The pros and cons of a virtual internship
Generally speaking, internships are a fantastic opportunity to gain relevant work experience; fulfil course requirements; make professional connections; learn about yourself; and get a feel for the industry or sector you are contemplating working in.
With an increasing number of people undertaking remote internships, student interns must adapt to a changing workforce.
The positives of a virtual internship
Any internship is an opportunity for you to use your initiative and demonstrate resilience. Some clients taking virtual student internships have told me they have enjoyed getting to know staff in an informal way online (such as meeting their pets). Senior staff can be less intimidating in their home environment than in a structured office setting.
Some students have loved interning remotely, with the time saved helping facilitate a better balance between work, study, and leisure. Virtual internships have opened opportunities for students living in remote regions around Australia too. As the way we work is changing rapidly, working virtually is becoming more common — a virtual internship prepares you for this.
Young people today can expect to have five or six careers and work will become increasingly interdisciplinary. Prospective employers will be interested in your ‘employability skills’, such as:
A virtual internship will help you to develop these skills.
The challenges of a virtual internship
Most people would agree it is more challenging for anyone starting a new position remotely. There is less opportunity to be visible and have face-to-face interactions with supervisors, colleagues, and clients as you would in a typical work setting. The office enables casual interactions with co-workers in the tearoom, socialising after work, walking to meetings and so on. Nothing replaces face-to-face contact when it comes to observing people, work culture and group dynamics.
Remember you are learning. Do not be hard on yourself if you make mistakes. It is how you respond that is most important. Enjoy the experience and play it forward if you are hosting interns in the future.
About the author
Helen is a qualified careers consultant, careers writer and professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia. She has over two decades’ experience working in senior education and career program management roles, particularly within the tertiary sector where she has assisted many students. She now runs her own careers consulting practice, Career Confident, in the South-East suburbs of Melbourne and has children at university.