Online Internships Pros and Cons

In today’s saturated global marketplace, having relevant work experience can set you apart from your peers. However, the effects of Covid-19 have made it even more difficult for university students and graduates to gain experience. Consequently, we’ve seen the popularity of online internships otherwise known as virtual or remote internships soar. 

A remote internship is the ability to intern with companies from anywhere in the world as long as you have a wifi connection and a laptop. In our last blog, we covered some of the most popular questions regarding online internships. This week, we will be discussing the pros and cons of online internships so that you may be able to decide if it is a good fit for you. Let’s get to it! 

Pros: 

Location:

As one may be able to tell from its name, online internships, are done, ahem, remotely. Meaning, you can participate in a remote internship virtually anywhere in the world. Want to work on a marketing campaign for a company based in London from your bedroom in Boston? Go for it. Discuss ways to promote company blogs whilst sunbathing on a yacht? Sure, why not! As long as you are able to work effectively, efficiently and have a wifi connection, you can do a remote internship. 

Flexible Time:

One of the greatest benefits to a remote internship is its flexibility. You will not have to adhere to the typical 9-5 office hours. Therefore, your school schedule and or other commitments like a part-time job, don’t necessarily need to be adjusted to your remote internship. You can work at any point of the time, day, or week depending on what has been agreed with your supervisor. This means you can focus on your schoolwork during the week while also being able to finish a project for your internship on the weekend. 

Independence 

A remote internship will give you the opportunity to work independently. You’ll learn how to work on your own time, be in charge of meeting your project deadlines, and be responsible for your productivity. You will not have someone hovering around and will have the space to be creative. An added bonus is that you won’t have to worry about being late for work either! Just hop out of bed and get straight to business. 

Gain New Skills 

Due to the independent nature of a remote internship, you’ll also learn some valuable new skills that you may not have gained through a traditional office-based internship. These include the ability to communicate well with others, work independently, be a self-starter, and excel at time management and self-motivation. Sounds glorious, doesn’t it? 

Learning and improving upon these skills will be invaluable because it will help you not only during your remote internship, but also in future networking events, interviews, and job opportunities. 

Cost-Effective

One of the disadvantages of an in-office internship is the added costs that come along with it, especially if it’s an unpaid internship. You would be responsible for sourcing your transportation, accommodation and personal expenses, which can all add up very quickly- especially in large cities like London, New York, San Francisco, etc. 

With online internships, you remove those pesky little costs. You no longer have to worry about the additional expenses of an unpaid internship. More so, you are saving money from not having to commute and if you’re receiving any type of stipend, you’d actually turn a profit. 

This benefit is especially important for those who cannot financially afford to give up their part-time job to take an in-office internship. They are able to keep their school schedule and or work schedule while participating in a remote internship at the same time. Sounds like a win-win situation to us.

But what about the Cons?

There are pros and cons to everything and a remote internship is no different. Though there are some wonderful benefits to it, a remote internship isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Here are a few things to consider before agreeing to participate in an online internship. 

Feeling Disconnected

You will not be able to experience what it is like to work with other people in the office. You most probably only really communicate with the person in charge of the project you’re working on and any other team members on the project. You may miss out on learning from others in the office or being able to get an immediate response to any questions you may have. Furthermore, you may feel left out as you may not be able to attend social events with your colleagues. 

Having that connection with other colleagues in the office can be crucial in developing your understanding of a professional work environment. In addition to that, it can be helpful to be in an office so that you are able to ask questions directly versus having to communicate solely online. If you are someone who does need an in-office experience then a remote internship may not be for you. That’s okay. It is important to understand what type of environment would be most beneficial for your career goals. 

However…

It should be noted that there are ways to help if you are feeling disconnected. These include establishing regular video calls with your supervisor throughout the week and asking if it’s possible to be connected to other interns or colleagues. In addition to that, be sure to attend any virtual social events that the company may host, or even suggest that they host a virtual social event so you can join.

Miscommunication 

In online internships, everything is reliant on communicating things clearly via emails or video-calls. Therefore, miscommunication can occur during your internship especially if things are a bit disorganised. You may not have completely understood the project you’re working on entirely or a question you’ve asked may have been misinterpreted. This can be frustrating especially if it is an ongoing problem. 

It is common with online internships that you will be part of formal weekly video calls as well as communicating with colleagues via email and instant messages. These forms of communication are often subject to misinterpretation which can easily lead to misunderstandings. It’s important to be mindful of this as your colleague may not have meant something the way you may have interpreted it and if you respond too quickly it may make a situation worse than it needs to be.

Therefore…

Some of the best ways to combat miscommunication are to ensure clear deadlines and goals are set for your project. If there are questions that arise during your internship, note them all down and ask to discuss them over a quick call or email. Do not be afraid to ask questions. The more questions you ask the better you may be able to understand the details of your work while also eliminating the possibility of any miscommunication. Employers would rather that you asked more questions and provided the correct work than stay quiet and submit something that is incorrect or not what was asked of you.

Distractions

It can be easy to not focus on your work if you aren’t in an office setting. Your phone, a noisy environment or being around others can lead you to waste valuable time originally dedicated to your internship. It happens, we are all susceptible to it. However, if you are continuously distracted it may cause you to rush to complete an assignment before its deadline. Therefore, the work may also be affected by it. 

Some of the best ways to avoid distractions are to set a fixed amount of time to sit down and do your projects. Turn your phone on silent and facedown so as to avoid the temptation to answer a text or social media notification. Also, be sure to schedule a brain break. Step away from the computer, go for a walk, and let your mind step away from it all. Afterwards, you can come back to your work feeling refreshed and energised to keep going. 

Lack of Networking Opportunities

One of the best things about an in-office internship is the number of people you meet, many of those will be in your desired career field who may be able to present you with future opportunities. In a remote internship, you will be limited to who you come in contact with. Therefore, your network pool may be limited. 

However, in today’s ever-growing world of technology, you may find that remote work is becoming more popular. So, there may be more opportunities to network online. Though it may not be the same as in-office networking.

Requires Self-Motivation

A remote internship is challenging in the way that you need to have self-motivation and time management to be successful. These are all things you can learn during your remote internship, but if this something you know you may struggle with anyway, a remote internship may not be for you. 

It is often hard to determine if you are a self-motivated person. You may find that once you’ve begun your internship, your self-motivation will improve especially if you’re enjoying the work. However, it is common for your motivation to drop at some point in the internship, maybe due to a difficult project or feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work, take some time to reevaluate how to get your passion back by taking a break, changing up your work schedule or speaking to other colleagues about how they’ve handled similar situations previously. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, online internships are a game changer from what we know of as “traditional” internship experiences. It opens doors to those who could not afford, financially or time-wise, to participate in an office-based internship experience. It will challenge you to be a self-starter, communicate with others and push yourself out of your comfort zone. 

Before considering a remote internship, take into account both the pros and the cons that come with it. A virtual internship is a great way to gain valuable experience with flexibility but if the structure of the internship or the requirements that come along with it does not fit your needs, consider other internship alternatives. Ultimately, whichever internship you chose, it will help you grow both professionally and personally while providing you with a great start to your career.

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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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