Both virtual internships and in-house internships offer different advantages – most candidates should try to do both.
There’s no doubt that remote working is a growing trend, and more projects are being completed remotely too.
Gaining and being able to prove specific skills such as remote teamwork can put a graduate in a stronger position when seeking employment. This might also allow someone to be given earlier approval to work remotely during their career by their boss.
What’s in it for the interns?
In terms of advantages to those undertaking them, the flexibility is a big thing. Many people have study, work or family commitments and would like to be able to work part-time from a convenient location.
Some people may have mobility issues or a disability which might require special hardware that an employer does not have in their office. A remote internship also removes the cost of living and cost of re-location. Problems often experienced by students moving to a new city to do an in-house internship.
Interns often work on projects involving a team, which allows them to meet and learn from multiple colleagues, and also to ensure they get visibility and are appreciated.
There are opportunities to get to know others on the team – for example, having a separate channel on Slack (a commonly used remote project communication software) for informal or random conversations – the equivalent of ‘water cooler chat’.
Video conferencing is a good alternative to an audio call. It can be awkward at first, but it increases use of body language and expressions, and means there is a higher level of empathy during communication, leading to better integration.
Whether or not an intern gets paid varies, but as virtual internships don’t involve relocation, paying rent or possibly buying a smart suit, most interns will end up without the cost burden associated with an internship in a big city.
Background and security checks
Companies should do all their own checks, and not release sensitive data without being comfortable in the participant’s abilities (and identity of course). Some companies may choose to start students with a more speculative or less sensitive project until they have proven their abilities.
A lot of them are already offering their employees increased flexibility (in the UK, 47 per cent of full-time employees have some level of flexible working) and extending this to internships is the natural progression.
The vast majority of projects do not require someone to be in a fixed location for fixed hours, so acknowledging this, and then working without these barriers can increase productivity and goodwill.
It’s different for each company and for each individual – some people really embrace the digital nomad way of life, working from the beach. Others value time with family or are able to achieve their potential by dovetailing study, paid work and a virtual internship.
Edward Holroyd Pearce is co-founder of Virtual Internships.