So You’re a Virtual Intern?

Good news! More companies than ever are investing in virtual internship programs, which means interns can work from home. While still earning class credit. And building your résumé. Possibly without even taking off your make up from the night before and while “glancing” at new episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. If you snagged one this semester, it’s like a college girl’s dream!

…or so you thought. The freedom to “make your own hours” has turned into cramming ten-hours-a-week’s worth of work into the spare minutes between Vegas trips and parties. When you try to work, you can barely even stay awake. And since there’s no intern dress code, you’ve stayed in your pajamas for periods longer than you did during finals week.

However, I warn you: you’re probably receiving very real class credit, so your supervisors deserve very real results. And these little changes will make a big impact on your virtual internship experience:

Stick to a schedule. Set out time each day and each week to get your projects done – online tools like Google Calendar and Toggl help you keep track of your hours – and respect that time. What would your bosses think if they knew you were texting your boyfriend every ten minutes? Would you have a flashing Facebook browser tab open on the company computer? Put your cell phone/TV/distractions on silent, just as you would at a live internship.

Get up and get dressed. It’s often advised that dressing up for phone interviews makes a candidate more confident, but doing so daily for your internship hours is like a ritual that mentally prepares you for your work day. Put on a little day make up and pop in your contacts; ditch the blazer if it’s too hot in your hometown, but seriously – no sweatpants.

Go to work. Just because you don’t need gas or a subway ticket doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still go to work. Carve out space designated for prime productivity: a table at a nearby coffee shop or a makeshift home office (well away from any TV). As long as your “commute” includes leaving your comfy bed, it’s one step closer to fulfilling your intern potential.

Network, network, network! Just because you haven’t (yet) met your company’s team face-to-face doesn’t mean you should forget about networking. BIG intern mistake. Set up weekly video chats with your supervisor to discuss your progress, start a Facebook Group with your fellow virtual interns to trade tips (and the occasional rant!). And be sure to connect with everyone you can on a professional networking tool like LinkedIn  to keep in touch – if you show your dedicated work ethic through this virtual internship, the contacts you make could help you somewhere down your career path.

Hint: Let’s say you have a different virtual commitment – summer school homework, studying for the MCATs/GREs/LSATs/GMATs/future-defining-test-of-some-sort, even keeping up a new workout routine – these tips still contribute to successful results. And if you’re hoping to get a head start on the virtual internship hunt for fall, check out sites like Intern Queen. My favorite: CollegeFashionista hires virtual fashion writers from all over the world.

What’s the best thing about being a virtual intern? And what’s been the most difficult part of your experience?

  • 10614935101348454