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Are virtual internships the new internship?

Virtual Internships

COVID-19 has halted many of our internship plans both locally and abroad and has since brought up the dilemma of how to grow your career while staying at home. One of the biggest ways to do this is to do virtual internships. Often called a remote internship or online internships, this type of internship has been gaining popularity, even before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Additionally, during these times, a virtual internship is one practical way to get professional experience and in the future, most employers will notice that you managed to get work experience while your peers were staying home watching Netflix.

But, what exactly are virtual internships? How do they work? Are they worth it? Are there paid virtual internships? These are some of the top questions being asked by many university students and graduates. So, we went scouring across the lands (ahem, the internet) and found the answers to all of your questions about a virtual internship.

What is a Virtual Internship?

First things first, what exactly are virtual internships? A virtual internship is where one can gain professional experience much like a traditional internship except you can do it anywhere. Basically, you have the ability to intern with a company while you may be having a cup of coffee across the other side of the globe somewhere. As long as you have access to a computer and a decent internet connection, you’re good to go. If you’re looking to go more in-depth about internships and what it means, you can learn more about internships and the role of an intern here.

Online internships have been around for some time but have steadily grown in popularity due to improvements in technology and widespread use of the internet. It has become much easier for people and companies across the globe to connect on a daily basis through various platforms.

Furthermore, online internships have also proven to have some great benefits for those looking to get some work experience. More on that later!

How does a virtual internship work?

So now that we have an understanding of what a virtual internship is, how do they work? Virtual internships allow you to work with a company based outside of your home country without travelling there. This will give you many of the benefits of international work experience without some of the barriers such as visas and the high cost of moving to work abroad.

Typically, a remote internship would mean you would meet one-on-one with your supervisor either via Zoom, Google Hangouts, or another platform to discuss your upcoming projects. From here, you’ll spend the week working on those projects while also attending several more online calls with your supervisor to discuss your work and also get recommendations on how to improve it.

As you might be already starting to pick up, participating in online internships means you are working pretty independently. You will have a set number of working hours assigned to you by your company, but you can work those any time of the day. If you’re a morning bird, you can jump out of bed and work straight away but you can also work at 3 am on your couch as well. As long as you get your projects done, when and how you do it is determined by you.

What does the process look like?

Obtaining a virtual internship is very similar to a traditional internship. You will still have to send the employer your CV, most likely have to submit samples of your past work, and have to interview with someone from the company via telephone or video conferencing and give them your references. Basically, the difference is that you don’t have to do the traditional 9-5 office job and commute. You can interview and work from home, a cafe, library or anywhere else.

How to apply?

There are a couple of different ways of applying and finding virtual internships. You can, of course, use Google to search for virtual internships offered directly by companies or go to job boards like LinkedIn or We Work Remotely.

You can also go through third-party providers, like us, for example. Going through a provider means a couple of things:

  1. Guaranteed virtual internship
  2. Access to global companies
  3. Other benefits like a discount or scholarship to a future in-person internship.
  4. Career coaching

Do some research into the virtual internships available and third-party providers who can help you find one, and pick the option that is most beneficial to you and your career goals

Why Intern remotely?

Now, that we’ve covered what virtual internships are and how they work, let’s talk about why you should consider one. Firstly, during unprecedented times, like the current COVID-19 situation, being able to intern online will let you still work on growing your international career while you’re safe at home. However, don’t think that virtual internships are only useful during the current situation. Even after this is over and businesses return to operating as normal, many companies will still offer online internships and they will still be a key way to help you enhance your employability and career prospects.

The main benefit of Virtual Internships is the flexibility they offer. You can intern remotely during your busy school or work schedule and you don’t have to adhere to the traditional office-internship schedule. The work can typically be done at any time of day, as long as you are able to meet the deadlines you are set. Due to this flexibility, you can even take on multiple online internships if you’re up to it! The choice is yours. More so, you can actually save money from not having to commute to and from work.

Often people cannot commit to a standard internship whether it is due to being too busy with school or being unable to afford to take a full-time internship. Virtual internships can offer those who can’t participate in a traditional office internship an opportunity to get valuable experience and be paid.

Although virtual internships do require extra effort from the intern because its biggest benefit is also its biggest drawback- the lack of structure. If the intern is generally unorganised, they will find a virtual internship difficult because it does not have the structure an office-based internship will provide.

Overall, the success of your internship will depend on you. You will indeed have to be self-motivated and independent. Don’t let this frighten you, use your internship to develop yourself and learn from industry experts how to be successful in your chosen field.

What about a Visa?

Now that we’ve covered some of the important questions, you most likely have even more questions in your head like “Okay, but do I need a visa?” or  “Do I need to be able to speak another language?”.

All fantastic questions to ask, you little geniuses! Since virtual internships do not require you to be in the same country as your employer, you do not need a visa to intern online with a company.

As far as language requirements, that really depends on the company and where they are located. Typically, your employer and the job post will indicate whether language skills are required. Be sure you take on an internship in a language you’re pretty confident in. It might make your life a little more difficult if you are interning for a Spanish company without even knowing what “hello” is in Spanish. But, likewise, if it is a language you are familiar with but maybe not quite fluent in then an online internship will definitely help you perfect that language by the end of it!

Is a Virtual Internship Worth It?

As you may have gathered from what we have said so far, we firmly believe virtual internships are definitely worthwhile and can be invaluable in helping you develop your career. We aren’t the only ones though, research shows that virtual internships improve communication skills, show future employers you can be reliable, and also, improve your time management skills. All these skills are often highly sought after by employers.

There are of course some drawbacks to online internships. These can include missing out on the office culture, social events and not receiving as close supervision. An intern can pick up a lot from being physically present in the office like how people conduct themselves, body language, etc.

Doing a remote internship does mean you miss out on these things but there are many benefits to virtual internships. As a result, we have selected the top five benefits that we think being able to intern online offers over a traditional office-based internship:

  1. Flexibility – As mentioned above, virtual internships offer flexibility to work on your own time schedule. You can do it between your busy school schedule and at any point in the day, just make sure you submit your work when your employer requires it.
  2. Independence – You will learn how to work on your own without needing to be checked-on every couple of minutes. This skill is very valuable and one, employers often look for as they want to hire people who can work by themselves.
  3. Profitable – You will not only save on housing and commuting costs but there also some providers that offer a paid virtual internship or may offer incentives to intern online such as a scholarship towards a future office-based internship.
  4. Multiple Internships – Due to its flexibility, you can participate in multiple virtual internships, thus adding some serious shine to your resume. However, be careful not to overload yourself with too many or too much work as you want to be able to do a good job for each of the companies you are interning with.
  5. Remote Working Experience – Going forward, the ability to work remotely is going to be a skill that is going to be valued by employers and this is a great time to build those skills and showcase to future employers that you are able to work remotely and independently.

Final Thoughts

Though these are not the only benefits to virtual internships they are some of the most valuable ones. It’s certain that an online internship challenges the norm of what an internship should look like. It gives students an opportunity to still gain valuable work experience while juggling school or even a part-time job. By working from your laptop remotely, you have access to companies all across the globe. Making the world truly at your fingertips.

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Julia Hurtado

Julia Hurtado

Having spent an entire summer dedicated to travelling abroad, Julia now focuses on helping other students experience life outside their home country. As an American now working in London, Julia enjoys sharing advice on interning abroad, sipping tea (with 2 sugars, 1 milk please) and reading in her spare time.

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