The Truth About Virtual Internships in the United States
2020 will go down in history not only as a difficult year for many companies, workers, and students, in fact, for all of us, but also as the source of massive innovation when it comes to the way we work. The pre-vaccine COVID-19 virus pushed people worldwide to work and study from home.
Since normal in-person internships suddenly became impossible, companies quickly started offering virtual internships for students and young professionals, creating new exciting opportunities.
1. What Is a Virtual Internship?
A virtual internship, also know as remote or online internship, allows interns from a variety of fields to gain work experience and professional skills directly from home instead of being present at a traditional office setting. Virtual internship positions are available in many fields including Business & Marketing, Communications, Web Design, Information Technology, and more.
The workflow of a virtual internship offers similar aspects in comparison to an in-person internship. Interns work on individual and team-based projects and attend weekly meetings with supervisors and employees online using applications like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, as well as engage in email and phone communication.
2. What Are the Benefits of a Virtual Internship?
Save Time and Money – If you are an international student, you do not need to pay for a J-1 visa, flight tickets, or housing – which saves you a lot of money. Since your internship will be entirely online, you can begin working immediately and you don’t waste time commuting to an office. In some ways, this is a big advantage in comparison to a J-1 Visa internship in the United States. In a previous article, we looked into the costs of an in-person internship.
Earn Academic Credit – Universities typically require students to complete a certain amount of hours in order to receive credit for their internship. Companies that offer virtual internships have procedures and apps for tracking internship hours to ensure you get the credit you need.
Flexibility – Students and young professionals can complete tasks from home on their own time. This makes sure students can focus on their studies and also allows people to work other jobs while interning remotely. You can plan your virtual internship hours around your personal schedule.
Gain Experience and Learn Skills – As a virtual intern, you will be given projects and tasks that are relevant to your field of study. You will have the chance to gain experience and learn skills that you can then apply for your future career.
Strengthen Your Resume – More and more companies started offering virtual internships in response to the pandemic lockdown situation in 2020. Without a doubt, virtual internships look great on resumes and will make you more desirable for future employment.
Get Letters of Recommendation – Companies that provide virtual internships typically offer their interns letters of recommendation and also endorse them on Linked In. References and endorsements are very important and can help you get hired increasing your job opportunities substantially.
Improve Your English and Understand American Culture – As a foreign student or young professional you will have the opportunity to interact with and build relationships with Americans. Your English skills will improve and you will have a better understanding of the way Americans communicate with each other.
3. What Are the Challenges of Virtual Internships?
Self Motivation – The key to a successful virtual internship is your self-motivation. If you have problems with staying on task and managing your time effectively, then a virtual internship may be difficult.
Virtual internships work best for people who can work independently and who are motivated to learn and improve their skills. It is essential that you create a work schedule that works for you and use that time efficiently just as if you were working in an office environment.
Online Communication – Since you will be interning from home, communication with your supervisors and coworkers is critically important. You will have to be good at communicating via email, phone, messaging, and video conferencing. The problem with online communication is that sometimes the goals and expectations can be difficult to understand.
However, this problem is easily solved if you set clear goals and expectations with the company from the start. Successful virtual interns need to communicate with their supervisors and coworkers on a regular basis.
Lack of Experience in a Physical Office Setting – It is obvious that a virtual internship can not entirely recreate the real work environment that you get from an in-person internship. The teamwork, communication, and the atmosphere may feel more authentic when you interact with people physically. But there are ways to remedy these shortcomings such as virtual company ‘Happy Hours’, virtual holiday parties or online games with team members.
In any case, even with a virtual internship you can still show employers that you were able to demonstrate teamwork and communication skills by working with the company through features like Zoom and Skype.
Time Zones – Lastly, if you are an international student living in another country, managing time zone differences may be a problem. You will have to communicate with your supervisors and coworkers at specific times in order to make up for the time difference.
Once again, clear communication and time management skills can help solve this issue.
Virtual internships allow international students to gain experience, learn skills, and intern with companies directly from home. Interning remotely from home has its benefits as well as some challenges. However, the benefits far outweigh the problems – making a virtual internship worth it.
If you are self-motivated, a strong communicator, and manage your time well, a virtual internship can help get ahead in your career while allowing you to still manage school and another job that you may have.
Virtually interning with an American company can potentially lead to a paid internship or even a job offer in the United States with the same company. Companies prefer to hire people who they know, and a virtual internship is a great way to get your foot in the door.
If you are interested in a virtual internship in the USA, visit our Virtual Internship Program in the USA webpage.
So why not take the first step, start off smart, and build your experience with a virtual internship?