Maggie Stamets is a writer for BUILT BY GIRLS, which prepares the next generation of female and non-binary leaders to step into their power and break into their careers. WAVE is the backbone of BUILT BY GIRLS: it’s a 1:1 matching program that connects high school and college students with top tech professionals across the country. For more information and to sign up check out builtbygirls.com.
Even in normal times, it’s not uncommon for a manager to be unsure of how to create an experience for an intern or newly-hired entry-level position that balances mentorship and exposure with an appropriate workload to sink their teeth into. And with the move to a virtual workplace, it’s even harder to strike a balance between too much oversight and no support and too much work and not enough.
So if you find yourself getting bored on the clock, don’t reach for your phone, scroll through Twitter, start your laundry, or tune out completely — try these ideas instead.
Ask your supervisor
The first place you should always go for more work is your direct supervisor. Send them a message saying you’ve completed the last task and you’re ready for more work. If they don’t have anything ready for you, ask if there is anyone else in the office you should ask.
Take a virtual lap
When I interned at Oprah Magazine and had nothing to do, I would take a lap around the office. But I was careful to never interrupt anyone if they were on a call or looked focused. This led to me getting tasks from many different departments and I was top of mind if anyone needed any help.
You may not be able to physically take a lap around the office, but you can check in on Slack. Reach out to other people on your team to see if they need anything. It’s a bit harder to send people a cold message than pop a head into their office, so it’s a good idea to ask your manager who to reach out to first.
Or mention something specific you’d like to help with. For example: “Hi there, you mentioned in the team meeting this morning that you were still sorting survey data. Do you need a hand with that?”
After you’ve asked around for more work, think about anything you’ve noticed that could be improved. I don’t mean huge high-level projects, but maybe that daily news round-up you send to the team could be streamlined, or the intern Google Drive could be organized.
Find a way to leave your team better than you found it. But always check with your manager before making any permanent changes.
Read everything you can
Stay up to date on industry news and any updates within your company. When you have downtime, read articles that will keep you sharp and well-informed. You can also go through any documents you have access to that may give you further insight into how your team works.
Raise your hand for every task, even if it seems boring
Show your team that you are eager to help in any way. When you’re in that weekly meeting and there is an ask for someone to take on a task — always offer your help. You’ll get a lot more work this way and people will see you’re up for all kinds of projects.
Your efforts to gain more experience and be helpful to your team or company will not go unnoticed. You’ll leave a positive impression and you’ll end up learning so much more than if you had waited for the tasks to come your way. Plus, it will keep you motivated and excited about your role even as you work from home.
Read more information and tips in our Advice section