Virtual Internships: Intern Wherever You Are

Home Office

In my meetings with students this semester, I have been talking more and more about virtual internships. In part, this was sparked by Alysondra’s posts this summer. Her positive experience makes it easy to advocate for students’ in certain situations to consider it. For some, a virtual internship would fit perfectly with their career aspirations (think PR/social media work and writing). For others, a virtual opportunity might be the key to having an internship period. No matter your situation, I would begin including virtual internships into your search.

What IS a Virtual Internship?

A virtual internship is an internship experience which allows you to work for organizations all around the country from the comfort of home or your college campus. They have become very popular with smaller organizations and start-ups, especially those that revolve around technology. Thanks to some of that same technology, you may never have a need to set foot into the physical workspace of the employer. Virtual internships are ideal in the following fields:

  • Technology
  • Business
  • Journalism
  • PR/Social Media

Think about the things you need in order to accomplish most work-related projects and tasks: a phone, a computer, email, and the internet. These are all things you have right at your fingertips where you live or go to school.

How to Find a Virtual Internship

Finding a virtual internship is simple – Do the same things you are already doing to find an on-site internship. Online, some job boards are specializing in virtual internships. One such site is YouTern. YouTern focuses on internships with start-ups, and many of the opportunities posted are virtual. In fact, you can select your preference for virtual/telecommuting positions in their Advanced Search feature.

In addition to your online search, be proactive. Reach out to organizations you are interested in working with and ask about the possibility of a virtual internship. Even though they have been around for awhile, virtual internships are only now becoming more common. It’s understandable if an organization has not thought about it as an option. Bring up the possibility of virtual work for an existing opportunity or include the virtual element in an internship proposal.

There are other matters to discuss in the realm of virtual internships, but I’ll save those issues for a future post. In the meantime, consider adding virtual opportunities into your search. You never know what great positions you’ll uncover.

Photo by Johan Larsson

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Reflections of a (Virtual) Intern

Alysondra Milano

For my final post, I’d like to take some time on what my experience has been working with Time at the Table as a virtual intern. Interning for them has been one of the best internship experiences I have ever had, even though I do most of my work independently. With a virtual internship, you are given freedom to be creative on a project and your superiors will expect you to do good work. This type of internship is not one where you will be bringing your bosses coffee. They have real expectations of what you can accomplish, and they want quality work.

I have written many things that have been distributed on a national level. In all of my other internships, they are only distributed locally since their focus is only the surrounding area. As a public relations student, this gives me a better chance of getting my work out in another major city rather than just the ones close to home. I can share my ideas and get feedback quickly, so the editing process is usually a lot faster as well.

One thing that has been hard sometimes is to find time to do my projects. I have found that if I do not schedule them as if I had to be at an actual building for work, I put things off. I try to plan out a few hours each week now to work on my projects for the week. Because of this, some other interns have left this organization because they could not keep up with the demands.

In other internships, I have sat in the offices for hours, waiting for them to give me something to do (even though I asked for additional work constantly). At times, I felt that I was not valued in my office because I was not given that extra creative space to write as I saw fit for the project at hand. With this position, you have to have the dedication to sit down and really produce quality work.

Time at the Table has given me the opportunity to fly out to Baltimore, MD to work on their workshops. This type of travel and exposure is something I likely could not have done with a local nonprofit.

I will say that not all local internships are a bad thing. I also created a virtual volunteer social media position with Valley of the Kings animal sanctuary in Sharon, WI. These small (and possibly self-created) internships are a great way to get a foot in the door and have something to add to your resume. I use each internship as a learning experience. Don’t be afraid to start small and work your way up to larger scale projects. As long as you keep your focus and stay on top of your work, the bigger internships you are looking for will come! All it takes is some practice and patience, and maybe a virtual internship or two.

Read Alysondra’s Internship Journey

  1. Meet Alysondra Milano
  2. Getting a Virtual Internship

Other Summer Intern Confessions

Gabby Fenzel

Erin Quist

Sarah Suter

 

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Getting a Virtual Internship

Bored at Work

In her second post, Alysondra Milano shares her tips for finding and securing a virtual internship. Alysondra is currently “virtually” interning with Time at the Table, a nonprofit organization working to promote the reconnection of families around the dinner table. If you missed “meeting” Alysondra, read her introduction post.

In my last post, I went through what virtual internships are and what they can offer you. Let’s go through how to actually get the internship.

Start by searching on websites like you would for any other internship. Some of my favorite places to look include Hawk Jobs and CyberInterns.com. Companies post their internships on these sites and will indicate if they are virtual. Send in your resume but make sure that it is error free since you are applying for a position that will require you to be able to communicate well through writing.

It always helps to connect with something that you like to do. If you are doing work for a cause or brand that you really believe in, it will make it a lot easier to schedule in time to complete your work for them. This is also another great way to find an internship. If you work with a nonprofit or know of a small local company that is having a hard time doing something that you could do from home, offer your services to them.

For example, my [current] internship is in social media. I approached a nonprofit recently about allowing me to do their social media for them. I told them about my experience with Time at the Table (the virtual internship that I have now) and explained how my work there could be applied to their cause. Just ask if you can do the work for free in exchange for college credit and a way to build your resume. The process to get credit is not very hard and takes just a few forms, the consent of an instructor and the consent of the person who will oversee you as an intern.

Also, write, write, write! Since you will not necessarily have a formal interview, most companies ask you to provide them with a writing sample. A great way to have some writing samples on hand is to start blogging. This will keep your writing skills sharp, and blogging may be one thing that the company will expect that you will already be able to do.

Please do your homework as well! When you send your resume, tailor it to the company that you are sending it to. These things may matter even more when they are basing who they will hire off of what they see from your online correspondence. This also shows your attention (or lack thereof) to detail. The company may set up an interview with you (and other candidates) online via Skype. If you know many different platforms, come with ideas tailored to their brand, and know their key messages and values, you will stand out among the competition.

Remember that since you are applying for a position where a brick and mortar presence is not required, that opens the field up to applicants from all over the world – applicants that will be our competition. You would not believe how many people do not follow through on the research portion. I was told after I secured my virtual internship that I was one of only two candidates who applied that took it upon themselves to research the organization and what they stood for. That can make a huge difference and secure you a position over someone who may have more experience, but doesn’t have the follow through that you were able to show!

As long as you show your desire, what services you can provide, and go above and beyond the other candidates, securing that internship will be just the beginning!

Photo Source

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Meet Alysondra Milano

Alysondra Milano

Alysondra Milano is a Communications/Public Relations Major with a minor in Advertising at UW-Whitewater. She is active on campus through her role as President of Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority and through her job in the Global Business Resource Center. Alysondra will be graduating in May 2012.

Virtual internships are still foreign to most people. When I tell people that my internship is virtual and that I have never physically met my boss, it can be confusing. Some people even think that I made it up! To share my advice, I must also share the experiences that I have had as a virtual intern.

I am a virtual intern for a nonprofit called Time at the Table. The main focus is to promote healthy eating to families and to reconnect them around the dinner table. It’s all about bringing them together in conversation to make stronger, healthier lives for all of the families that we are able to touch. They have major presence in Brooklyn and in a town in South Dakota.

What is my role in this? I run their social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. I write newsletters, put together press releases, send out texts via an automated text messaging service, and help to monitor the website. The best part? I can do this all from home. There is no need for me to physically commute since everything can be done from my laptop and shared with my boss through emails.

That is the only different between a virtual and a “traditional” internship. I could drive to a building, work on a computer there, and then drive home. My other option is to stay home and save myself some gas money while helping out a cause that I otherwise would not be able to because I cannot drive to Brooklyn to sit and be online in their offices. The choice for me was obvious. Virtual internships benefit the organization because they do not have to have all local talent. Time at the Table has interns everywhere from Florida to Wisconsin who are motivated and good at what they do. We are all able to work together with the use of technology. We have Skype meetings every other week so that we can all relay what we have been working on and make sure we are meeting deadlines.

Virtual internships still require a lot of work. You have to have discipline to stick to your schedule and get your work out on time. I chose to be a virtual intern because of the flexibility it allows me to have. I do not have to commute anywhere so it is saving me money while I learn the skills that I would learn in any other office. Independence is another perk of the virtual realm as I can go online whenever I choose. And I can’t lie – not having to dress up every day for work is a definite perk that I am taking full advantage of!

Next week, meet Gabby Fenzel in the 2011 Confessions of a Summer Intern series!