What Is a Virtual Internship? (With Skills and Tips)

Updated 29 September 2022

Virtual internships are useful if you want to gain professional experience while working in a remote position. Although you aren't in a physical office, you can still develop your skills, learn new tasks and grow your network. Learning more about online internships can help you decide if this is something you're interested in pursuing. In this article, we explain what is a virtual internship, outline its importance, discuss the responsibilities associated with online intern positions and explore what important skills you can expect to develop as a remote intern.

Related: What Is an Internship? (With Benefits and Responsibilities)

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What is a virtual internship?

If you're a university student or recent graduate, you may wonder, 'What is a virtual internship?' This form of short-term work allows you to gain an entry-level introduction to your field of interest but in a remote setting. Typically, they can last anywhere from a few months to a year. Interns usually earn academic credit or a basic salary in exchange for their work, but there's no guarantee that an employer pays their interns. For example, some start-ups and NGOs may not be able to afford it, but can instead offer a unique experience.

Related: Internships vs. Apprenticeships: The Main Differences

Why are internships important?

You may also be curious to know if virtual internships are worth it. There are numerous benefits to online internships. They prepare you to enter the workforce and provide you with tools and connections that can help you succeed in your future career. Some of the main advantages include:

Networking opportunities

Internships can provide you with an excellent opportunity to network with professionals working in your desired industry. Building a professional network within the firm can set you up for future employment opportunities. Your employer may even offer you a full-time position after your internship with them ends.

Related: How to Build Good Working Relationships (Plus Tips)

Saving money and time

The benefit of completing your internship remotely is that it allows you to save both time and money. This is because you avoid many of the traditional costs associated with internship programmes. For example, there's no commute to and from the workplace. Because you're working online, you don't have to relocate for work if you secure an overseas internship. This means you can save the money that you might otherwise spend on moving and paying rent.

Related: Do Interns Get Paid? (Plus Salary, Duties and Benefits)

Developing key soft skills

Another key benefit to completing an internship is the ability to develop and enhance your soft skills. These include not only the skills that you gain during on-site internships but also the skills that are especially important in remote work settings. For example, working online can greatly improve your self-discipline because being self-motivated is essential for productivity. It also allows you to develop your organisational skills, particularly your ability to manage your time well while gaining work experience.

Related: What is the Importance of an Internship?

Gaining a competitive advantage

The ability to successfully work from home in a way that's productive is a major asset. This is because remote work is becoming increasingly common. Therefore, showing an employer that you're able to work online can help set you apart from the competition.

Related: 15 Benefits of Working From Home (Definition and Examples)

How do remote internships work?

Remote internships can vary depending on the type of industry and who your employer is. Although it may be more common for marketing and technology companies to offer this type of internship, they're not the only kind of industry offering remote positions anymore. The scope of where you can work as a virtual intern is wider than you might think. For example, you might find work in fashion, sports management or software engineering. Despite what industry you choose, there are some tasks that are common in the majority of internships. While doing your internship, your duties and responsibilities may include:

  • carrying out research for new projects

  • researching the firm's competition

  • attending virtual meetings

  • managing the firm's customer service and social media

  • participating in online networking events

  • writing internal communications

  • carrying out data entry

  • reaching out to customers for feedback and testimonials

Related: How to Write Your Internship in Your Resume (Plus Tips)

What important skills can you expect to develop when working as an intern?

It's important that you use your time as an intern wisely. One way to make the most of this opportunity is by developing your skill set. The type of skills you can expect to improve during your internship may vary depending on the employer and the type of industry. Nevertheless, there are certain skills you're likely to develop throughout your work, regardless of what field you choose. These may include:

Public speaking skills

Even though remote internships occur online, they're still likely to improve your public speaking skills. This can be through, creating and holding presentations. This also provides an excellent opportunity for you to increase your knowledge of how to operate the various online presentation tools.

Organisational skills

You can also expect to improve your organisational skills while completing your internship. For example, you might learn to keep your workspace at home neat and tidy throughout the day. You can also improve your organisational skills when completing certain tasks, such as organising the employer's inbox.

Related: What are Organisational Skills and How Can You Develop Them?

Research skills

Working as an intern can greatly improve your ability to conduct thorough and accurate research. For instance, you might develop this skill if your employer asks you to research other competitors. You can also work on your research skills when preparing for meetings or presentations. Likewise, there's a high probability your employer may ask you to carry out research for a project. If you perform well, they may even allow you to start your own project.

Leadership skills

Participating in a remote internship can also make you a better leader. You can expect to improve your leadership skills when carrying out tasks such as hosting team meetings. These teach you how to lead a conversation and listen to the ideas of others.

Communication skills

Just because the internship is virtual, it doesn't mean you can't use it to boost your communication skills. You can do so in a social setting, such as during online coffee meetings. You might also become a better communicator by conversing with your team leaders and management. Additionally, if your employer requires you to train new interns, you can use this responsibility as an opportunity to improve your ability to provide others with clear instructions, answer questions and practise active listening.

Networking skills

Virtual internships are also an excellent opportunity for you to improve your networking skills. You can broaden your network simply by interacting with team members during the workday. You might also consider connecting with them on the appropriate social media platforms. Furthermore, attending meetings, brainstorming sessions and online company networking events can help you learn how to network effectively.

Customer service skills

Depending on your role and industry of choice, you may have the chance to enhance your customer service skills. For example, your employer may ask you to reach out to the company's customers or clients for feedback. This might include calling the customers on the phone, sending out surveys or corresponding with clients through emails. This is especially necessary in sales and marketing internships.

Tips for making the most out of your online internship

Internships, whether they're on-site or online, may seem exciting to someone who is entering the job market for the first time. There are certain steps you can take that can help you make the most out of your time as a virtual intern. Following these tips may help you do so:

Set personal goals

Consider contacting your employer or supervisor before your internship to discuss your goals and projects. Understanding what your supervisor's goals and expectations are in relation to your internship can help you create your own personal goals. You might ask them to schedule check-ins with you throughout your experience to discuss your achievements and progress. This can help keep you motivated and on track while working from home.

Understand the office culture

Before the start of your internship, learn as much as you can about the company culture. For example, you might research its mission or the office's work styles. Doing so can help you adjust your behaviour when completing work tasks or interacting with other team members.

Maintain communication with your colleagues and supervisors

To make the most out of your remote internship, it's important that you maintain communication throughout your work experience. You may communicate with your supervisor, clients and colleagues through chats, emails, phone calls and video chat. You can ask your supervisor what method of communication they prefer. Before every meeting, compose a list of the topics you wish to discuss.

Set up your workspace

Because online internships don't take place in a physical office, it's helpful if you set up a designated workspace for yourself. Make sure that it's clean and organised because this helps boost your productivity. Additionally, remember to stock up on all the necessary office supplies before the start of your internship.

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