DETROIT — Kristina Nunez is trying to land a full-time job in the auto industry — and do it without meeting her boss in person.
Many internship programs were canceled in the spring when offices across the country closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But some have been able to pivot and allow interns to work online, just like their full-time counterparts.
Nunez and other work-from-home interns are confronting the difficulties of working with people they know only as tiny, pixelated faces or phantom voices on the phone. It's harder than in the past for interns hoping to snag job offers to make a strong impression or develop relationships with peers and mentors. But doing an internship online keeps them in the pipeline.
Nunez, 22, started a coveted product development internship at Ford Motor Co. on June 1. The fifth-year undergraduate at the University of Michigan is at a pivotal point in her career path.
"It's kind of my last time seeing how different companies work before I do pick one and then go full time," she said.
Nunez was supposed to work at Ford's Dearborn, Mich., headquarters but is instead working online from Ann Arbor, Mich.
Almost half of the respondents to an April poll by the National Association of Colleges and Employers said they had shifted to virtual internship programs.
Companies have to decide whether the work can be done remotely and how they can evaluate the interns' performance and capabilities. But if automakers and suppliers can't adapt to the global health crisis — while tech giants such as Twitter and Facebook embrace working from home — they risk losing access to talented graduates for future openings.