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Should you consider a Virtual Internship?  By Sandra Long

laptop-for-a-virtual-internship

Virtual internships are steadily growing in popularity. What exactly are they and should you consider one? A virtual internship allows a student to gain real work experience in a remote work setting. Typically, this means the student is working at home or from a dorm room. Students will communicate regularly with employers by telephone, instant messenger, email, Skype, webinar or social media.

There are benefits and drawbacks for college students. The benefits are often flexible work hours, minimal transportation costs, reduced commuting time, and the ability to wear casual attire. This type of flexibility may open the “internship door” for some students who wouldn’t have the chance otherwise due to a rigorous schedule of classes, jobs, sports and activities. The drawbacks could be a lack of supervision, opportunities to network, and learn about the organization and its culture.

Make sure you are dealing with a legitimate company. Michael True, author of InternQube: Professional Skills for the Workplace, suggests students look for the following evidence – “a physical location, a website, listed telephone number, and a tax ID number.” Mr. True also advises students to work with their own college career office for guidance. The employer should agree to abide by the criteria of a legitimate internship as determined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Once you know your potential virtual employer is legitimate, you will still need to make sure you have a firm understanding of the position and expectations, as with any other internship. Ask for a written job description which includes hours and assignments. Ask how you will be getting regular feedback and what to expect regarding their communication practices. If you are in a virtual internship with an organization within commuting distance of your school, Mr. True recommends that you “request a regular live meeting in a public location such as a library or coffee shop to review projects.”

Every employee should pursue valuable in-person meetings or “face time”, and this is especially important for the virtual intern.  Lisa Bonner, Sr VP at Roberts Golden and an expert in the remote workplace, offers this advice “Make sure you are networking internally and externally. Ask your boss for the names of three people that you should meet with during your virtual internship. Make a point of setting up a coffee meeting or even a virtual coffee if you are not geographically close enough.”

Virtual internships originally started with IT and software positions. Now many graphic arts and social media marketing internships are virtual.  They are popular with startup and online businesses.  The emergence of virtual internships reflects the real world reality of online and remote workers nationally.

If you find one that provides you with great learning opportunities, industry networking and fits your career strategic map, consider doing a virtual internship for one of your college internships.

Are you ready to take on a virtual internship?

 

© Copyright 2013. Sandra Long. All rights reserved.


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