Make the Most Of a Virtual Internship

A Valuable Opportunity

If you’re a student or new to the job market, internships offer the perfect opportunity to make essential career connections and hone crucial skills, while assessing whether that a job is one that you’d actually enjoy doing as a career. It’s a great opportunity to put your best foot forward and prove you’d make a great hire, according to career consultant Brianna Watts. “Many people end up doing internships, and then getting hired for fulltime employment because they performed so well.” 

Unfortunately, for now at least, many internships are virtual. While they don’t offer many of the advantages of in-person ones, such as the opportunity to get to know people face-to-face, they certainly are not a wasted opportunity. “It’s critical to make a good impression in any internship, as the connections you make as an intern can potentially affect your entire career,” said Patricia Figueroa, owner of Career Glow Up, a career coaching business. To ensure you get the most out of a virtual internship, here are some smart tactics to try:  

Pretend you’re in person.

Sure you’re doing taks for your virtual internship from your bedroom floor, but that doesn’t mean you should dress like it. “This is the start of your professional career, and you want to make sure you are making a good impression at every turn,” said Figueroa. This means following the basic rules of what an in-person internship would require, including dressing well, coming prepared for meetings, being on time, focusing on networking and completing your assigned tasks on the required schedule. 

Document your work.

Although this is important even at in-person jobs, documentation is particularly essential in a virtual situation where your superiors won’t likely see the work you complete as you’re doing it. Watts suggests creating a Google or Excel document to keep a running track of the hours you’re working, projects you’re completing and the status of those projects, people you’ve spoken to and what you’ve discussed. With this information readily accessible, it’ll be easy to refer back to your notes and cover your bases if something goes missing on someone else’s end. 

Get things in writing.

A virtual internship likely means plenty of phone or Zoom calls. In the case where meetings occurred and next steps or expectations weren’t written down, Watts suggests following up with an email so that you can clarify your role moving forward, and to have a reference for checking back on if questions come up later.  

Be proactive.

A virtual internship might require some extra sleuthing. For example, rather than overhearing a conversation where you can join in and offer solutions to problems, think outside of the box whenever the opportunity to showcase your talents presents itself. Say you’re on a call about upcoming marketing objectives, and your boss mentions how social media has been slow lately. Don’t be afraid to jump in with suggestions on how you can help increase engagement. “Don’t just sit and wait on assignments, or to be told what to do,” said Watts. “Take initiative and assume leadership. You’re not in-person, so you want to always be thinking about that next opportunity, and to constantly be showing up.”  

Make it personal.

Not having the opportunity to meet colleagues face-to-face is one of the biggest disadvantages to a virtual setting, said Figueroa. So you need to make an extra effort to get to know your co-workers. Start by asking to connect on LinkedIn and then spending time learning about that person. Don’t hesitate to let colleagues know that you’re impressed with their career journey and would love to hear more about what they do. Politely request a phone call or Zoom meeting and prepare a list of three to five questions, asking what their experience at the company has been like and what advice they might have for you.  

Even if your internship is something you do without leaving your home, be sure to take full advantage. A virtual internship, like an in-person one, can be a great opportunity to shine if you come prepared to learn and contribute every day. “It’s great experience and, if you’re lucky, it might turn into a full-time job,” Watts says. 

– Cheryl Lock