The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted in-person activities to a virtual format, including internships. Internships are a vital part of a young adult’s college career because they provide first-hand experience of a student’s desired profession. However, because of the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions, virtual internships are becoming more prevalent.
“Don’t lessen the value of an internship just because it’s virtual. It was a great learning experience for me and exposed me to a particular set of information that I would have never looked at to begin with,” Samford University senior Nick Tatum said.
Despite the lack of in-person interaction, the virtual internship experience can still be rewarding.
If you are currently going through a virtual internship or are thinking about pursuing one, Samford University Director of the Career Development Center, Dora Ditchfield has some tips to offer on how to succeed with virtual internships.
1) Be clear on tasks and expectations
Before the starting the internship, you need to be clear on the expectations.
“There needs to be an understanding in advance of how many hours you will be working, what kind of supervision there will be, what kind of access to the supervisor you will have, and what kinds of tasks you will be doing. Understanding those up-front will mitigate a number of issues that will arise later,” said Ditchfield
2) Establish check-ins
To stay on the same page with your supervisor, it is important to establish check-ins. Before you begin the internship, set up a day and time where you and your supervisor can meet by Zoom or phone call to discuss any questions you have about your work.
“While in-person is best, Zoom is second best because you can share screens, notice body language, and see the other person,” Ditchfield said. “A phone call would really be the last resort.”
3) Be self-disciplined
The most crucial factor behind the success of a virtual internship is being self-disciplined. With no one standing over shoulder, it can be easy to procrastinate on your tasks. Ditchfield recommends that you set aside certain times on specific days to work on your internship. She also said that even though supervisors say that you must do a certain number of hours each week, it is best to create your own schedule.
4) Dress for Your Internship/ Have a Specific Location
“Dress as if you were going to the internship in-person and have a specific place where you work for your internship. Whether it’s your dorm room, apartment, or in the library, that way you feel like you are going to your internship,” Ditchfield said.
While Ditchfield did provide some tips on being successful at a virtual internship, she also discussed the major advantage of virtual internships.
“I think the advantage is that you have access to locations that you wouldn’t normally have otherwise,” Ditchfield said. “Virtual internships allow you to intern with organizations around the country during the school year.”
While Ditchfield did provide advice on virtual internships, several students shared their experience with their virtual internships.
“My virtual internship allows me to make my own schedule and prioritize my own time. The hardest thing about my virtual internship is the temptation of not doing the work,” senior Mia Banuelos said.
Junior Megan Harris mentioned that organization and flexibility are important.
“Be organized and stay flexible. It takes a lot more self-motivation to be as effective as possible because you don’t have a boss coming by your desk,” Harris said. “Also, take advantage of all the opportunities you have to make connections.”
Senior Aubrie Strange discussed the difficulty that comes with virtual internships as well as how to do well with one.
“When you’re not going to a place to do something and you don’t have a set routine, it’s harder to get in the right headspace,” Strange said. “Find a place where you can do your work and set aside a time to work on your internship. Make an effort to make it feel like a normal internship would.”
Although there is a loss of in-person interaction with virtual internships, the experience you receive from them can still be valuable. If you need help on finding a virtual internship or further advice on how to succeed with them, email the Career Development Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.