Due to recent world events including the COVID-19 Pandemic, there is a strong shift from in-person to online learning opportunities. This shift may have lasting effects with increased employees working part-time or full-time remotely, decreasing international travel, and conversely increasing opportunities to engage in COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning).
Here at Virtual Internships, we want to best support our partners and participants in creating alternative avenues to gain work experience, increase cross-cultural understanding, and maintain access to these opportunities despite major world events. In this article, we will discuss some of the benefits of a remote internship program, and some tips on how to succeed in this type of online work environment!
Benefits of a Remote Internship
Increased Proactive Skills
Interns participating in a Virtual International Internship are able to gain dynamic experience in online and remote work, increasing their skills of self-discipline, initiative, and drive. Furthermore, as more than 70% of companies currently offer remote work opportunities 1+ day a week to all staff, interns will gain crucial experience and exposure in how best to work remotely.
Access to International Work Experience, Despite Barriers to Travel
While current events may limit travel, students only have so many breaks and opportunities to gain international work experience. Online opportunities like the Virtual International Internship make sure that a student doesn’t miss their opportunity, and can even take advantage of newfound free time if their summer plans have been derailed.
Increased Cultural Agility and Global Connections
Interns working with international companies are able to grow their global network, establishing key connections in their career field. When communicating with a global team, there are various levels of cross-cultural communication that will impact an intern’s experience and enable them to gain a better view of communicating across time zones and cultures.
How to Succeed in Working Remotely
Succeeding in a remote internship program is much the same as in-person support, but there are various steps one can take to stand out from the crowd.
Master the Mode of Communication
Each company has a distinct communication style that they use for both verbal and written communication. For online internships, the first and most important step is to figure out how your supervisor and colleagues like to communicate. Consider the following points regarding remote communication:
- Is all work done through a messenger such as Slack or Gchat? If so you will want to not only ensure that is always open and accessible, but that you understand how to best use it.
- Is all communication still through email? If this is the case you will want to match your colleagues’ style and tone. This means that if internally they always use a greeting and signature, then you best also use that. If email is the number one mode of communication you will also need to figure out how to keep everything organized, using clear subject lines and creating folders to store key messages so your inbox doesn’t get overwhelmed.
Make Yourself Known
It’s important in every job you have to ensure that you can make connections with your supervisor and colleagues. While working in an office this may occur through in-person introductions, lunch breaks, and meetings. Online internships may limit introductions to a virtual meeting, email chain, or quick message. Make sure you take the time to personally reach out to each new colleague to introduce yourself, share your contact details, and let them know you are there to support. This brief introduction will help everyone feel more comfortable with working alongside you and potentially letting you support new projects!
Clarify Your Projects and Availability
While a supervisor will be able to see when you are online, they won’t be able to see what you are working on. Get in the habit of checking in at the start of each day to say good morning and layout what key priorities you will be tackling during the day. At the end of each day, it’s polite to give a rundown of your progress and let your supervisor know when you are signing off for the day. Potentially, your supervisor may ask for a lower frequency of check-ins as time passes and routines are set, but providing strong check-ins at the beginning will let your supervisor know what you’re working on and your capacity to take on more work. It will also set a general rapport with your supervisor and make you more approachable.
With virtual work, it’s easy to go fully digital when communicating but it’s also important to set check-ins that allow you to connect over the phone or through a virtual meeting platform. If your supervisor doesn’t set up a weekly or at least bi-weekly direct check-in within your first week working, take the initiative and reach out and request one to be scheduled. A lot can get lost in translation through written communication (such as someone’s tone, or the importance of the information in an email) and a check-in call will help everyone be on the same page.
Remote work puts more responsibility on the individual to be proactive in requesting support or potentially more work. If you come across times where you are working under 75% of your potential capacity then it is up to you to reach out and see where else you could support.
- Speak with your supervisor in the first instance to see if there are additional projects or tasks you can take on.
- If your supervisor has no additional projects, ask them if there are any colleagues you could reach out to and volunteer your support. This may allow the supervisor to make a connection to a colleague for you.
- If no additional work is to be found, review where you could potentially create work. If you are completing a project looking at social media for the next 2 months, could you go above and beyond looking at 3 months? If you completed a key internal project, was there additional research like a competitor review, SWOT analysis, or project expansion proposal you could potentially create?
- Finally, if you aren’t at capacity for projects and work, and no additional projects can be found at the moment, use this time to brush up on industry and company knowledge, as well as hard skills like software, language, and more.
In following the above advice, you will be able to ensure you are present and visible in the company from afar, and able to support your team to the best of your abilities.
An internship experience is extremely valuable to post-graduation employment, and remote opportunities should be applied to your resume the same way in-person internships are. After your remote internship, consider if key skills including discipline, initiative, written communication, or problem-solving were enhanced and how you could apply those skills to an interview question or potentially to your next job!