Most internships rely on human interaction, learning from professionals, making mistakes and pwning presentations. But what happens when you get a virtual internship? How will you shine when you rarely (if at all) see your employers or co-workers face-to-face?
Virtual internships are perfect for the organized, responsive, and independent. You will love working from home and gaining experience at the same time. But be prepared; there will be challenges to working from home everyday.
Here’s how you can rock your virtual internship:
- Be Flexible
First off, make sure you have enough time to devote to a virtual internship. If the job calls for 15-20 hours of work, make sure you’re available for that amount of time.
Make a schedule for your projects. Whether you have assignments on an as-needed basis or you’re given a daily/weekly to-do list, make “free” time to account for emergencies or extra projects.
Tim Hare, 27, of Boston, manages a virtual team of eight to nine interns for Millennial Branding LLC, and cites communication as the most important factor at your virtual internship. “If I hear from people on a regular basis, I count them as being on top of their stuff.”
Stay on top of things by responding to emails quickly and making sure you answer the entire message. Don’t feel as though answering emails is a burden.
“Nothing is an excuse for not answering an email. You check your email everyday—it’s a part of our culture,” says Hare.
Most of your assignments will be given to you via email or on the phone, and not always on a set schedule. Responding quickly and getting assignments done in a timely manner shows that you’re reliable, trustworthy and responsive.
Melissa Reohr, 21, a virtual intern in Albany, NY, insists on staying in constant contact. She advises that when projects are assigned, “even just a quick response with ‘Yup! I’m working on the project now’ will suffice as communication.”
Make sure to check your email daily and filter work-related emails out. Make rules for yourself to follow, such as “must respond to emails within 12-24 hours.” Write these down near your designated work space to keep on task.
- Take Initiative
If you have the time and have completed all other assignments, ask your supervisor if they need help on any new projects. Because you won’t be seeing your co-workers everyday, it’s up to you to keep tabs on other projects and ask around to take on extra work.
Email your supervisor (or call if that’s the designated mode of communication) and let them know you’re available. Even if an assignment isn’t assigned to you, they will view you as a dedicated team-player.
If the location allows you to visit their main office, ask for a tour and to meet your employers in person. Even if the office is a bit of a drive, offering to visit in order to learn more about the company shows great initiative.
- Be Professional and Courteous
It is extremely easy to come across differently than you hoped through email. An email sent to an employer may seem friendly to you, but they may read it as unprofessional. Remember to proofread all communication with your supervisor to avoid spelling or grammatical errors, comments that may come across rude or unprofessional, and avoid all texting lingo or emoticons.
If you’re having trouble making the tone of the email sound professional, yet friendly, check out these top 10 tips for effective email writing.
Misunderstandings may happen, but this is where communication and honesty play a huge role in dispelling discontent.
- Ask For Help When You Need It
It isn’t always as easy to understand assignments when a person isn’t handing it to you in person. If you’re unsure about any assignments or projects given to you, speak up. Don’t be afraid to call your employer for clarification—they’d much rather you get it right the first time around.
If you find you can’t take time out to complete a project, be honest. You’re employer wants to see the work done, period. The sooner you let them know, the faster they can assign it to another employee/intern. Don’t make this a habit, but don’t feel guilty if you legitimately can’t follow-through.
A virtual internship is an experience–make sure you make the most of it and learn as much as you can. Remember these tips and maybe your virtual internship can turn into a full time position.