Virtual internships: what are they and how do they work?

One of the most prominent trends to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic is the move to a virtual world. Whether it’s working from home, taking part in lectures online, engaging in classes via video call, shopping or family nights, most work and social activities are now taking place via an internet connection. Our appetite for entertainment to be consumed through screens of various sizes has only been accentuated.  

This trend has pros and cons of varying degrees, but one of the positives of the virtual world is that people with the facilities to do so can work from home, while schools and other educational institutions can operate remotely.  

Internships have also moved to the virtual realm as companies offer virtual internships to students who, due to the current circumstances, can no longer undertake their placements on-site.

What are they?

Virtual internships do exactly what they say on the tin. Although different companies will use different terms such as ‘online internships’ or ‘remote internships’, they all offer the same opportunity: the chance to complete a full internship with a graduate employer by using your laptop.  

Benefits

  • The main benefit of a virtual internship is that you get to complete your internship, which you may otherwise have been unable to under the current restrictions on movement. Given how vital internships are in the graduate landscape for both employers and third-level students, the chance to complete your internship remotely is one that should not be taken for granted and it will allow you to stick to your career plan and progress through the graduate job market.
  • Another upside to virtual internships is that you will be able to complete an internship with companies across the globe without the need to relocate. Maybe there was a company offering an internship that was ideal for you, but you weren’t in a position to apply because you couldn’t relocate. Now is the time to grasp that opportunity and make the most of it. There are a lot of companies offering virtual internships from around the world, many of which may be of interest to you and will help you to further your career.
  • Given that you can complete a virtual internship from anywhere in the world with a vast array of graduate employers, you will be dealing with colleagues who have a completely different culture to you. This is a great opportunity to experience what it is like to work with people remotely who have different beliefs, interests and experiences to you. In doing so you can greatly improve your communication and people skills, which are skills that graduate employers often find lacking in new recruits.

Downsides

  • As with any virtual experience, the main downside is the lack of face-to-face or physical interaction. Nothing beats meeting someone in person or walking into your new job for the first time. Looking at the pyramids online is not the same as standing on the Egyptian sand and taking in the views for yourself. The fact that you can’t meet your co-workers or superiors face to face makes it difficult to make a connection and really establish yourself in the business.
  • It can also be intimidating to ask questions or raise concerns via video call as you haven’t built up a personal relationship with those in an executive position. In person it is easier for your personality to come across and for those in decision making positions to get a sense of if you will fit into the company structure. Vice-versa it can be difficult to get a handle on what the culture within a company is like when you are sitting at home.

In short

Although there are negatives to a virtual internship, in the current climate they are significantly lessened, and the pros far outweigh the cons. This is time you will never get back and although there are mental challenges to overcome, accomplishing a virtual internship will fill you with a great sense of accomplishment and pride.

Source information

  gradireland is Ireland's largest site for graduates jobs and advice and operates in partnership with the Association of Higher Education Careers Services (AHECS).