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Three Portland area high school students share what they learned this summer promoting Habitat for Humanity's work

Getting real world work experience while finishing high school can be difficult under normal conditions. Add a global health and humanitarian crisis, and the challenge is that much more difficult — but not impossible.

As 2020 Bank of America Student Leaders, we had the opportunity to participate in paid internships this summer working closely with Habitat for Humanity Metro East. For six weeks we met online to create a storytelling roadmap promoting Habitat for Humanity on TikTok.

Student Leaders is a Bank of America program designed to prepare a diverse pipeline of community-minded young students with leadership training and workforce experience.

COURTESY PHOTO - Bethany BrundageAlthough ours wasn't a traditional in-person internship this year, the outcome was just as impactful and positive. Through our internship, we got a taste of a real working experience with an employer that has a longstanding commitment to providing young adults like us with the skills and workforce experience we need to succeed in our future careers.

Our main message to our peers embarking on virtual internships:COURTESY PHOTO - Baasil Pasha Don't be intimidated. Our generation can rise to the occasion. Your future employer will benefit from the knowledge and skillsets you bring to the table.

Let's face it, we're already comfortable communicating through virtual platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok; we do this all the time. We are uniquely positioned to thrive in a digital work environment, and our experience this summer proved a virtual internship can be a great experience.

COURTESY PHOTO - Butch NasserOur biggest takeaways for other high school students considering virtual internships:

Create your own workspace: It helped us to have a designated area that we could work from each day to mimic an office environment, keeping us organized and focused. Virtual work requires a shift in mindset, so get out of your pajamas and try to find a quiet space where you won't be distracted by family or roommates. For video sessions, dress professionally and ensure your "office environment" is tidy.

Practice your daily routine: It's easy to fall into unproductive habits when working from home. We encourage fellow interns to practice a morning and evening routine that will help start your day off right and then wind down to end your workday. It's important to maintain balance when working from home as personal and work boundaries can quickly blur.

Make sure your technology works: Ahead of your first day, make sure all the technology needed for your job, such as computer, Internet access, cellphone, are installed and working properly, so you can start day one ready for orientation sessions and make a good first impression. You don't want to be distracted from activities because of technical issues.

Communicate: If there's one thing that's needed to succeed in a virtual work environment, it's communication. Be proactive in communicating with colleagues, mentors and managers on everything from project progress and deadlines to work challenges or obstacles. This will help both you and your peers recognize the value you are adding to your team.

Schedule regular check-ins: Schedule regular check-ins with your manager to discuss your experience, areas for improvement and tips for success. Be proactive. Managers and teammates are always happy to help mentor and work with both students and new hires. You should also leverage your company's mentorship programs and attend virtual networking sessions for skills-building opportunities, even if that means putting in a few extra hours.

Get to know your teammates: Sure, it can be harder to get to know your fellow interns and other teammates in a virtual setting. But it's still very important. Try to schedule calls or networking meetings with your colleagues to help build relationships and create bonds that you would have made through an in-person internship and share personal interests, ideas and tips.

Personally, we're thankful to have participated in Bank of America's Student Leaders program. It provided us with a great opportunity to gain valuable work, community engagement and leadership experience in the middle of a pandemic. We now know what we can accomplish with a positive attitude, a collaborative and creative spirit and willingness to adapt to new challenges.

Bethany Brundage is a senior at Benson High School in Portland. Baasil Pasha is a senior at the School of Science and Technology in Beaverton (soon to be called the Beaverton Academy of Science and Engineering). Butch Nasser is a senior at Southridge High School in Beaverton.


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