In the age where we are all connected by digital ties, the world is truly your oyster when it comes to finding an internship. Why limit your search to local businesses when you can tap into industries all over the world?
Getting an online internship, also called virtual internships or remote internships, means that you can build your resume at the same time that you continue going to school or working a day job. It’s a great option to supplement your other commitments, or as an alternative to the traditional internship which comes with additional costs and expenses. It may also give you the experience you need to kick start your online career.
Online internships are offered in a variety of industries across the globe and can generally be started anytime throughout the year. While some online internships may be less reputable, there are a number of well respected programs and organizations that offer virtual alternatives to the traditional internship.
Many industries lend themselves to online internships. Seek out positions in trades that have a digital component or that are fully virtual. Here are some of the leading industries that offer online internships:
Marketing: Much of marketing and advertising takes place online. Potential remote internships in marketing could include managing social media platforms, creating or curating digital content, or running analytics for campaigns.
Finance: Many finance departments within businesses or finance service firms seek out virtual interns to support with varying tasks. You might help with market analysis, financial modeling, or summarize reports.
Tech: Tech is a great industry for online options, as you can find internships in technical support, development, engineering, and more. And as a plus, many of the big tech companies pay their online interns the same as on-site interns!
Sales: Working in sales or customer support can provide good opportunities for remote internships. You may find yourself answering consumer queries, tracking outreach, or performing market research.
Journalism: Online publications are often looking for remote interns to help with content creation, copyediting, or research.
While the structure of an online internship might look different from its on-site counterpart, the application process tends to be quite similar.
Before making any decisions, your first step will be research. Since everything will happen online, you’ll want to make sure the company and internship offer are legitimate. Look up reviews that past employees or interns have left, see what people are saying about the company online, and just generally get a sense of where you’re actually applying. Knowledge is power so make sure you do your homework.
When applying for a remote internship you’ll want to make sure your resume is up to date and polished and that you have a cover letter specific to the position you’re applying for. Online internships can be just as competitive as traditional internships, so it’s important you make yourself a competitive candidate by tailoring your cover letter to the industry, company, and position.
Additionally, expect to go through at least one round of interviews (if not more). While these will most likely be conducted via phone or video call, it can still be a good idea to prepare as if it were in person. Do some research and take notes, practice interview questions, and dress professionally. While this last suggestion may seem unnecessary, it’s a good idea to dress the part—taking time to look professional will help you simulate the conditions that you would experience at an in-person interview and might help you perform better.
Lastly, you may be asked to provide supplemental material such as writing samples and references. If you’re applying for a position in a second language you may also need to provide proof of language proficiency. Make sure to have these materials on hand so that you make a professional first impression.
Labor laws differ from country to country, so it’s important to look into the laws of the location where the company is based (remember, if you’re based in the US, for example, and are applying to a position in Germany, you’ll need to research German labor laws, not American). These laws will determine whether or not it’s required that interns be paid, so it’s important for you to know this so that you can advocate on your own behalf.
While you may find that many internships are unpaid, it’s very likely that you may be able to receive college credit for your work if you are currently enrolled in an institution. Check in with your college or university to see what requirements you would need to meet to receive credit.
You may also want to consider non-monetary benefits when negotiating your compensation package. The company may be able to provide you with a technology stipend to cover the costs of a work laptop or even your Internet bill. This will vary dramatically by the industry and company, so be sure to read the job description thoroughly and check in with the hiring manager to see if non-monetary benefits are on the table.
Working From Home
Working from home may very well be one of the biggest perks of an online internship. No video calls today? Then pajamas it is!
But it’s important to make sure your space and lifestyle is conducive to being productive. Your priority should be making sure you have reliable technology and a secure, high-speed Internet connection. While digitally interning from a yoga retreat in Bali may be tempting, make sure the retreat center has good internet or you’ll be left looking unreliable.
Additionally, you may want to consider setting up a workstation. This doesn’t have to be an office per se, but it’s a good idea to set up a space that is relatively distraction free (no cats on the keyboard) and helps you get into a productive headspace.
What to Expect
There are certainly a number of benefits to doing an online internship.
For starters, the financial barrier to access internships is virtually removed. When you don’t have to pay for a plane ticket or housing, and you don’t have to give up your part-time job, internships become much more accessible to people of all incomes. This is important because it can help diversify spaces that have typically been open only to people from more privileged backgrounds. By offering virtual internships, companies can ensure that applicants from all over the world and all economic backgrounds are eligible.
Online internships also offer the intern maximum independence. You may find that your schedule is flexible and that there is less oversight than there would be in an office setting. And as long as you have Internet, you can pretty much work from anywhere. Just make sure you are ready and available when it’s time to work!
But while this flexibility may seem appealing, it can also come with some downsides.
Minimal oversight might mean that you don’t receive the same training and guidance that you would otherwise. You’ll still get good hands-on experience, but there may be certain learning opportunities that you miss out on because you’re not in an office observing what’s going on.
You may also find that your internship lacks some structure. With far-off managers who are distracted by their own set of responsibilities, you may need to work on troubleshooting your problems and managing your own set of priorities.
As with any internship, it’s important that you directly communicate your goals to your supervisor.
What are you hoping to learn? Who are you hoping to meet? What career are you most interested in pursuing? If your supervisor knows what you want to get out of your internship, they’ll be better prepared to help you meet those goals.
As ever, it’s important to advocate for yourself and be an active participant in your learning experience.