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Virtual Internships: A Chance to Practice Remote Work Skills

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If there’s anything the COVID-19 pandemic has taught employers, it’s that employees with the capability to work remotely in an effective manner are valuable. Transitioning from working in an office to working in your home isn’t easy for everyone. Remote work requires specific skills, and as businesses begin permanently transitioning to remote work, the demand for these skills will only rise.

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The same is true for internships. Virtual internships are not a new concept, but many more businesses began offering them in 2020 due to the pandemic and we’ve seen the same trend in 2021. Just as employees are expected to possess the skills required for remote work, interns will need the same skills.

Pros of a Virtual Internship

Virtual internships are a dream for introverted people who dread in-person communication. But whether you’re introverted or extroverted, virtual internships are excellent opportunities for several reasons.  

For starters, you have more free time and gas money because you don’t have to commute into the office. If the internship is located in another state, you won’t have to find temporary housing and figure out how to pay for your expenses, a major relief for those taking unpaid internships.

Also, you may have the opportunity to work a more flexible schedule with a virtual internship. In addition, it’s often less stressful working from the comfort of your own home.

Virtual internships let you network with other professionals and build a pipeline of contacts without geographic limits. This network of connections could come in handy if you’re looking to find employment in another location in the future. But most importantly, virtual internships help you develop valuable soft and hard skills that will be useful for either future remote and in-person positions.

Cons of a Virtual Internship

Working from home does have its downsides. You’re physically separated from your coworkers, making communication and forming professional relationships more difficult. You may also deal with technical issues, a distracting environment and a lack of motivation.

Remote work requires a strong work ethic; the temptation to sit and watch television in your pajamas is great. Without the motivation to concentrate on your tasks, you might find it difficult to adjust to this type of work environment.

Recent graduates with little professional experience might struggle to find a balance working remotely, managing their time and concentrating on tasks. Similarly, more experienced professionals who are used to an office environment might have trouble adjusting to new communication methods and a more isolated environment. Whether you’re a recent graduate with no experience or a seasoned professional entering a new field, landing a virtual internship entails cultivating the right kind of remote work skills.  

Be Sure to Hone Essential Remote Work Skills for Virtual Internships

As you develop the soft and hard skills required for your future career, consider learning the skills that will help you succeed in a remote position. Acquiring these skills isn’t just for the benefit of landing a virtual internship, but also for your professional development in case you have or want to pursue full-time remote work in the future.

Some essential skills for remote workers include:

  • Adaptability
  • Oral and written communication
  • Problem solving
  • Technology
  • Time management

Working remotely definitely requires you to be adaptable. For instance, you may run into internet connection issues, or you may have to mitigate distractions if you have children or pets in your home. Being able to easily adapt to certain situations is essential for your productivity.

Additionally, a remote environment requires you to communicate with others via email, instant messaging, phone calls or video chat. Limiting miscommunication by developing your oral and written communication skills is important.  

Working from home will require technology and problem-solving skills. Depending on your position, you’ll need basic computer literacy skills as well as the ability to keep your data secure. If you run into technical issues, solving those problems on your own might be necessary sometimes.

Excellent time management skills are critical for remote workers. For example, some remote workers find it difficult to stay motivated or concentrate on certain tasks. Similarly, they may have trouble managing their time and hitting deadlines.

How to Prepare for a Virtual Internship

When developing your resume, make sure you demonstrate the essential skills needed for remote work, so employers know you’re a good candidate for a virtual internship. Remember to include keywords from the job description in your resume as well. 

If you don’t already possess some of the skills you’ll need for remote work, work on developing them. Learn to use popular software applications, take free online courses to develop written communication skills, and challenge yourself to participate in projects or tasks that help you learn time management and problem-solving skills. Volunteering is a great way to cultivate some of these skills!

In addition to cultivating the right skills, you should also prepare for a virtual work environment ahead of time. Here are some things you can do:

  • Learn to use Zoom: Many students have already learned to use this video chat software in their online classes, but if you haven’t, you should. You might be required to use Zoom for your interview or for the job position.
  • Ensure you have a distraction-free workplace: You might be asked during your interview whether or not you have a dedicated office space to work in. Make sure you do have a household work space ahead of time so employers won’t second-guess whether or not you’ll be able to work from home.
  • Acquire the appropriate technology: Ensure you have a stable internet connection with good speed, a laptop or computer, and a headset. The employer may provide a laptop and headset for you, or you may be expected to obtain them yourself.

Where to Find Virtual Internships

Sites like Indeed or LinkedIn are great options to find virtual internships. You can also utilize the university job board, CareerLink, which lists internships and job opportunities that relate to your academic studies. Recruiters can also find you in CareerLink, based on the information you provide in your profile.

The student Success Center within your ecampus contains several internship opportunities that are updated by the Career Services Department on a regular basis. Companies like CACI, Intuit and Navy Federal Credit Union are currently seeking candidates for their Summer 2021 virtual internships. Visit the Success Center for more information about various internship opportunities.

For a list of popular fellowships and internships, including federal internships, visit the Career Services page. Our Career Coaches have extensive knowledge of these opportunities and can help you prepare for internships or answer any questions you may have.

Internships for Academic Credit

University students in the Wallace E. Boston School of Business, School of Security and Global Studies, and School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) have the opportunity to complete an approved internship for academic credit. Review the guidelines in the Success Center, and if you have any questions, contact Career Services.

Speak with a Career Coach to Prepare Yourself

The competition for virtual internships is high. You’re not simply competing with people in your area, but also residents of other states. Crafting a resume and cover letter tailored to the position, preparing for interviews, and ensuring your LinkedIn profile is up to date are critical steps in obtaining a virtual internship this summer.

Luckily, a Career Coach can help you with each of these steps. Email Career Services for a resume, cover letter or LinkedIn profile review as well as interview preparation. Together, we can help you become a better candidate for a virtual summer internship. 

Kass Williams serves as the Career Services Coordinator, employing her communication, editing and project management skills to support the Career Services Department with content creation and email marketing. She holds a B.A. in English with a Writing Concentration from Davis & Elkins College.

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