Why you should work in-person this summer


Joseph Wehmeyer ’24 is a government major. Most recently, he worked an in-person internship through the William and Mary Washington Center. Contact him at jswehmeyer@wm.edu

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

With each passing day, a palpable dread and anticipation builds among those in the student body still seeking the elusive summer internship — especially at the College of William and Mary.

For the last three years, the College has topped Princeton Review’s list of the best public universities for internships, which is based on student ratings of accessibility for internship placement at their respective schools. 

Suffice it to say, both students and the administration care about internship placements — and they should. Internships provide an incredible opportunity for students to practice both hard and soft career skills, build connections and figure out their workplace and industry preferences. It is important, however, that students do not jump at opportunities where conditions are less than ideal.

While many summer internship programs in cities such as Washington, D.C. renewed in-person operations in 2023, lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic remain visible in the workplace, often to the detriment of students and recent graduates. Notably, virtual and hybrid work models became normalized, even for full-time jobs. According to a recent report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, fully-remote and hybrid job positions now outnumber fully in-person ones. 

Don’t get me wrong, remote work flexibility has legitimate benefits. When utilized effectively, it can help employees attain a better work-life balance. Parents can be more available to their children if working from home. Employees can save both time and money lost in their commutes each day. For new hires or interns, hybrid or remote availability can increase accessibility to organizations that may otherwise be inaccessible due to location.

But these benefits are mostly appreciated by employees who have already settled into their roles in their respective companies or communities. Part-time and full-time employees tend to view remote work options much more favorably than interns do. 

This makes sense. 

Working from home could provide some much-desired flexibility for those who have settled into a career or city. But what about students looking to discover their workplace preferences and gain those vital skills needed to secure a job after graduation?

While arguments for or against remote work vary among industries and individuals, interns and new hires have the most to lose in this development. 

For interns and entry-level employees, in-person experiences are crucial to prepare for life after graduation. Moreover, it is significantly harder to build relationships with colleagues and learn skills through osmosis when the majority of workplace interactions are virtual. According to the same NACE report, more students prefer in-person work to hybrid or virtual options. It’s easy to understand why. 

According to a 2022 Glassdoor study, 70% of interns viewed remote work negatively, due to an absence of interactions with colleagues and mentors. While remote work flexibility has notable benefits, it should be an exception, not the norm, especially in light of a company’s future hires.

As the pandemic has faded out of focus, many employers have issued return-to-office mandates, citing productivity concerns. The future of in-person work for many firms remains uncertain, however, as companies try to strike a balance that is satisfactory to their current employees.

If returning to the office turns out to be a truly irreconcilable difference between employers and employees, companies should make concerted efforts to bolster onboarding programs for new interns and hires to ensure they’re not left behind. Good onboarding has made the difference for me everywhere I have worked. That process is invariably made more difficult when in-person communication and interactions are taken out of the equation.

Working from home could unknowingly and inadvertently stunt the professional development of Generation Z, despite the very real benefits it gives some tenured employees.

For College undergraduates who are looking for internships this summer but are unsure if they could actually live in the place they would want to work, the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement offers funding to help make such opportunities possible. Additionally, for students looking to work in Washington, D.C., the William & Mary Washington Center has programs to study and work in the city year-round.

Sometimes remote work makes sense for students, but the intangible benefits of in-person placements should not be forgotten. Consider this when choosing your next internship or job.


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