Posts tagged ‘internship positions’

Virtual internships: tapping student talent from a distance

by the Intern Coach

Erin T., a Journalism major at the University of Pittsburgh, wants to work in New York City, after graduation—for a magazine like Cosmopolitan. She knew she needed to have internship experience to achieve her goal. But an internship in the Big Apple was out of the question—housing would be too expensive and she’d have to give up her part-time job that helped pay her college tuition.

Then, she discovered the perfect solution—a virtual internship with the online edition of a startup lifestyle publication located in New York City. She earned 3 credits for writing 10 articles of 1,000 words each over a 10-week period.  “The company encouraged me to find my own topics and even gave me a byline,” says Erin.  “I worked from a computer in my dorm at my convenience and still held down a part-time job.

Erin is part of the growing group of interns taking advantage of virtual internships that remove geographical barriers, allowing students to sample different fields or concentrate on a niche industry while still going to classes and working. More and more employers—especially small to midsize ones—offer virtual internships because they have a larger pool of talented candidates, and they save money on office overhead.  It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

The most common virtual internships are in information technology, software development, research, sales, marketing, blogging, and social media. Companies are looking for self-reliant, self-starters who are comfortable with web conferences, emails, and phone calls. 

Companies should expect students to follow the traditional process to apply for a virtual internship—resume, cover letter and a phone interview. Students applying for virtual internships may have the following questions:

  1. How much mentoring and feedback will I receive?
  2. Who is my key point of contact and how often do we make contact?
  3. What is the type of work and what are the expectations?
  4. Will I receive payment or college credit?
  5. How many hours a week are involved and for how long a period?
  6. Will I get a letter of reference if I do a good job?
  7. Could I view the work of former virtual interns?

The downside of virtual internships is that intern managers may not meet the students working for them.  However, Lee H., a science major who researched projects for a non-profit in a virtual internship, liked developing his own way of doing things.  “I learned how to work independently and more efficiently.”  He pointed out that millions of people already work virtually across the US.

It’s also possible that virtual internships are a way to extend a traditional internship. Keisha P. enjoyed her traditional 3-month summer internship in marketing so much that she didn’t want it to end. She asked her supervisor if she could continue with the company in a virtual internship during the school year. Now she’s preparing PowerPoint presentations and emailing clients from the comfort of her home.

The exploding number of online organizations indicates the future increase in virtual internships.  For example, online schooling is expanding rapidly.  In response, the University of Florida offers virtual internships to prepare student teachers for the new world of the virtual school. The advent of virtual internships in all fields gives students multiple opportunities for both traditional and virtual career-related experiences—adding considerable value to the academic degree.

May 7, 2010 at 10:57 am Leave a comment


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This blog is dedicated to employers with a focus on how to hire and manage interns effectively. We will have a variety of experts who will share helpful ideas, tips and more. We invite you to comment, ask questions and share your experiences. You are also welcome to submit written contributions to this blog.

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