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What are virtual internships? Why should I do one?

A woman sits at an outdoor table typing on a laptop

If you hadn’t heard about virtual internships before Covid-19, you’ve definitely heard about them now. Many companies and industries transitioned their internships, fellowships, and training programs to be completely remote. While this new format might seem strange, it’s still an opportunity for tremendous personal and professional growth. The global economy might look different today, and more daunting than you’ve experienced before. However, internship experience is just as important as it always has been.

Getting professional exposure to your field before setting out on a job hunt is crucial, even if your job hunt ends in a remote position. The internship field might be more competitive than ever, but one of the best things about a virtual internship is that it expands your options. Traditional internships that require commuting to an office might limit you to a specific geographic location. But if you’re curious about remote work, and are thinking of applying to a virtual internship, geographic flexibility is an important thing to consider.

As a remote intern, you can apply for placements with companies based in a different city, country, or continent. The flexibility of these placements means you might even be able to take on a part-time position while you’re in school, or working an existing job. In short, virtual internships make professional success accessible to anyone with a laptop and some self-motivation.

 

 

A young woman relaxing on a sofa types on a laptop

 

In order to answer the question “what are virtual internships,” it’s important to also discuss what virtual internships are not. These remote professional placements aren’t just an easy way to add something to your CV without putting in work. In fact, virtual internships can be just as challenging and stimulating as in-person placements. They also have the added challenge of requiring self-motivation and direction.

Many people might think virtual internships are lonely, or a waste of time. Nothing could be further from the truth! Virtual internships aren’t about getting a project assignment, working it out on your own, and handing it in a few weeks later. Interns collaborate closely with their supervisors and teammates and take part in virtual social meetups and networking events. Remote placements are just as valuable as traditional internships, and thanks to today’s technology, you’ll barely know you’re not face-to-face.

 

So, what are virtual internships?

Networking opportunities

The remote nature of a virtual internship doesn’t change the fact that it’s an excellent opportunity to build your professional network. In fact, many companies have developed impressive remote networking events and programming specifically for their online interns. Make sure to ask about this in the interview process, as it is absolutely key.

It’s true that networking virtually takes a bit of extra effort on your part. After all, you won’t run into the CEO in an elevator, and you won’t meet a design specialist at the coffee machine. However, it’s not difficult to recreate these meetings remotely. Invite one person a week to a short virtual coffee chat or lunch meeting, and do informational interviews to learn about their career trajectory and best advice.

 

Collaborative work

Many virtual internships are defined by collaborative work, so get ready to use technology to your advantage. Interns work closely on projects and assignments and check in frequently with their supervisors. Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams are just a few of the platforms that teams use to keep in close touch.

 

Exposure to a field

As with any internship, one of the top benefits of a remote placement is exposure to the career field you hope to enter. Virtual internships are particularly valuable and relevant today, because many of the world’s top companies are working completely remotely. There’s a good chance you’ll be hired for a remote role at some point in the future, and you’ll be able to explain your prior experience in doing just that.

 

Skill development

Just because you aren’t sitting next to someone doesn’t mean you won’t learn new skills. Remote interns take part in essential training and workshops, and learn directly from experts in their field. In fact, remote interns frequently have more autonomy when it comes to applying their skills in a professional setting. As a remote intern, you’ll decide your own direction and have creative authority. Of course, support and advice is only ever a phone call or DM away.

 

Relationship building

In addition to building up a network, virtual internships also provide opportunities to build meaningful professional relationships. If you’re looking to find a mentor in your field, virtual internships are a great place to start. The people you work closely with will also become excellent references for you in the future, and will vouch for you when you apply for a full-time role.

 

Discover our virtual internship programs here.

Photos:

  1. Office working, by Christin Hume on Unsplash
  2. Untitled, by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

 

 

 

Blog by Maeve Allsup

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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