Although a somewhat more recent phenomena in the field of internships, virtual internships offer a great deal of flexibility and remove the necessity of having to live in a specific geographic location. Virtual internships can fit in with the busiest of college schedules and offer students an opportunity to get experience without the need to be rearranging schedules, working around a college curriculum, or worrying about private or public transportation.
Virtual vs. Traditional Internships
Many virtual internships exist in the fields of technology, business, journalism, and various forms of research. Having the capability to utilize the internet, email communications, and a cell phone makes the need for a traditional office unnecessary in many cases.
Although the structure of a virtual internship may be different than that of traditional internships, the application process is usually pretty similar. First you will probably be asked to send in a resume, cover letter, and perhaps some supporting materials as well as writing samples, and secondly a face-to-face or phone interview will usually to be completed.
Even though a virtual internship may seem less formal and maybe even somewhat less real, it’s important for students to research opportunities to ensure the company is legitimate and they are not getting involved in a scam. Students should be cautious in their approach and make sure that they take the time to ask the right questions.
Sample Questions to Ask Employers When Considering a Virtual Internship
- What tasks that will be required from each intern and what responsibilities involved?
- Will training or supervision be offered at the beginning or over the course of the internship and can I use this person as a reference once the internship is over?
- How many hours per week are required for the internship?
- Is the internship paid?
- Can I receive college credit for the internship?
- Will I receive an evaluation or recommendation letter at the end of the internship?
Virtual Internships are not for Everyone
Although there are many benefits of doing a virtual internship, it must be noted that they are not for everyone. Virtual internships and jobs do require that those who are engaged in this type of work be self-starters and have the unique ability to work independently and without constant supervision. Although virtual internships are not for everyone, they can be an excellent alternative for those who have extremely busy schedules, live in remote locations, or have a lack of private or public transportation.
For more information on virtual internships, be sure to check out the article in BusinessWeek, CEO GUIDE TO THE VIRTUAL WORKPLACE: TIP SHEET. The Wall Street Journal also did an interesting article, An Internship From Your Couch, that offers examples of the different types of virtual internships that are available.