The transition to virtual work during the pandemic has officially stuck. While some companies remained entirely remote, others have adopted hybrid models that allow employees to work part-time from home and part-time in person. Now, students need to ask an important question before applying to any internship: will it be an in-person or virtual internship?

Both in-person and virtual or remote internships are great opportunities for professional development. They may help you decide your future career, build your resume, network, and develop skills that you can apply elsewhere. Some internship programs also connect you with other students or interns interested in similar jobs. Completing an internship before or after you graduate from university can support your career and future job applications.

Why do a virtual internship?

In addition to gaining invaluable work experience, virtual internships offer a ton of benefits. A big one is their flexibility. You can often create your own schedule and work from anywhere in the world, and get things done between meetings or projects. They also save you the time and money you’d spend on a commute. It’s even possible to have a virtual internship while taking classes at university.

Young student making the most of his virtual internship
Photo credit: Ground Studio, Shutterstock

While it’s nice to intern from the comfort of your couch, virtual internships do come with challenges. It’s difficult to get started in a new position when training is entirely online. You’ll likely become an expert in using free, online platforms like Slack, Google Drive, Trello, or LinkedIn. These platforms connect you with co-workers, but they take time to learn and get used to.

Here are five things you can do to overcome these challenges and make the most of your virtual internship.

These are some tips for success at your virtual internship.

1. Communicate

During a virtual internship, It’s tempting to sit on the couch, veg out, and decide to finish your project another time. But if you have a strong line of communication, you’re more likely to connect with your co-workers and less likely to fall behind. This is why communication is key to a successful remote internship. Learning to communicate effectively is also a skill that can be applied in any workplace.

Pro-tip: on your first day, ask your manager, supervisor, and co-workers for the best way to reach them.

2. Set goals and reflect.

Goal-setting is an effective way to make sure that you’re making the most of your internship. Before starting your internship, spend an hour writing out your goals. Sharing these goals with your employer will allow them to understand what you want to learn from the experience. Hopefully, they can then help you make the most of your internship.

Pro-tip: keep track of your goals. If you’re not meeting those goals, reassess them and discuss them with your supervisor.

3. Find a comfortable space.

It can be mind-numbing to work, sleep, and eat all in the same place. Interning from home makes it difficult to separate your professional work life and home life. In this case, we recommend finding a space to work outside of your house. If you can access an outdoor area, coffee shop, co-working space, or library, try checking them out!

Pro-tip: reach out to someone you know and find a working space together. Social interaction can increase your productivity.

Young student making the most of her virtual internship
Photo credit: Prostock-studio, Shutterstock

4. Create a routine with frequent breaks.

If you’re struggling to get into a rhythm during a remote internship, know you’re not alone. Remote internships often lack structure. It’s challenging to know when to start, stop, or take a break from work. Creating a routine can help you mimic a real workplace environment. Try asking your employer if there are daily or weekly meetings you can join. Additionally, schedule frequent breaks away from your work or computer to prevent burnout.

Pro-tip: during breaks, try going for a walk outside or meeting up with a friend.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

One of the more challenging aspects of virtual internships is that it can be difficult to ask for help. You can’t exactly turn to the person next to you to ask a question. Instead, you have to reach out over online platforms, which can seem daunting. But asking for help is better than sitting at your computer wondering what to do. It’s also better than doing something incorrectly. Take the opportunity to ask questions and clarify what you don’t understand.

Pro-tip: if you’re struggling with STEM tasks, Proprep has courses and content to support you.

Unsure if an internship is right for you?

If committing to a full- or part-time internship seems difficult, it may be beneficial to look for an externship. Externships are typically short-term professional experiences that can last from a day to a few weeks. They can be online or in-person, making them extremely flexible. Externs gain insight into an industry, company, or career by shadowing a professional in the field. These opportunities are perfect for students who want to gain work experience, build their skills, or network during the school year.