13 Tips on How To Make Your Virtual Internship a Success

Updated June 9, 2023

Many businesses and companies in nearly every industry offer internships and virtual ones are becoming more common. Virtual internships let you work for organizations that you might not otherwise have access to. Learning how to build relationships, engage in the company culture, maximize the learning opportunity and show your talents can help you make the most out of your virtual internship and further develop your professional capabilities. In this article, we discover what a virtual internship is, how it differs from traditional ones and explore 13 tips on how to make your virtual internship a success.

Read more: Definitive Guide to Internships

What is a virtual internship?

A virtual internship is a work experience program where you gain professional and practical experience while working in a remote setting versus an office or other company location. You do your work primarily by email, phone, online chat or through other communication platforms. Employers recognize the value virtual internships have in preparing future job candidates and remote internships help strengthen your time-management and self-discipline skills, which employers hold in high regard.

Virtual internships allow you to save time and money commuting or having to relocate, offer more flexibility for your workday or class schedule and allow you to apply for internships around the country or internationally. For employers, they can increase their pool of qualified candidates by offering virtual internships and can enjoy space and equipment cost savings by having a remote intern team.

Related: The Best Ways To Job Shadow and Network Virtually

How is a virtual internship different from a traditional one?

Both virtual and in-person internships are important steps to take in your career, though there are some differences, including:

  • Environment: An in-person internship requires you to travel to an office, store, warehouse or other company location, whereas you can do a virtual internship in your home, dormitory or other space. You can save time and money through virtual internships, too.

  • Communications: With a virtual internship, you conduct most business by email, online chat, video conferences or by phone. Spontaneous collaboration is less likely than with in-person internships, where you can stop at someone's desk to ask a question, get input or follow-up with a task.

  • Work hours: An in-person internship typically follows a standard business workweek, like Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for example. With a virtual internship, you often have more control over creating a flexible schedule.

  • Relationship building: Both internship types let you build connections with colleagues, clients, fellow interns and customers, though it can be more challenging through a virtual one. Face-to-face connections may work better for one person, while online platforms may suit someone else. You can get to know your strengths and weaknesses with either kind of internship and help develop and grow new skills.

Virtual internships are like traditional ones in that you still have project based work, a supervisor to report to and communication with your team.

13 tips on how to make your virtual internship a success

Virtual internships are a valuable opportunity for you to gain professional experience, develop new and strengthened skill sets and grow your network of contacts. Here are 13 tips on how to make your virtual internship a success:

Learn about the organization

Learn as much as you can about a company or organization before your internship begins so you can understand company expectations, culture and communication style. Read through staff biographies online to learn about the leaders and colleagues you work with. Consider connecting with them if you have questions or want to get a better understanding of the company.

Read more: The Complete Guide To Researching a Company

Prepare ahead of time

Even though the internship is virtual, it is still important to prepare ahead of time. Gather all the materials or tools provided to you, like a company handbook or a laptop computer, for example. Set up a space where you live that is comfortable, quiet and conducive to getting work done. If you have programs and platforms to log into, consider doing it before your first day or as soon as you have the information ready, along with completing any important paperwork.

Join the company culture

Being part of the company culture can be a challenge when working remotely instead of in person. You can engage with colleagues, leaders and fellow interns through employee resource groups, virtual events and other company offerings. For example, an organization might have a book club or virtual walking competition as ways to connect outside of work. Signing digital birthday, congratulations or anniversary cards are also a fun way to stay connected with the team you work with and engage in company culture.

Unite with fellow interns

Whether through email, message chats or social platforms, connecting with fellow interns is a great way to give and get support, engage and promote company culture and grow your professional network. You can explore how to help one another navigate the virtual internship program, learn from previous experiences and motivate each other on projects.

Understand the expectations and set personal goals

Connect with your internship program director or leader to outline the position expectations, goals and feedback process. Knowing what is expected of you can help you succeed, so consider asking questions to get clear insight. Offer or ask for scheduled check-ins to track your progress and share some of your personal goals with leaders to let them know about your ambitions and get support in achieving them. Make note of your accomplishments throughout the virtual internship to see what you achieved and to help update your resume and professional social sites.

Keep communicating

Remote jobs often have a lot of email, chat and conference call communication rather than in person and it is important to know what method your internship supervisor prefers. Ask them the best way to stay in touch and be sure to follow through with their preference. For example, if your supervisor likes emails, consider sending a weekly summary of the work you accomplished or check in at the start of a week to request tasks to get done. Or schedule video chats or phone calls to connect and work through project lists or other duties.

Maintain a timely schedule

Even though virtual internships don't require going into an office, it is important to keep the schedule of a work environment. Your official office hours may be flexible or differ from standard business schedules, like working 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for example. The important piece to remember is to hold yourself accountable for being present and working during your scheduled time. Stay on top of deadlines, calendar invites and meetings and try to limit distractions during your workday.

Be patient

Virtual internships and remote work often see colleagues in different time zones, countries or shifts. Consider this when waiting for online communication replies or assignments and be patient, flexible and understanding. Team members may have other tasks to take care of that aren't visible as they would be in an office setting.

Invite colleagues for a virtual coffee break

You can be more creative in how you build your professional network during a virtual internship compared to in person ones. Consider inviting colleagues to a virtual coffee break through video chat, messenger chat or with other virtual outings. Connecting by video can be just as impactful as a face-to-face meeting and you can still learn more about the industry, certain career paths or other important advice from those who have been in the field longer.

Connect with everyone

Internships provide lots of networking opportunities, whether with colleagues you work with or vendors, clients and others. A virtual internship is no different and there are still ways to connect with people digitally to grow your professional network. Consider adding people on professional social networking sites and platforms and checking in with them periodically during your internship to seek advice, feedback and insight. Even a quick hello shows you value the time spent at a company and demonstrates your ambition.

Related: 10 Tips To Help You Network Like a Pro

Share ideas and be bold

In-person internships often can have more administrative tasks or errands, like making copies or picking up lunch. Since a virtual internship may have less of these tasks, it is helpful to take advantage of the opportunity to share ideas and perspective. Besides handling your assignments, consider sharing new ideas and suggestions during your internship. Whether teams use your input doesn't matter as much as building a reputation for being a bold, creative and enthusiastic team player.

Ask for help when you need it

Working remotely is an adjustment, particularly if you've never done so before. Ask for help when you need it, whether it is learning ways to prioritize time and projects or how to free yourself from distractions during the workday. Sharing concerns with your internship supervisor is a good place to start and you can show professional maturity by bringing it to their attention. Also consider connecting with fellow interns, friends and students or the college career center for more tips on how to navigate virtual internships.

Meet in person if possible

If possible, consider meeting the team or members of it in person to further establish connections. An in-person meeting could be at the office, if the company has one and you are close to it or with other colleagues or interns for coffee, lunch or a visit. Meeting in person can deepen the connections you already built and help grow your professional network for future opportunities.


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