Internships and experiential learning are an integral part of a St. John’s education. However, when the pandemic threw the world into a state of turmoil in early 2020, many planned internships were put on hold or canceled.
Fortunately, through perseverance and creativity—and the help of University Career Services—St. John’s students secured valuable, real-world experience in a wide range of business sectors through remote internships. In this two-part series, students share their experiences of interning from a distance.
PowerPhyl Media Solutions
While some students accepted summer internships under the assumption they would take place on site and in person, Clarissa Alvarez knew her internship this fall would be a remote one. While some students might have had trepidation about a virtual position, Clarissa gladly accepted the challenge.
“As a student, a good amount of your work outside of the classroom is done alone,” she said. “I feel I was prepared for a remote role since I am already used to doing so much work that way and at my own pace.”
As an intern at PowerPhyl Media Solutions, a Manhattan-based media agency, Clarissa connects each day with her team via Slack and Zoom. While she is gaining valuable, real-world experience throughout the internship, she admits that it can be challenging at times to forge strong professional relationships from a distance.
“Being able to connect with everyone can be difficult because there is really no time to get to know them through a Zoom meeting,” she said. “In a traditional setting, I would be able to absorb all the daily office knowledge and gain a full picture of their operations. As a remote intern, there are times when I feel I can only absorb knowledge from the few employees I am in contact with.”
Still, she values the experience as she works each day on a variety of projects, ranging from newsletters to monitoring client dashboards. A senior in the University’s five-year M.B.A. program, Clarissa is eager to continue her studies and complement her education with experiential learning.
“My primary goal is to finish my M.B.A. at St. John’s,” she said. “By that time, I will have completed at least one or two more internships and have a grasp on what I really enjoy in terms of working on a daily basis and starting a career.”
When junior Austin Bovino began his search for a summer internship, he started early and enlisted the help of University Career Services. Together, they tailored his résumé to reflect the actuarial internship position he sought and reviewed test questions to prepare him for interviews.
The hard work paid off, and he landed a prime internship with The Hartford, a leader in property and casualty insurance, group benefits, and mutual funds. While he looked forward to working in an office setting over the summer, when the pandemic hit, the company pivoted to a remote workplace, and the internship transitioned into a virtual experience.
“The company did an excellent job of still giving us opportunities to learn and connect as if we were in the office,” said Austin, a native of Wethersfield, CT. “The Hartford has been rated one of the most ethical companies to work for, and it can be seen throughout the organization.”
The internship operated as if Austin was physically at the company’s offices. “I would log on in the morning before 9 a.m., and then I would work an eight-hour day with times for breaks,” he said. “Our meetings were conducted over Skype, and to connect with people you could either IM, voice or video call, or email. My manager and I touched base for a 1:1 every week and then as needed if I required assistance.”
Austin worked on a number of critical projects in the areas of group benefits, pricing tools, coverages, and more, giving him the real-world experience that employers seek in candidates.
“Course work gives you a foundation that you can build upon in an internship,” he said. “My internship this past summer showed me how to work in a professional corporate environment and what it is like to be an actuary.”
Austin is also a Career Peer—current students who assist other students within their particular college by providing advice on resumes, cover letters, and interviewing. He, and fellow Career Peer, Michael Coviello, were featured on GetHiredStJohns, the Career Services Instagram page, discussing their remote internship experiences.
Austin will intern at Synchrony Financial next summer.
Accounting, Class of 2021
Michael began his pursuit of a summer internship in the Fall of 2019 after attending a networking event on St. John’s Queens, NY, campus.
“I had the opportunity to meet a number of employees from Janover LLC, a public accounting firm with offices in Manhattan and Garden City, NY,” he said. “After learning about the company and its culture, I applied for an internship through Handshake. Robert Beaudet, Career and Internship Advisor, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, helped me prepare for the interviews.”
Originally, Michael’s internship was to last 10 weeks and be in person, but due to COVID-19, it was moved to a virtual platform over the course of four weeks.
“As interns, we used Microsoft Teams to communicate with each other, as well as with partners, managers, and other associates,” he said. “They were always willing to take calls if they had free time, and it was easy to send a message to them and schedule a time to talk.”
Michael and his fellow interns followed regular business hours (9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.) while working remotely and were assigned projects on a daily basis.
“We were also given an intern project for the summer regarding the Paycheck Protection Program and the repayment of those loans,” he recalled. “It was an amazing opportunity to apply what we learned in the classroom.”
According to Michael, a Career Peer, the biggest challenge of working remotely was not having the opportunity to bond with others on a personal level. “It is an important aspect in any job,” he explained.
With graduation on the horizon, Michael focuses on sitting for his upcoming Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and securing a full-time position after college. “I want to keep learning more about the direction of the accounting industry and how I can better anticipate the changes that are coming and be prepared for the future.”
Christian Rega’s internship experience is a real-life example of the age-old expression, “good things come to those who wait.” His pursuit of a prized Morgan Stanley internship began in Fall 2019 and culminated with an offer of employment following his time working with the company last summer. He will join the firm as a full-time employee in July.
“I will be an Operations Analyst, and I am super excited to return there,” said Christian, who explained that the recruiting process in finance can often take up to one year. “I loved my time working with them last summer. Whether it was the people or the culture, I felt at home.”
Christian interned with Morgan Stanley’s Warehouse Lending Team from the comfort of his home in Wantagh, NY, a position he secured with the help of Career and Internship Advisor Jennifer Friary. “First, she assisted with editing my résumé. Then, she helped with the application process. Finally, she helped me prepare for each interview,” he recalled. “She was very thorough throughout the process.”
While Christian had a traditional internship as a sophomore, he felt much better equipped for his internship at Morgan Stanley due to the additional classes he took as an upperclassman. “My course work at St. John’s greatly prepared me for both internships,” he said. “But, as a junior, I had completed more classes, and I was able to directly connect my course work to the internship.”
He typically worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.—hours he found to be very favorable. “It left time for me to work out, either in the morning or at night,” he explained. “That is important to me since I play on the lacrosse team for St. John’s.”
Each day, Christian met with his supervisors and other team members over Zoom or Skype to discuss daily projects, group work, and individual assignments. “The system worked well, as I was always in contact with someone from work,” he said. “The world is leaning more on technology than ever before. If working from home is the new norm, I am glad I had the opportunity to partake in this new way of life.”