Virtual Internships

Working at Home

Have you ever thought about working from home? How about interning from home?

More and more organizations are looking at virtual ways to provide internships to a larger candidate pool and to save some costs. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently posted an article on virtual internships. It may be a great way to gain experience within an organization or industry that you may have otherwise been unable to reach.

What is a virtual internship?

A virtual internship is similar to a traditional internship in that you will be completing tasks or projects for an organization that are relevant to your degree of studies and/or career path. The difference is that you may never directly meet with your team in person. Tools such as Skype or google docs as well as email, instant message, and the phone will be your main points of interaction with co-workers and supervisors. With the increased use of Twitter for branding, a new type of position has been created- a “Twinternship”.

So what’s in it for you?

The advantage for students is that you may find more opportunities because location is not as large of a factor. Additionally, if you are already familiar with tools such as those listed above – you can hit the ground running.

A good virtual internship should be similar to a conventional internship in that it should:

  • Provide proper supervision by a professional in the field.
  • Indicate that the internship program is an established hiring channel for the organization’s career positions.
  • Provide a pre-professional level of work, clearly related to your academic major or field of interest.
  • Have a clearly defined length of duration for the internship.

Am I a fit for a virtual internship?

Before you start your search for an internship, do an honest assessment of yourself and ask the question:

“Am I a fit for a virtual internship”?

You may have a great start towards exploring a virtual internship if you are:

  • A self-starter
  • Comfortable using technology
  • At ease with working alone
  • Someone who is flexible

Having traits that are related to successful web work is an important aspect of your virtual internship search.

Conversely, if you are looking to build your interpersonal skills, have trouble focusing, or generally enjoy being around others during your work time you may want to examine whether a virtual internship is for you.

What organizations typically provide these kinds of opportunities?

The kinds of organizations that typically provide virtual internships are:

  • Small to mid size companies and online businesses
  • IT, Software Development
  • Sales, Marketing, and Social Media departments

Keep in mind that there may be virtual internships available in areas in addition to the ones listed.

What to look for in a virtual internship

Similar to what one should look for in a quality “face-to-face” internship, students should also think about what to look for and what to avoid in virtual internships. Typical questions to ask during an interview would be:

  • Who will be my supervisor and how often will we correspond?
  • Will this opportunity have potential for full-time hiring?
  • What type of work will I be doing?
  • How and when will I get paid?

What to avoid

First, start by doing some research on the company to gain an idea of whether or not a virtual internship will work for you. Some questions to think about when researching the company are:

  • Is this an established virtual internship program?
  • Why is this organization doing the work virtually?
  • Are there resources in place for this virtual program (typically some documentation or information on the web will show that the organization has invested in virtual internships)?

Additionally, try searching the organization’s name combined with the terms “scam” or “fraud” online. You may also want to contact the Better Business Bureau to gain more information on the organization if it is not available.

Do you work a virtual internship?

Do you run a virtual internship program?

I would love to see your comments here.

[Note: This post was originally written for Dan Schawbel’s Student Branding Blog.]


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