Dos and Don’ts for Achieving Success in Your Virtual Internship
Virtual internships are becoming increasingly popular, and they’re a terrific opportunity to gain practical experience while maintaining a flexible schedule. However, there are some pitfalls to working online. So, if you want to make your virtual internship stand out, use these tips to get started.
Do: Get a Feel for the Environment
You do everything on the computer or over the phone. You are not required to come into the office, and it is likely that you will never meet the people with whom you will be working in person.
That isn’t to say that getting along with them isn’t crucial. Before applying for the internship, look through the publication’s “About” sections to get a sense of the firm and the staff profiles to see if they seem like someone you’d enjoy working with. You should do a phone interview with your possible supervisors, which will provide you with more information about the company and its employees than simply exchanging emails would.
Do: Be Timely
When you work in an office, you know what days and times you have to be there. However, because there is no official schedule in a virtual setting, it is more difficult to be on time. You can quickly dismiss that email or defer those assignments you promised to complete until later.
It’s crucial to remain on top of deadlines whether you’re working in a cubicle or in your pajamas on your bed. Keep note of critical dates and assignments in your personal calendar because you won’t necessarily have someone checking in with you every day. (Regardless of what full-time job you get afterward, this is excellent preparation.) Even if your employer is laid-back like mine, you don’t want to let them down—like with any internship, your goal should be to stand out as much as possible.
Don’t: Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Similarly, because there is no “end” to the day or week, you may be tempted to take on more than you can handle. However, keep in mind that you can only do so much. Your boss is aware that you’re enrolled in a full semester of classes as well as participating in extracurricular organizations and activities—in fact, she may have picked you for your schoolwork!
However, because she doesn’t see you every day, she may not always have a clear sense of what you can realistically balance and what is too much. Make sure to communicate with your supervisor if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and only take on what you know you can handle, to begin with. She’ll almost certainly choose quality over quantity (plus, you can always take on more later).
Do: Take Advantage of Not Being a Coffee-Getter
One of the best things about a virtual internship is that you weren’t hired to file papers and make everyone’s coffee in the morning—you were hired because you have something to offer. So make the most of it!
Don’t be afraid to be innovative, provide fresh ideas, and immerse yourself in the organization in addition to staying on top of your duties. Being shy will not impress people, particularly in a virtual environment, but being enthusiastic about your career and taking on new challenges will.
Don’t: Be Afraid to Ask for Help
But, although you’re striving to be the intern super-hero, remember that you’re there for a reason: to learn. While you should be able to think for yourself, you will not be expected to know everything. And the first few weeks will be stressful because you’re not only new to the job, but you’re also starting in an unfamiliar environment—the virtual one.
Regardless of whether you’re on-site or not, don’t be hesitant to ask questions by email, Gchat, or phone. I’ve asked a lot of questions, and while I was worried that it might anger my boss, it turns out that it has impressed her. It’s also helped me feel more at ease with my projects, allowing me to generate higher-quality work.
Do: Be Patient
Working in the virtual world means that your coworkers have different schedules (and sometimes even different time zones), and they are likely to have a lot on their plates. They don’t always want you to answer right away, and you shouldn’t expect them to. Working in a virtual environment allows you to choose your own hours, but it also demands you to be flexible. So, even if it doesn’t come naturally, learn to be patient.
Virtual internships are a fantastic experience, and while they come with their own set of obstacles, they provide you with flexibility and the opportunity to exhibit your ability to work independently, as well as excellent preparation for the real world. Plus, virtual and flexible work are becoming more popular, and your online internship could be precisely what you need.