Remote/Virtual Internships for Students
Benefits of a Remote/Virtual Internship
- A safe, project-based learning opportunity.
- Opportunity to develop digital communication skills, an asset for the 21st-century workforce.
- Expanded geographical access to opportunities.
- Develop time and project management skills.
- With intentional effort, you can build your professional network.
Tips for Success
In a remote working environment, there is often flexibility for when and where you complete your work. While your work time may occur asynchronously from your supervisor or colleagues, it is still important to create structure and allocate consistent blocks of time for your internship work. Create and propose work times that meet the needs of your employer as well as fit your schedule. Then, share these with your supervisor. This schedule will help you meet expectations and create clarity and transparency for your supervisor about when you’re putting in your hours and when it’s appropriate to connect with you regarding work topics.
Create a Workspace
Having a dedicated workspace somewhere in your home — even if it’s a small folding desk in a corner — establishes work/life separation, helps you stay organized and facilitates mental focus. Gather all the supplies and technology you need and add some decor or quotes so it feels like a place where you are going to work— and a place you can leave once you’re done.
Clear and consistent communication, along with establishing how you will communicate with your supervisor and colleagues is essential in remote internships. Make sure you have a weekly, synchronous opportunity scheduled to connect with your supervisor, but also clarify the best way to ask quick questions or seek feedback that might have occurred in passing comments at an onsite, in-person internship. Gain familiarity with tools your organization may use, such as Trello or Slack, or suggest using them.
Technology, Software & Training
In a virtual environment, you will need to adapt to using technology and software platforms for every aspect of your work. Check with your supervisor about procuring appropriate technology and access, such as a VPN log-in. Examples of software you might use are GSuite, MS Office Teams, Google Drive, DropBox, Zoom, Go to Meeting, Google Hangouts, Join.me, Skype & Canva, etc. If your organization does not embed training into your orientation on how to use this technology or software, ask for assistance. You will likely pick it up quickly, and improve your Digital Literacy as a result, but advocate for yourself if training is not provided so you can successfully complete your work.
Learning Goals & Work Plan
The use of a Learning Agreement is even more critical in a remote internship to establish clear learning goals, track your action plan to achieve those goals and identify how to measure progress. Ask your academic advisor for your major’s Learning Agreement. Make sure you review your document with your supervisor to ensure you are in agreement about expectations and use it as a way to advocate for gaining experience in specific areas. Additionally, consider developing a work plan based on these learning goals. The more clarity you get around what projects you should be working on, how they connect to the organization’s larger goals and expected timelines, the more smoothly you’ll be able to navigate this virtual environment.
Track your Progress and Share that with your Supervisor
Keep a log of your daily goals or bullet points of the progress you are making toward work project completion and make that log visible to your supervisor. This practice can help you narrow your focus and creates transparency for your supervisor about how you are using your time.
Seek Regular Feedback
Ideally, your supervisor will incorporate regular feedback into your weekly check-ins or via comments on shared software platforms. If not, ask for feedback on your projects. Knowing if you’re meeting expectations or whether you should alter your approach to your work in real-time will lead to greater efficiency and give you the confidence needed to move forward. Also, acknowledging that a virtual environment is new to many organizations, provide feedback about the process of working remotely. Share with your supervisor what is working well and where you feel challenged so you can both adapt as you go.
Build your Professional Network Virtually
Hopefully, your organization will assist with integrating you into their culture, but if not, ask for opportunities. Inquire about virtual social gatherings as a way to connect to your new colleagues as you begin your internship. Perhaps you can participate in larger meetings or reach out to colleagues from other departments to ask for guidance on a project. Ask your supervisor to connect you to individuals in roles of interest to set up a virtual coffee chat or informational interview. If there are other interns at this organization, suggest hosting a brown bag virtual lunch session to connect informally or create discussion topics.
Regardless of whether the experience is in person or remote, the cornerstones of a quality internship experience still hold true.