You may be wondering what it takes to successfully complete a virtual internship. While there are some similarities between in-person internships and remote internships, there are definitely some unique circumstances that need attention in order for you to achieve a successful internship.
Be a Good Communicator
Communication is listed first due to its high level of importance to you achieving success. Communication is different when you’re working remotely. Most will happen through chats, email, zoom meetings, and comments in project management systems, so you can’t rely on in-person connections to clarify something. In order to succeed in your virtual internship, you must maintain open communication with your internship supervisor and colleagues.
Ask your supervisor how they prefer to communicate. If face-to-face is best, schedule video chats. If they prefer email, consider sending weekly email recaps of your progress. If a supervisor prefers phone calls, schedule regular phone calls with them in addition to other communication methods. Always have an agenda ready with a list of items you would like to discuss during the meeting. Sending your agenda ahead of time is also a good way to help your supervisor come prepared with the answers you need ahead of the call. Prioritize topics that are time sensitive or urgent to ensure you address those first.
Maintain a Regular Work Schedule
You may not initially feel the need to apply a regular schedule to your work-day as you begin your internship. Avoid this temptation even if your internship supervisor has given you permission to work a flexible schedule. Maintaining regular work hours ensures that you have enough time to accomplish all the tasks assigned to you and it gives your team the ability to predict when you will be available to collaborate. In addition, your regular schedule will give you the ability to fit other responsibilities into you day-to-day such as program coursework, family responsibilities, and leisure time.
Create Your Own Professional Environment
Even if you are not in a traditional office, making an effort to dress professionally will help you stay motivated and get into a work mindset. Set up a workspace in your home that will serve as an office. It is especially important to maintain a professional setting when you’re video chatting with colleagues or clients. Consider your background during a video chat and limit any unnecessary noise.
Get Rid of Distractions
At a normal internship, you’d put away all your music, stay away from social media during work hours and make sure you weren’t watching any shows or surfing the web except for work purposes. But when you’re working from home, having no supervisor to watch over you could make you feel like you can get away with doing all those things. While you can definitely keep Facebook open and the TV on without anyone knowing, you need to be sure that you won’t get distracted, which means taking away anything that can detract from your productivity!
Set Professional and Personal Goals
Decide what you would like to accomplish in your virtual internship and make your supervisor aware of your goals. While your supervisor's main objective is to ensure that projects are completed, most organizations also have a desire to help you grow and develop professionally. Setting and working toward goals is imperative to your ultimate success and achieving goals is a great measure of the success of your internship at its completion.
Approach Your Virtual Internship as You Would Any Other Job
Internships, whether in-person or virtual, are jobs and should be treated as such. Successful interns ensure to be timely, professional in manner and dress, and produce results. When students approach their virtual internship as they would any other job, it is reflected both in the quality of their work as well as in their employee review at the end of the term. They will feel a greater sense of purpose in their position and will meet their goals in a more meaningful way and with more regularity.
Ask For, and Learn From Feedback
One of the main purposes of an internship is to grow and become a more competent, skilled professional. As such, it is important for you to receive feedback on your performance of internship duties as you perform them. Students who ask for, and respond in a positive manner to feedback come out leaps and bounds ahead of their peers.
Your internship supervisor will have specific expectations for you in your role with their organization and, if you are unclear about any expectations, it is important for you to ask and receive clarification before proceeding.
Record Your Accomplishments
Internships are great "stepping-stones" for future positions and you will likely seek. In order to fully take advantage of this, make sure that you keep track of your accomplishments in your internship as you experience them so that you can later include them on your resumes going forward. Accomplishments you can include could be any completed projects, contributions that improved the organization's workflow or processes, new skills acquired, etc.
Cut Yourself Some Slack!
Working remotely can be a big adjustment if you’ve never done it before, so don’t worry if you need to take some time to get used to it.