Much of the world essentially transitioned to remote work in 2020, but students may be wondering if there’s a place for them in internships. The short answer is yes.
Many employers turned their in-person internships to online ones.
Students who doubt the benefit of a remote internship may want to reconsider. A virtual college internship can provide valuable experience.
When remote work gained steam nationwide, many employers said they were preparing to make remote work a more permanent piece of their business.
Read on to learn how to find and get the most out of remote internships.
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Finding Remote Internships
Colleges usually have information about internships. Students can check in with their school’s career center and see what intel it has on remote internships.
Students who are looking for remote internships can also get in touch with those in the alumni organization, ask around in their personal networks, and see if their schools will be hosting any job fairs during the upcoming semester.
Then there’s the Virtual Student Federal Service, which matches students with projects at more than 40 federal agencies. This program is virtual, students can be in charge of their timetable, and the commitment is 10 hours a week.
The application period for the program is July 1-31 every year on usajobs.gov.
For students who would rather tackle their remote internship over the summer, there are usually summer internships available.
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Creating a Home Office to Support Success
Working from home is a new experience for some people, so creating an environment that helps to maintain focus and health is key to success.
As with any office building, there are a few things that can be done to make the space healthier.
Those who will be spending most of the day in their home office may want to consider opening the windows, keeping the space clean, and investing in an air purifier.
A key piece of staying productive and reducing stress is having an organized space. When working from home, it helps to have a desk free of clutter.
Research has shown that maintaining an organized space helps with cognition, emotional health, and behavior. All of these factors contribute to how people perform at work.
Succeeding at an internship as well as at school could be challenging for students.
Setting boundaries for their work may help with prioritizing and prevent students from losing valuable study time.
Having set work hours can make it easier for students to turn “off” work mode and transition into study or relaxation mode.
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Paying Attention to Health
Students should also be aware of the impact that working from home can have on their physical health.
Long hours on a computer, both writing papers and doing work for their internship, can take a toll.
To prevent eye strain, students can adopt the 20-20-20 rule. It goes like this: Every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
In addition to preventing eye strain, students may want to pay attention to their posture throughout the day.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends working in a neutral position that won’t strain joints and tendons, and changing positions, stretching, and walking throughout the day, as well as performing some tasks while standing.
Physical health isn’t the only kind that can be affected by spending long periods of time at home.
Some people have reported that working from home caused them to feel more stress, whereas others said it reduced stress. Since this varies, students will have to keep an eye out for mental well-being during a remote internship.
To take care of their mental health, students can implement routines like walking, meditating, and calling friends.
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Finding Value in Virtual Networking
Video calls are a great way to connect and network with others virtually.
Emails and phone calls are still important pieces of remote work, but with video calls, it’s easier to connect with remote co-workers and better understand them during meetings.
Nonverbal communication skills are essential to good communication.
This means that networking virtually is possible. Networking during an internship is important because internships have the potential to turn into full-time positions.
Asking colleagues to get together for a video chat to ask questions or better understand their position could improve the chance of being offered a job at the end of the internship.
Networking virtually takes planning and intentional communication, because co-workers can’t bond over lunch or chat at the water cooler.
Setting up a virtual chat to get to know colleagues better can demonstrate the ability to take initiative and how serious the intern is taking the position.
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Starting Off on the Right Foot
A virtual internship is going to work a bit differently from an in-person internship, which means students should be ready to ask a lot of questions.
Before beginning the internship, prepare a list of questions to ask the employer via email or video chat.
Asking questions can help students develop important leadership skills, so it’s a good habit to develop during an internship.
Starting an internship off right also involves setting up regular check-ins with a manager. They may do this already, but if not, it’s OK to ask for it to be implemented.
Receiving regular feedback can improve performance, and therefore help students get the most out of their internships.
Juggling studies and a remote internship may be intense, so part of being prepared is getting a calendar to track important dates and internship tasks.
Blocking off time in a calendar to focus on the internship tasks could prevent moments of burnout and overwhelm.
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Brushing Up On the Tech
Before beginning a virtual internship, it could help students to get familiar with the common platforms that are used in remote work for communication, task management, file sharing and online calendars.
Each workplace is going to use different programs; some may prefer Asana over Trello when it comes to task management, and some may prefer Slack over Basecamp for communication within the team.
There are tons of programs out there to make virtual work easier. Interns won’t be able to learn them all, but brushing up on what’s popular may ease anxiety and increase feelings of preparedness.
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Documenting Your Success
It can be really easy to forget all that has been accomplished during an internship.
Most internships last a whole semester, and if students aren’t tracking what their tasks and accomplishments are, they may forget them.
This is important information for students to keep for both themselves and their managers.
Keeping things documented can help students easily add their accomplishments and new skills to their resume.
It will also make it easier for managers to write a letter of recommendation at the end of the internship.
With luck, the manager will remember the best of the accomplishments, but if they’re managing a large team it could be difficult for them to write a letter without reference points.
A letter of recommendation can help students once they enter the workforce and begin applying for jobs.
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Keeping the Financial Support Flowing
What do student loans have to do with remote internships? Well, most students trying to get internships must address the costs of higher education—which usually go well beyond tuition.
The college experience can be funded with federal aid, scholarships, and private student loans.
It’s generally recommended that students exhaust all options of federal aid before moving on to private loans.
Federal loans come with benefits that students may not find elsewhere, such as interest rates, and students who are eligible for federal aid could be offered grants. Students can also look into scholarships.
Sometimes costs exceed what’s at hand, and families or individuals turn to private student loans.
It’s best to research the options, as eligibility requirements and repayment plans differ.
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