Jacinda Green did not have the time or money as an undergraduate to manage an internship far from home. She thought her heavy course load and part-time job limited her search to companies in Tuscaloosa.
After searching internships.com, Green, who majored in public relations, found a virtual internship with a company in Massachusetts that would allow her to work from home. All she needed was a computer and internet access.
Virtual internships allow interns to work with companies from a remote location. According to internships.com, 33 percent of employers hire virtual interns.
Joey Price is the CEO of Jumpstart:HR, a human resources company in Washington, D.C., that offers a virtual internship program to people of all fields and career interests. He said he started VIP in hopes of expanding opportunities for college students and professionals in transition who are denied entry level positions because of their lack of experience.
He said there will be times when students will have to communicate with employers in a virtual world, and the VIP program gives them the necessary exposure.
“We live in a time when a lot of companies collaborate digitally. Giving students a chance to work in virtual environment will set them up to be successful,” Price said.
Kara Apel is the managing editor for University Chic, an online magazine written by college women that offers “up-to-date on the latest trends, resources, news and advice to help you make the most of your college experience,” according to their website. Apel works with the company’s publisher to hire interns for the online magazine publication.
She said quality communication skills are essential for virtual internships to work.
“You have to learn to communicate well via email and phone. Someone quick to respond shows good work ethic,” Apel said. “We have had to let people go, because they were not responsive or doing their work.”
Online internships also demand self-determination, which may not come natural to some, Apel said.
“You have to hold yourself accountable for getting the work done because you don’t have set hours or an adviser. That can be a little bit harder for people to adjust to if they are not used to it,” she said.
Green said she landed her virtual internship with Cultural Zest, Inc., a nonprofit organization that gives insight to different cultures. It didn’t present financial burdens and fit well into her schedule, she said, but it also didn’t give her the full experience. Since she only had to promote the site through social media and blogging, she didn’t get a chance to make the connections she was expecting.
“It was good experience, but if I would have done internships in an office, I would have gotten more out of it,” Green said. “I would have gotten the chance to meet with people in person and make more connections.”
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