Virtual internships have plenty to offer labor and employment relations students

September 04, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The novel coronavirus did not stop students in the School of Labor and Employment Relations in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts from spending their summers successfully completing internships.

“My experience has been wonderful and beyond my expectations,” said Natalie Weaver, who was a tax intern at Ernst & Young (EY) in the firm's state and local tax team. “I was initially disappointed to be missing out on the 'typical' internship experience, but I’ve learned to appreciate every experience and to turn everything into a learning moment.”

Weaver, of Coatesville, is beginning her fifth year as a candidate in the Penn State Smeal College of Business' master's in corporate finance program. She completed her undergraduate studies in May 2020 with degrees in accounting and labor and employment relations, a major which was recently renamed labor and human resources.

Weaver worked on several projects over the summer with a focus on researching the impact of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on several EY clients. She explained that her work involved examining each state’s emergency orders and how they applied to the clients’ business operations to see if they could utilize the Employee Retention Credit.

“It’s very timely. Every day new information comes out about how the CARES Act impacts certain businesses and states,” she said, adding that it was interesting to see how legislation is directly tied to the tax practice.

However, adjusting to working from home was a challenge.

“It can be a little lonely,“ Weaver said. “You miss out on the camaraderie among your fellow interns or other staff members who would normally be sitting right next to you.”

Natalie Weaver spent her summer working as a tax intern at Ernst & Young (EY).

Natalie Weaver spent the summer working as a tax intern at Ernst & Young (EY). Weaver is beginning her fifth year as a candidate in the master's in corporate finance program at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business. She completed her undergraduate studies in May 2020 with degrees in accounting and labor and employment relations, a major which was recently renamed labor and human resources.

IMAGE: Natalie Weaver

Andrew Clark, a second-year graduate student in the school’s human resources and employment relations program, also expected to be working out of an office this summer. Clark, of DuBois, planned on relocating to Seattle to intern with Microsoft before the pandemic kept him at home. 

“I’ve done online classes over the course of my academic career, but it’s definitely a different mindset when your bed is 20 feet from your office,” he said. 

Clark interacted with a diverse range of employees at Microsoft in his role as a recruiter on the global talent acquisition team.

“I had the chance to experience full life-cycle hiring, from sourcing and cold calling all the way through using applicant tracking systems and sitting in on interviews and offers,” he explained.

Clark also got experience working with hiring managers to fill jobs. He collaborated on a project to help those managers get more comfortable with platforms like LinkedIn to make the most of networking.

“Part of the internship included a series of regular meetings with different managers and mentors to monitor my progress on weekly goals and sometimes just to check in,” said Clark. “Microsoft is pretty lucky to have the resources and infrastructure like Teams to use for remote work already in place, so other than me personally adjusting to working from home, things went very smoothly. They’ve done everything they could to make this as good of an experience as possible. I still felt like I’m part of a team.”

In early April, Dominique Buchholz was worried that her internship with IBM might be canceled.

“Happily, the transition to a virtual internship was seamless,” she said. “IBM sent their interns laptops and spent time walking us through all the programs. They really care about giving us the best possible experience.”

Buchholz, of Annapolis, Maryland, completed an integrated undergraduate/graduate program (IUG) from the school in May 2020. Her undergraduate degree is in labor and employment relations, while her master’s degree is in human resources and employment relations.

During the first week of the internship, Buchholz and her fellow interns chose the areas of human resources that were most interesting to them and were subsequently assigned to different managers. Buchholz focused on executive succession and development.

“I worked on tasks related to succession planning for future IBM leaders and determining which critical roles to focus on in the leadership pipeline,” she said.

These tasks included collaborating with IBM’s global business unit to create org charts — visual, quantitative tools used for career conversations. Buchholz virtually sat down with executives from all over the company for brief interviews about what they have been working on. Buchholz also helped implement a company-wide weekly wrap-up that will be used even after the end of her internship.

“The best part for me was how excited everyone at IBM was to work with interns,” Buchholz said. “The experience was so much more than the stereotypical sitting in on meetings or other simple tasks. It was really stressed to us that interns have functional roles and can make a lasting impact, even if we’re not all in the same room.”

  • Dominique Buchholz (top left) interned with IBM.

    Dominique Buchholz, top left, interned with IBM and focused on executive succession and development.

    IMAGE: Dominique Buchholz

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 04, 2020