Schwab internships move online

Schwab Intern Academy goes virtual due to social and workplace distancing


For college students who are taking their first steps toward determining their career paths, internships can provide some much-needed clarity about what they might — or might NOT — want to do for a living.

Likewise, for companies and other organizations that are looking to fill their ranks with new talent, interns represent one of the best sources of future employees.

But what happens when offices are closed and workers are telecommuting from home due to COVID-19? As internships shift to an online format, how will the experience be changed for the students — and companies — participating?

For the first time ever, Charles Schwab’s nine-week Intern Academy is being held entirely online this summer, with students reporting for work each day the same way more than 95 percent of Schwab’s workforce currently is: from home.

Schwab intern, Derek Torres
Derek Torres, one of the many interns participating in the Schwab Intern Academy.

According to a recent article in USA Today, Schwab is not alone in this shift. While tech giants such as Google, Twitter, IBM and Microsoft were quick to take the plunge to virtual internships this year, even industries outside of the high-tech sphere such as insurance and financial services firms will be hosting their internship programs virtually.

Regardless of where they’re sitting, Schwab is intent on providing this year’s class of 230-plus interns (in 141 cities) with an immersive, authentic work experience during their time with the company.

Quote - King

Even though our interns will be working from home, the same core principles will apply. They will be working on key projects for their business units and on things that will expose them to the culture of Schwab. In doing so, they’ll have opportunities to experience collaborating with others across the company, just as they would if they were here in person.”

Elizabeth King, senior vice president of Talent and Organizational Development at Schwab
Elizabeth King, senior vice president of Talent and Organizational Development at Schwab

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Not only will the work be similar, but — with a few nuances — the things that have made past students successful at traditional, in-person internships will help make this year’s students successful in a virtual setting. Whether it’s time management while juggling multiple web meetings, creating realistic goals or even networking with other interns and employees, learning to navigate the workplace (online or off) can be an entire job in itself.

“Sometimes, we find interns who feel they have to squeeze everything into the nine-week program,” said Elizabeth King. “I would encourage them not to do this. Be focused and hard-working, certainly, but take the time to ask great questions and be customer-focused. Support other interns, focus on understanding others and finding out if this work is a good fit.”

She added that, from Schwab’s perspective, there is just as much to learn from the students. “What else do we need to know and do so that they — and our full-time employees — feel connected to the company and our culture while working remotely? Are there ways to engage people more effectively? How can we understand their perspectives to build better products and services? They see and know things we don’t know — by listening to their perspective, they can help us build a company that serves clients more effectively.”

To read more viewpoints about Schwab’s Intern Academy and the unique challenges its participants face today, view Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger’s post on LinkedIn.