester break. Due to Covid-19, many of these internships have been canceled. What role does the Career Center play in this context?

First, we received individual "calls for help" from students who had their internships canceled. As the corona situation worsened, the number of students who contacted us also increased. At the same time, in all our communication with external partners, we constantly asked for ways to fill the gap of canceled internships. The most successful of these requests was one titled "We need your help #wekeepWHUrunning", which we addressed to a number of alumni. The mail, contained a link where recipients could immediately upload their internship offers (duration, job description, requirements, language skills, etc.). In the Career Center, we tried in team calls to match and connect "seekers" with "bidders" in the best possible way.

Especially in times of crisis, relationship management is of particular value. How does further work with the alumni network look like?

The alumni work and the exchange with our graduates have always been an important focus of our Career Center. We maintain a close exchange with our alumni. This has proven to be particularly valuable in this crisis. We keep interviewing our alumni until we finally know who is a potential employer and where and when they can offer internships. We invite our alumni to various event formats - when events were still taking place, on campus. It is just “WHUonderful” that they always like to come.

What about international internships? Is a switch to e.g. home office/remote possible - despite the time difference? What happens if internships are completely canceled?

Unfortunately, international internships were also canceled. This also happened because of the travel warnings of the Robert Koch Institute. A switch to remote was only successful here and there. The school offers the possibility to make up for one's international internship next year and to complete another national internship this year.

As in every department where work is characterized by contact with other people, you, too, have to rethink in the current situation. Personal counselling appointments are hardly possible, career events such as company presentations and job fairs on campus cannot take place. How do you meet this challenge?

Thank God we had just finished all the company presentations, workshops, and career events. From day one we initiated a daily team call. Each of us is technically equipped so that we can (if necessary) work from home without any problems. Counselling appointments with students have also been changed, and they all take place online now.

The media is increasingly reporting that companies are offering remote internships to students that take place from home. How do students respond to this, and how do you rate such digital work experiences?

After all, we are all affected by the crisis - we are all invited to rethink and make the best of the situation. Eight weeks ago, the situation was completely different. Today, I would recommend to everyone to rather work remotely than not to do an internship at all. In a crisis, you have the special opportunity to learn more about yourself. And by reflecting, you will realize certain things - like what is important to you or where do you see your personal strengths.

What impact could the current solutions for actively supporting placements in spite of the crisis have in the future? Are interviews and job interviews likely to be increasingly digital?

We at the Career Center are firmly convinced that interview processes will become digital. We already had a HireVue workshop on this topic for our students in October 2019. During the workshop, interview questions were asked; the students filmed each other and then analyzed and reflected on their recordings. This was a valuable exercise for working under pressure in an agile environment. Among others, these skills will become increasingly important both during a crisis and in the time after it.

Read here about the insights Dr. Christine Menges (Director of the WHU MBA Career Center) shares on the job market for MBA students in Germany


Read also how other WHU departments managed the current situation: 

International Relations Office
BSc and MSc Examination Office                                                                                             
Welcome Center 

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