Virtual internships became really popular about three years ago, and have since become a hotly-debated topic. I recently saw a few tweets come across my desk stating that in-office internships were better than virtual internships. But as someone who has been running a virtual internship program for over three years (every semester), I can't say that's necessarily true. I’ve attracted top talent and had a great experience; and I think the students are equally as fond of the experience. Here are a few things you might not know about virtual internships:
1. You Keep Consistent Hours. Just because the internship is virtual doesn’t mean it needs to be a “work as you please” model. My virtual internships require 12-15 hours per week and a consistent schedule. I work with the students ahead of time (just like an in-office internship) to put together a weekly schedule for them. The students are responsible for interning at the same hours each week.
2. Incorporate Every Form of Communication. In today’s high-tech working world, virtual internships just make sense. In my virtual internship program, we communicate through Skype on an on-going basis. We are constantly in a group chat. The students send me a text message when they sign on and before they sign off. This way, if I’m traveling or in meetings, I know they are working. We use FreeConferenceCall.com for daily check-in conference calls. And of course, we use email on a daily basis for project communication and back-and-forth correspondence.
3. You Can still Build Relationships. In our virtual programs, we encourage interns to talk and build relationships with one another. Our last batch of spring interns said they spent hours on the phone together talking through projects. In fact, they got so used to one another’s company that they’d often just work with their phones on speaker. As I mentioned, the Skype chat rooms promote an ongoing dialogue between our staff and the interns. I’m still in touch with my very first intern and some of my former interns have become life-long friends. You can still build an office-like environment when you don’t have the office.
Interested in a virtual opportunity? Apply for one here.