Internships can be huge when it comes to landing a job after graduation, so you shouldn’t give up, even under the current circumstances.
I didn’t know what to expect when I accepted an internship offer at USA TODAY back in February – and the coronavirus certainly didn’t provide any clarity.
My work experience went entirely online when I started in June and said goodbye to any potential of seeing the office in McLean, Virginia. For the past three months, I’ve been writing articles on a laptop sent to me by my employers, typing away in my compact 95-square-foot bedroom and working with staffers scattered across the nation, from Arizona to New York.
It all seemed different, but I learned that different doesn’t mean worse.
Virtual internships became a new norm this summer. After all, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 35% of the labor force ages 25 to 54 are working from home full-time as a result of the pandemic, taking conference calls in their living rooms or completing projects from the kitchen table.
I’ve learned a lot from working remotely and picked up many skills I would have never expected. For those considering a virtual internship or looking to hire a virtual intern, I’m here to provide takeaways from my online experience this summer – the good and the bad.
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- 1 Pro: A virtual internship overcomes many financial and geographic barriers that students face.
- 2 Con: After 3 months, I still feel like I don’t truly ‘know’ my co-workers or the company culture.
- 3 Pro: You’ll learn how to manage your time before your first job out of school.
- 4 Con: As a new intern, it can be overwhelming to keep track of every message.
- 5 Pro: You can still spend your senior year with family and friends.
- 6 Con: Receiving feedback through emails and messages can be confusing for a newbie.
- 7 Pro: You can add a part-time job or online classes to your resume, too!
- 8 Con: Internships are a transition into the ‘real world,’ and being online isn’t truly representative of that.
- 9 Pro: You can (cautiously) travel without missing work.
- 10 Con: I’m always wondering what I missed out on.
Pro: A virtual internship overcomes many financial and geographic barriers that students face.
An obvious perk of working online is avoiding the costly and time-consuming commute. However, another hidden benefit is the ability to explore options beyond the local job market. Always wanted that New York City internship even though you live in Nebraska? No problem! You can reap the benefits of this cool opportunity while saving travel and housing costs.
Con: After 3 months, I still feel like I don’t truly ‘know’ my co-workers or the company culture.
One of the biggest downsides of working from home is limited interactions with your co-workers. I can’t just stop by my editor’s desk to chit-chat, and there’s less casual getting-to-know-you conversation. My online conversations on Microsoft Teams are (for the most part) work-focused, and it can at times be overwhelming to network when you’re working from home.
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Pro: You’ll learn how to manage your time before your first job out of school.
An internship is a stepping stone to your future full-time job – which requires independence, self-reliance and self-motivation. Without having your boss physically there to keep you on track, there’s more pressure to do things correctly on your own. A virtual internship will help you understand how to manage your time and assignments as you transition into the adult world.
Con: As a new intern, it can be overwhelming to keep track of every message.
Most of my tasks are assigned to me in our Teams group chat. While tagging each other, along with hearing the ping noise, is helpful, there have been times where I missed one of many ongoing messages in the chatroom.
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Pro: You can still spend your senior year with family and friends.
As a rising senior in college, it’s my final year to spend as much time as possible with my friends and family – after all, who knows where I’ll live after I graduate?
If you’re moving to a new city for that internship, you might miss out on memories back home. Especially with the pandemic, maintaining relationships is crucial as ever, so a remote internship that allows you to work in close proximity to your loved ones can be beneficial to your mental health.
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Con: Receiving feedback through emails and messages can be confusing for a newbie.
I always value in-person feedback and constructive criticism, as I can sense the optimism and care in their voice. After all, your co-workers are trying to help you rise to your best potential.
Constructive criticism is an important part of growing, and messages such as “Next time, fix this” don’t always convey the same tone and nuances as a one-on-one sitdown conversation.
Pro: You can add a part-time job or online classes to your resume, too!
Because my internship is virtual, I’ve been fortunate enough to have it extend into fall while also signing up for four online college courses.
If you’re not taking classes, a virtual internship enables you to earn extra money with a part-time job, such as Uber Eats, or to boost your resume with other activities such as freelancing.
Con: Internships are a transition into the ‘real world,’ and being online isn’t truly representative of that.
While I was nervous to work in my first office setting, it’s still an experience crucial to transitioning from college life to the adult world. What’s it like to commute to work every day? Or attend a conference or meeting? That’s something I’ll still be asking myself once jobs return to being in-person.
Pro: You can (cautiously) travel without missing work.
Had my internship been in-person, I would not have been able to travel this summer without asking my boss for days off – which becomes problematic if your company is short-staffed during the pandemic.
This summer, I visited my boyfriend in Maine and flew to see my parents in California – all without compromising my work schedule!
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Con: I’m always wondering what I missed out on.
I’ve had so much fun with my first journalism internship, but I’m still wondering what I missed out on. What are those Wednesday team meetings like when they’re in-person? What would the desk I would work at look like? How is it to interview a celebrity in-person instead of by phone?
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