To go or not to go: When is a virtual internship right for you?
by Kate Gatto
The idea of getting credit, both on your resume and in school, for staying at home in your pajamas while you work is a tempting proposition. I mean who doesn't want to work in the most comfortable environment possible, especially when your working on a college degree.
The benefits are real, but if you happen to be the kind of person who doesn't follow through with your commitments, or the type of person who needs face to face interaction in order to make things work than the virtual internship may not be for you.
You will want to consider your field. If you are studying, health care, cooking, gardening or other hands-on fields then steer clear of the virtual track. You need the work experience that an on site internship can provide. If you're working towards a field like computer science or journalism however the virtual internship may just be for you.
So now that you have decided to go the virtual route, you have to decide what companies you are going to apply at. Some companies have virtual internship programs set up for already for prospective applicants. You can use internship web sites like externs.com which list virtual internships.
You can simply complete the application, or forward your resume and cover letter to the appropriate person, but many companies do not have programs. If this is the case, and you have your heart set on working for a company that does not have a virtual internship program set up, then it is worth asking.
Find the internship coordinator and send them a letter, a polite one asking them if they would consider a virtual internship. If you choose this route, be sure to have specific details in the letter such as what the exact duties of a virtual intern would be, how they could be accomplished through the virtual internship format and what the benefits of setting up this program would be.
Bear in mind when I say benefits, I mean the benefits to the company, not to you. If you want them to take your suggestions seriously then you have to give them a good reason why they should start the program. Remember that there are some universal benefits to starting a virtual internship program that you can use to get you started. It allows a company to draw a wider range of candidate's talent to the company, and to have more interns available to work on projects without concerns about having the space for them.
Once you land your virtual internship remember that the key is communication. Without being annoying, be sure that you understand the expectations that your internship coordinator has of you. How many hours will you need to work in order to complete the projects and what deadlines will you have to meet? If your deadline is more than a week or two in the future, than you need to be sure to keep in contact.
I'm not suggesting that you pester your internship coordinator daily, but maybe twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday, send over an email just to let her or him know a little bit about your progress. Unless you have some amazing news, or a lot of pressing questions, keep its memo length and to the point, out of consideration for your coordinator.
Also, remember that you have to take this seriously, because if you do this right it will be a great reference, and great way to prove to employers that you can work independently and get results. Being able to give an example of that skill that on your next job interview will help to put you head and shoulders above everyone else.