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Everything Students Need to Know About Virtual Internships

Everything Students Need to Know About Virtual Internships main image

Now that you’re probably becoming a little more used to studying at home, why not try a virtual internship?

Traditional in-person internships are no longer a viable option for most students, since the introduction of lockdown. As a result, virtual internships are growing in popularity as a great alternative since the start of the coronavirus pandemic

But what is a virtual internship? Which companies are offering them? Are they as highly regarded as in-person internships by employers?

We spoke to the co-founder of virtualinternships.com, Ed Holroyd Pearce, to find out the answer to all these questions, and more.

What is a virtual internship?

Intern working at desk

A virtual internship is a work experience placement that students can do from home. During the internship, students communicate with their employer through a range of resources, including Skype, Microsoft Teams, email, webinars, and Slack. 

Holroyd Pearce said: “The intern will meet virtually with their supervisor to discuss projects and progress. There might also be key times that are made available for online coffee breaks or catch-ups with colleagues”.

Virtual internships (sometimes called remote internships) will look great on your resume and will give you some valuable work experience, which you can draw from when applying and interviewing for graduate roles.

“Virtual internships are for anyone and everyone,” commented Holroyd Pearce.

They offer students who are unable to complete a traditional internship “the opportunity to gain valuable employability skills.”

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How long do the internships last?

“We believe that a valuable remote work experience program should consist of around 120 hours,” said Holroyd Pearce.

He said: “At Virtual Internships, we’ve curated programs that are four, eight or 12 weeks long and require 20 to 30 hours work per week. The projects set by host companies will be built with this minimum standard in mind”.

Which industries are offering them?

Virtual internships are offered by a wide variety of companies. “We partner with organizations across 18 different career fields” said Holroyd Pearce. Virtual Internships work with both entrepreneurial startups and big as well as larger well-known companies.

Holroyd Pearce explains that many people aren’t aware of the wide scope of virtual internships. He said: “When somebody thinks of sectors that might be able to offer virtual work, people will think about marketing and general business, but there are so many more.”

Examples of sectors offering virtual internships include green technology, software engineering, fashion and sports management.

The coronavirus pandemic has proved that working from home is possible for many jobs. “We can see a large proportion of traditional sectors finding their employees working at home. It can be done and is being done,” says Holroyd Pearce. Why, then, should virtual internships be any different?

What are the benefits of a remote internship?

Working remotely

“One of the best things about virtual internships is that they are flexible: there is no day-to-day, as such,” said Holroyd Pearce.

Despite this, there is still structure], even if the internship is based abroad in a country with a different time zone. The flexibility is in terms of “the hours of work, project timelines and how people connect.”

Here are a few other benefits of a remote internship:

  • Save money and time: Unlike traditional internships, you won’t be expected to commute, and you can work from anywhere in the world, meaning you save money on rent and travel costs.
  • Enhance your resume: Working from home will improve your time management and self-discipline while you gain work experience.
  • Broaden your cross-cultural and global perspectives: If you’re working for an international firm you will network with people all around the world.
  • Gain a sense of community and boost your connections: You’ll do this through online coffee breaks and weekly drop-in sessions

Are there any drawbacks?

 Drawbacks to online internships depend on several factors:

1.  How good the firm is at communicating with interns

If your boss hasn’t set you clear objectives, you don’t have access to regular feedback or you feel unable to answer a question, then the internship won’t be as straightforward as you might’ve hoped.

Outline these aspects of the role in the interview: ask how your progress will be monitored throughout the internship, and exactly what will be expected of you.

2. Your own motivation

If you struggle to stay motivated on your own, you might struggle with a virtual internship, where self-discipline and self-motivation are essential.

Your internship might give you set working hours or may simply say that they want you to complete a number of set tasks each week. Either way, establish your set working hours and stick to them, as you would if you were attending in person.

3. No experience in an office environment 

For employers, one of the major advantages of in-person internships is that graduates have experience working with a team in an office environment – something that you miss out on during a virtual internship.

Despite this, you can still work in a team through various online networking sites, such as Skype and Microsoft Teams. 

Are they as respected as an in-person internship?

In short, yes, they are. Employers will recognize that virtual internships prepare students for the future of work, where working from home might become the norm, according to Holroyd Peace.

He stated: “It’s likely that those who were already accustomed to remote working have fared better during the pandemic and it’s true that companies right now value employees who are able to work effectively from home.”

Will I get paid?

This ultimately depends on the company. Although many larger firms will pay students for their time, some NGOs and start-ups may not be able to afford to do this but will offer a unique experience that can jumpstart students’ careers.

Despite this, you also need to consider the fact that the traditional costs associated with an internship, such as rent, commuting, etc. aren’t a factor in a virtual internship.

“The flexibility of virtual programs allows students to gain valuable experience and build a strong resume around their current lives,” said Holroyd Pearce.

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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