Are Virtual Internships Valuable?

The office place is no longer restricted to a nine-to-five behind the desk job and neither are internships. A virtual internship is an internship that doesn’t require you to go into an office place. This means you could be living in Ontario while working on a social media internship in California or New York City. You could work from school, home, the beach or your bed. Sounds perfect right? If you are the right person, virtual internships can be very valuable.

While I don’t think you can beat the experience of interning in an office, for many people a virtual internship is the only way to fit an intern experience into their busy school or work schedule. Another great perk is avoiding the high cost of living in a city or commuting to a city everyday.

I once worked as an Assistant Editor Intern for an online magazine. I never worked in the office, although I did meet most of the in-office staff over the course of my internship. I made some great contacts and I learned about online formatting, editing, pitching stories, sourcing for interviews and promoting articles online. My experience was awesome because I managed my time well and made sure to make meaningful contact with other interns and in-office staff.

Although my experience was awesome, virtual internships are not for everyone. If you can’t manage your time well, you could be setting yourself up for stress and failure.

Virtual Internships Work For:

  • People who are independent. You can’t turn around, ask a question and receive an answer right away. You’ll often need to work out problems completely on your own, which makes for a great experience. On the other hand, if you aren’t likely to make the extra effort, you probably won’t get much out of the experience.
  • People who have self-discipline. This is so important. It is really easy to slack on your responsibilities and deadlines when you don’t need to go into an office every day. Even through the internship is virtual, you are still building relationships that can turn into positive or negative references. If you can’t set aside scheduled time every week to complete your responsibilities, I don’t recommend getting into a virtual internship.
  • People who are tech-savvy. You won’t be able to call down the company tech guy to fix your computer or answer your formatting questions. A virtual internship won’t work if you don’t have a solid grasp of the basic skills you’ll need to succeed.  Virtual internships are great for applying your skills, but not necessarily for learning new skills.

While it’s important you can manage your time well, it is also important to make sure that the company you are interning for has time for you. Make sure you have a phone or Skype interview to get a feel for the in-office staff. Plan out a weekly or bi-weekly phone call, Skype chat or online chat to make sure you are both on the same page.

Be honest with yourself!  Stick to in-office internships if you don’t think you can manage your time well.

Tell us about your virtual intern experiences, good and bad!

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