“Technologically savvy” is a phrase commonly used to describe Generation Y. Occasionally, people perceive this negatively, suggesting that our generation cannot communicate effectively face to face – that we are always plugged in and cannot separate ourselves from our technology. However, what some don’t realize is that these same qualities make us perfect candidates for a new trend: the virtual internship. A virtual internship is just as it sounds – completing an internship from a virtual (sometimes considered “remote”) location. You work in one location, your employer is located in another, and you communicate with one another through various means including email, Skype, and phone and conference calls. Virtual internships are popular in the public relations, social media, and online magazine industries.
Over the past three years, I have completed four virtual internships and two virtual Campus Ambassador positions and have firsthand knowledge of their incredible value. Below, I highlighted four of the many benefits based upon my experiences:
You develop exceptional time management skills: While some virtual internships have defined work hours (similar to an in-person internship), many are structured as “at-your-own-pace” assignments with specific deadlines. This approach enables the intern to complete assignments on their own time, by a specified due date. College students have a lot on their plate, so naturally this can be dangerous for those who don’t plan accordingly. Whether your virtual internship has set hours or a more flexible format, your time management skills will improve as you successfully juggle internship assignments with classes, schoolwork, exams, and social life.
They allow you to be flexible: Virtual internships are perfect for college students because you can plan assignments around your class schedule and extracurricular activities. They also enable students to maintain a great work-life balance. Because you don’t have to factor in commuting time, you can go to class until noon, intern from 12:30-3:30, make it to a 4:15 yoga class, and still have time to complete homework and study for exams. I keep my grades up, attend every football game, enjoy weekends with my friends and add great experience to my resume — things that are all important to me in order to maintain my work/life balance.
They enhance your communication skills: Many virtual internships require face-to-face communication with your supervisor on a daily basis. This could be considered a downside; however, it encourages interns to become proficient in written and oral (over the phone rather than in person) communication skills. Virtual interns communicate via email, Skype, and phone and conference calls. In addition, as companies increasingly rely on technology to manage costs and minimize travel expenses, becoming more proficient with evolving technology and communication tools will be a benefit. Improving virtual communication skills will serve you well as you prepare for the future.
You gain valuable career experience: I am a fashion major at the University of South Carolina; unfortunately, there are not many fashion internship opportunities in Columbia. I love my school and wouldn’t trade being here for anything in the world; however, it does have setbacks in that it is hard to find internships related to my post-graduation career aspirations. Virtual internships have enabled me to gain valuable experience in fashion journalism, public relations, and social media. I have written press releases, developed media kits, published fashion journalism articles, created a social media and public relations campaign, and learned to communicate professionally with a wide range of clientele. I have gained all of these experiences — each of which will help to further my career — working remotely from my apartment in Columbia.
The virtual internship is a developing trend in the internship world, allowing students to build their resume and develop skills that will be useful in their chosen field. Some may criticize our generation for being too absorbed in our technology; however, this love for — and proficiency with — technology, a tendency to always be “plugged in,” and strong online communication skills can help students succeed in a virtual internship and later on in their post-grad career.
This blog post was written by Rachel Bergan, our Campus Ambassador at the University of South Carolina. You can follow Rachel on Twitter at @rachel_bergan.