Siloed in our homes during the coronavirus pandemic, the world at large is craving connectivity in some form. In the midst of this global yearning for interaction, students — by their nature a highly social population — are facing shuttered campuses and diminished job opportunities. Bringing students on board virtually can provide vast benefits to both companies and interns alike — and establish brands as innovative leaders moving forward.
At eBay, we’re excited to welcome our newest class of interns this summer, who recently started over the past few weeks. We view our internship program as a way to shape the next generation of talent and create a hiring pipeline, as well as to have Gen Z and Millennials help us create impactful solutions. Though the pandemic has made it untenable to continue in-person internship programs this summer, there are tremendous opportunities for organizations to create virtual programs that highlight our respective strengths in ways that will long outlast this virus.
Thus, the question for us became not if we would continue our internship program, but how to translate a meaningful, impactful 12-week experience to a virtual program of the same duration for nearly 100 interns spread across the U.S. All the while, we’re strengthening our key programmatic pillars in both helping students understand eBay and enhancing their peer connections.
Virtual learning is the best option for securing our company’s commitment to the health and safety of our team. During the two-week period in which we shifted our program to virtual, we also came to appreciate the enormous creative opportunities that could be realized in an online program. As we shifted our program to virtual this year, here are the three things we see as keys to success:
1. Center Around Connectivity
In talking to our Class of 2020 interns, it’s abundantly clear that the virtual nature of the program proves no hurdle for this group — after all, Gen Z grew up in a world with tech at every touchpoint. Instead, what they shared is that their concerns center around their ability to network and prove their value in a fully virtual setting. Our solutions? In response, we’ve tailor-made virtual mixers, fun online ice-breaker activities and private channels on platforms like Slack, Instagram and LinkedIn where interns can mingle with their peers. The University Recruiting and Programs team also hosts virtual check-ins with interns. It’s all about providing guidance, camaraderie and empathy to our interns, to shepherd them through this unique summer of uncertainty.
In addition, events such as Think Tank Sessions are led by our leaders at eBay and gives our interns a chance to ideate on our business. Interns then have the opportunity to work in teams to provide solutions for the business challenge and winners get to present their ideas to the leader themselves. Hiring managers have committed to regular check-ins. Sessions are hosted with small business vendors to allow interns insight into how eBay is helping make a difference and afford a look at profiles of entrepreneurship around the country. In some ways, going virtual expands the opportunities for connections with the touch of a button. We’re all working at home, in our individual silos, which has evened the playing field. Everyone within each level of the organization is eager to connect, to reach out professionally and personally, so that yearning for connection across the board — as well as across our seller community — will be a boost for our interns.
2. Bring Your Best Self to Work
As part of our core values, eBay strives to join people together, providing connections and economic opportunities for everyone, everywhere. Making the workplace — whether virtual or physical — a welcoming space where people of all backgrounds and abilities can thrive is central to what we do. This emphasis on inclusivity has become even more important as a result of this global crisis. We’re all feeling very human and vulnerable right now. As a group, the members of Gen Z and Millennials crave honesty and self-expression. Those are qualities we want to continue to embrace and respect in this new arena. We’ve planned events for self expression and connection, with topics ranging from cooking to music. It’s all about listening and learning to our interns, based on who they are and what they need, then adapting to better support them as the summer progresses.
3. Embrace Change
The whole world is currently in flux. As a result, we want to provide an anchor for our interns, while remaining nimble and responsive to their needs as the health crisis unfolds. Interns have rolling start dates over the summer, but we have recorded several events as webinars, so those who start later can see what their colleagues learned earlier — a benefit that only virtual learning can offer. All of our events, activities and meet-ups will be immediately followed up with surveys, so we can adjust to interns’ requests and the changing global situation as we progress through the summer. At a broader level, having a virtual program for our interns levels the playing field to a large extent. No matter where in the country our interns are located, they will all access eBay in the same way and have the same connective experience, creating uniform opportunities for a student base across the U.S. Overall, an understanding of how to shift at both a micro and macro level will help lead this program as it does our company overall.
Will we keep our program virtual in years to come? Right now, no one knows what the future will hold and how it will evolve. We understand that flexibility and a willingness to adapt will be key to helping all our employees over the coming months. But we are passionate about inviting this next generation of talent to our community table and creating the appropriate space and tools to make that happen. Students are the future of our workforce — and it’s up to us to support them in these unique times.