Virtual Internship: Making a Good Impression

By Alicia Geigel on July 5, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has completely dismantled our world and way of living for going on four months. While people across the country continue to be affected by different statewide restrictions and national guidelines, college students have suffered a significant hit due to the pandemic. College classes and lectures have shifted online, the start of the 2020 fall semester year is delayed for many colleges across the country, graduations have been held via virtual PowerPoint presentations and zooms, and bright-eyed, eager students/graduates are now facing an unstable, plummeting job market. One particular aspect of the college experience that has been significantly affected by the pandemic is internships.

Around this time of year, students are typically used to securing summer internships, strengthening their skills, meeting new people, and adding work experience to polish their resume. Due to the coronavirus, U.S. internship openings are down 49% from last year, making both existing students and graduates scrambling to make sense of our current world while trying to plan their next steps at the same time. Despite the current discouraging state of the college experience and on a broader level, our workforce as a whole, there are options that students and graduates can take advantage of and thrive in: virtual internships.

Internships are a time to familiarize yourself with a specific work environment you are looking to enter while building connections and working towards creating a career for yourself in your desired field. Though a virtual internship is not as exciting as a physical one, a virtual internship can still give you the experience, workplace connections, and potential new opportunities without the complications of commuting or being in a physical office. While the idea of virtual internships may seem like a piece of cake, there are still several things you must do regardless if you are sitting behind a screen or in an office.

Making a good impression while working in a virtual internship can be difficult, as so many of us are used to standing out and making points while physically in the presence of our bosses and coworkers. However, there are plenty of ways to shine from afar and make a lasting, good impression in a virtual internship, and it doesn’t involve burning yourself out either!

Are you a college student or recent graduate that has been affected by the coronavirus? Looking for ways to stand out and catch the eye of your boss? This comprehensive guide will give you an idea of simple, yet effective steps to take in order to make the most of your virtual internship!

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Tips for Succeeding in a Virtual Internship

The idea of a virtual internship may seem like you’re entering into some uncharted territory, but familiarizing yourself with this new type of experience will be worthwhile in the long run, according to Christine Cruzvergara, VP of higher education and student success at Handshake. She notes that virtual internships are now more common, with 60% of employers planning to offer them within the upcoming year. No one knows what the world and workplace will look life in the next few months, but one thing is uncertain- virtual internships will be sticking around, which means learning how to navigate them is a must.

Understand the Expectations: Having a well-rounded, clear knowledge of the expectations of your position is key to making an internship successful, especially a virtual internship. Due to the fact that virtual internships rely heavily on communication and less on demonstrations or presentations, it is important to communicate with your boss what he/she expects of you while you are interning with them.

What methods of communication should you use most frequently? How should you engage in meetings? What level of influence do you have in certain projects or tasks? These are all necessary topics to address with your employer so you can fulfill the position to the best of your ability.

Be Observant Now More Than Ever: Sure, an internship is important because of the potential work connection that can line up in the future, however, one significant aspect that makes an internship so impactful is the experience and knowledge you obtain through your duration as an intern. With a virtual internship, being observant is incredibly necessary now more than ever. What do I mean by being observant? So much of interning is less about working and more about learning, so learning the ins and outs of your workplace and picking up on different details will give you help you stand out while giving you wisdom at the same time.

Cruzvegara writes, “Along with learning your specific role and the responsibilities of the team you’re on, make sure to pay attention to the company culture, the way decisions are made, and how different teams are interconnected. You’ll also want to practice connecting your direct tasks to the bigger vision or direction of the company.” All of these observations will give you insight into the type of worker you are and the type of future environment you can thrive in.

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Image made via Canva

Work on Building Relationships/Networking: Alongside your experience, there may be nothing more important in an internship than the connections you make and the networking you do. In a virtual internship, networking will be more difficult, as the responsibility or ‘burden’ of putting yourself out there to make such connections falls onto you.

However, once you make the impression that you are someone that values workplace relationships, appreciates feedback and advice, and seeks out team building, both your boss and coworkers will take notice.

Consider reaching out to your employer to inquire about people who could help succeed, build upon your skills, or reach your goals. Meeting with specific coworkers for a one-on-one conversation about their values, work ethic, journey to their current position, etc. can not only be valuable for you, but it can also help you build meaningful connections that can last far after your virtual internship is over. It is these connections that will matter once you are looking for a permanent job!

Virtual Internships: Making a Good Impression

You have an idea of certain steps you can take to succeed in a virtual internship, but what about when you are starting and looking to make the best impression you can? What constitutes making a good impression is less about the technical aspects of your internship, like the number of tasks you can accomplish in a day, and more about the relationships you build with those you work with. Showing you are someone that appreciates these workplace connections is a valuable characteristic that will remain with you, and something your employer will remember!

1. Go to the Virtual Meetings, Especially with Camera On: When in a physical work environment, there really is no avoiding the daily or weekly work meeting held by your employer for your office. With a virtual internship, skipping out on those work meetings is easier to get away with, but that doesn’t mean that your actions go unnoticed.

Again, attending the meetings gives your boss the impression that you are dedicated to learning, being present, and engaging with the company, whether you are able to be physically present or not. Now, attending a work meeting doesn’t have to be something you are intimidated by, rather, allow it to be a chance for you to be vocal if something catches your attention, or just listen to what points your coworkers have to say.

Gillian Brassil, an intern with Business Insider, suggests, “You don’t have to say much, either. Being there and being seen as someone who’s friendly and professional with a positive attitude is key. Dress to impress, smile, and thank your colleagues at the end of every call.”

2. Send Personalized Thank You-Notes to Everyone: In today’s day and age, sending out thank you notes may be considered archaic or outdated, but these small gestures of gratitude stretch a long way, far past the conclusion of your virtual internship.

Once you’ve reached the end of your internship and are seeking work elsewhere, be sure to personally thank everyone you’ve worked with while you were there. The success of your virtual internship is not due to your efforts and yours alone, rather, it is a culmination of the advice, assistance, generosity, and wisdom of those around you and each one deserves to be thanked!

When writing the notes, consider what each specific person taught you or influenced you in some way, thank them, and include contact information so they can reach out to you in the future!

3. Make an Engage with Coworkers Outside of Work Meetings: This cannot be stressed enough: connections made during internships are/can be some of the most important ones you make in your career. Networking and building relationships can be scary, especially if there are significant age gaps between you and your coworkers. However, take into consideration that a mutual interest in the job is what brought you and your coworkers together, so your thought process is on the same page!

In terms of virtual internships, talking with coworkers through work meetings is great, but it is also limiting in ways. After the conclusion of a work meeting, consider ‘hanging out’ with a coworker and connecting on life, not work. What are their favorite quarantine tv shows to watch? What dinner are they making with food from their pantry? By asking these seemingly silly questions shows them you want to build on things outside of your work, that you don’t just see them as a coworker, but as a person. This is something that they will remember in the long run!

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Image via Pexels 

Benefits of a Virtual Internship/Working from Home

The coronavirus shows no real sign of slowing down in the U.S., but even if the virus is eliminated within the next few months, the percentage of available remote work or work-from-home opportunities will still continue to increase. According to a study conducted by Upwork, 63 percent of companies now have remote workers, 48 percent of companies use freelancers, and three times more hiring managers believe offices will become temporary anchor points versus daily travel destinations. The very structure that we are used to, i.e. commuting to a building, working in a physical office with co-workers, then traveling back home, is vastly changing and many are behind the movement of working from home. But what are the benefits of having a virtual internship and working from home? Among many, the benefits of working remotely include better productivity, performance, engagement, and retention.

Productivity: Many think that working from home would be a disaster due to the fact that so many distractions are easily accessible. However, teleworkers are an average of 35%-40% more productive than their office counterparts, showing that the location of where one works does have influence and in a positive way.

Performance: The independent nature of working from home gives workers a greater sense of independence and autonomy, which thus affects their performance on the job. According to compiled data from top researchers, workers produce results with 40% fewer quality defects.

Engagement: With a higher percentage of productivity and performance, worker engagement is stronger remotely than in an office setting, with remote workers having 41% lower work absences.

Retention: More and more people are curious about and seeking remote work opportunities now more than ever. According to data from Global Workplace Analytics, “35% of employees would change jobs for the opportunity to work remotely full time, and 37% would do so to work remotely some of the time.” A combined 72% of workers would be willing to change jobs, which reduces the overall turnover rate.

Flexibility: Workplace flexibility is a large, and perhaps key, benefit that people seek when considering a remote work opportunity. The flexibility to set work hours, cut out commute time, and have availability to work on weekends or holidays makes working from home more appealing.

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Image via Pexels

While the world is shifting to remote work, starting with a virtual internship can seem intimidating, but making a good impression is possible by establishing meaningful connections and being as present as you can. As always, good luck!

By Alicia Geigel

Uloop Writer
Temple alum | columnist at Uloop News | writer at Top5Must & KnowPhilly | photographer | food blogger

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