When you think of an internship, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of working in an office building, surrounded by older colleagues and mentors. Maybe you think of traveling across the world to learn new skills in a new country. Maybe you think of getting coffee for your boss or exploring the big city. All of these things can happen in a traditional internship, but there’s also a new kind of internship that offers a totally different experience: the virtual internship.
Virtual internships are relatively new — after all, the Internet itself has only been around a few decades — so you’re not alone if you’re wondering, “What is a virtual internship?” Simply put, a virtual internship is like a traditional internship, except it happens in a remote setting: that is, you work online instead of in person.
The meaning of a virtual internship can vary from company to company, but there are a few common traits across virtual internships, as well as a range of tips and tricks you can use to secure the best virtual internships out there.
What Is a Virtual Internship?
Before we explain how to apply for a virtual internship, let’s explain what a virtual internship is in more detail.
As we mentioned, the primary criterion that makes virtual internships unique is that they happen in a remote setting instead of a physical internship site. That remote work can happen on a wide range of online platforms, like:
- Video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams
- Email and phone
- Workplace messaging apps like Slack
- Project management websites like Trello
- Proprietary company software
Because virtual internships exclusively happen online, you must understand how to use a computer and common online applications. However, virtual internships can include significant training components, so don’t worry if you’re not familiar with all of these programs.
Other than that, virtual internships and in-person internships are quite similar. For example:
- You can still work for prestigious companies.
- You can still meet new colleagues and take advantage of networking opportunities.
- You can still learn new skills that further your education.
- You can still put your internship experience on your resume.
- You can still get paid for your work in some cases.
Virtual internships have many advantages over traditional in-person internships, as we’ll explore in the next section.
For over a decade, virtual internship opportunities have existed, especially among the tech and IT industries, but they became much more popular due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With international travel restricted, many companies moved their preexisting internship programs online: among companies that didn’t cancel their internship programs, 40% started a virtual internship program.
This means that there’s never been a better time to become a virtual intern: companies are increasingly familiar with the benefits of an online internship, so there are many more virtual internship opportunities for you to apply to.
Why Should You Apply for a Virtual Internship?
Now that you better understand a virtual internship’s meaning, let’s dive into its unique advantages. Although some people think of virtual internships as a poor substitute for in-person experiences, virtual internships have a number of unique benefits that in-person internships can’t offer.
Virtual: Virtual internships offer you much greater flexibility: you can take on a virtual internship during the school year. Some people even manage to take on multiple virtual internships at once.
In-Person: You usually can’t take on an in-person internship in a foreign country during the school year. Because of the travel requirements, it’s also difficult to take on multiple traditional internships at one time.
Virtual: Virtual internships often have a more diverse applicant pool, allowing you to meet colleagues and fellow interns from around the world.
In-Person: Although it can be exciting to travel to a new country for an internship, you don’t get as many opportunities to meet people from other countries.
Virtual: Getting a virtual internship is much easier because you don’t have to apply for a J-1 exchange visa or navigate international travel.
In-Person: Before you can start an in-person internship, you need to go through the J-1 visa application process, which can take multiple weeks or months.
Virtual: Virtual internships are much cheaper: you don’t have to pay for airfare, housing, living expenses, or visa application fees.
In-Person: The total J-1 visa cost, including processing fees, program fees, and travel fees, can end up being thousands of dollars.
Virtual: Participating in a virtual internship allows you to stay closer to family and friends in your home country.
In-Person: Participating in a traditional internship forces you to spend time away from the people you are close to.
Virtual: Virtual internships sometimes give you more independence and control over your schedule because you are working from home.
In-Person: In-person internships often have stricter supervision and more exact schedule requirements because you are working in a physical workplace.
If you know how to make the most of a remote internship, you can really thrive in a virtual workplace. However, it’s important to recognize some of the disadvantages of a virtual internship, too:
Virtual: When you work from home, you don’t get the chance to explore a new country and participate in cultural exchange activities.
In-Person: In addition to the value of the work experience, in-person internships let you travel abroad and experience a new culture.
Virtual: Although virtual internships allow you to meet people from around the world, it can be harder to form connections in an online setting.
In-Person: Working in the same building with other interns and colleagues can make it easier to get to know people, allowing you to form lifelong relationships.
Virtual: Working from home can increase productivity for many people. However, some interns experience more distractions when working online.
In-Person: Some people thrive in a physical workplace where they are not distracted by their home environment or by online notifications.
Virtual: If a virtual internship is poorly designed, then it can be difficult to get feedback on your work or receive clear instructions.
In-Person: Working in the same space as your supervisor can improve communication. Your manager can explain tasks and give you real-time feedback on your work.
Choosing Between In-Person and Virtual Internships
Virtual student internships aren’t for everyone. While there are countless benefits to the virtual intern experience, there are also some downsides. Before applying for a virtual internship, take the time to explore both in-person and online opportunities, and think deeply about what kind of worker you are.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to stay focused and productive while working from home, or if you are really attached to the idea of working in a foreign country, then you might want to explore traditional internship opportunities instead of virtual ones.
If you’re struggling to decide what kind of internship to apply to, try making a list of your priorities. What are you most hoping to get out of the internship experience? Consider ranking the following criteria, and feel free to add more to your list:
- Learn new skills
- Real-world job experience
- Make new friends
- Be immersed in a new culture
- Practice foreign language skills
- Visit foreign landmarks
- Resume-building experience
- Low cost
Once you’ve made your list, look at your most important criteria: can you achieve them through a virtual internship, or would you have a more positive experience in a traditional internship? For example, if you prioritize a low-cost experience, then you might want a virtual student internship. If you want to learn new skills and build your resume, either a virtual or in-person internship could work. But if your most important goals are related to traveling to a new country, then an in-person internship is probably best.
How Can You Get a Virtual Internship?
If you decide that you’re interested in a virtual internship, you probably have one question left: how can I get a virtual student internship? Better yet, how can I get a virtual paid internship?
Although the virtual internship application process is much simpler than the traditional internship application process because you don’t have to apply for a J-1 visa, it can still be confusing and complex.
Intrax Virtual Internship Services
Thankfully, Intrax Global Internships makes it easy to apply to virtual internships, especially if you’re interested in a virtual student internship in the tech industry. More specifically, Intrax can help you with all of the following:
- Intrax lets you match with tech companies that are looking for paid virtual interns.
- Intrax helps you find an internship that matches your skills and interests.
- Intrax will handle statutory benefits, taxes, and other hiring logistics so that you don’t have to.
- Intrax will work with you to develop a training plan and conduct monthly check-ins to ensure that you have a positive internship experience.
- Intrax can assist you in switching from a virtual to an in-person internship through our official status as a J-1 visa sponsor.
- Intrax offers 24-hour emergency support and upbeat customer service in case you ever need extra help.
If you decide to work with Intrax Global Internships to find the right virtual internship for you, then you’ll go through an easy four-step process:
- Apply online risk-free. You can browse virtual internships on our online database with no payment obligation.
- Work with Intrax to find a match based on your career goals, skill level, and cultural interests.
- Finalize your internship offer and the terms of your program.
- Start your virtual internship, and have the experience of a lifetime!
Intrax works with thousands of well-known tech companies and universities, including major industry players like Lime and Splunk. This means we can offer exclusive virtual internship opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else. Our internships also pay well, with typical hourly rates ranging from $10/hour to $30/hour USD.
If you’re interested in applying for a virtual internship with Intrax Global Internships, contact us today to get started.
Additional Virtual Internship Application Tips
In many ways, applying for a virtual internship is like applying for a traditional internship. It helps to be prepared, explore widely, and apply often.
- Be prepared: Before you even start the application process, make sure you have all your documents in order, like your resume, CV, and any biographical documentation that you might need. Consider your goals and interests, and use that reflection to craft your application.
- Explore widely: Look for jobs in a wide range of sectors. If you’re interested in tech, remember that most companies have IT or tech departments, and look beyond major software firms. If you’re interested in marketing, remember that all businesses need marketing assistance, and don’t just explore internships at advertising or marketing firms. There are many ways to gain real-world career experience.
- Apply often: Although they’re relatively new, virtual student internships can still be quite competitive. Apply to multiple virtual paid internships to increase your chances of getting a great internship.
Some companies might also want virtual intern applicants to go through a remote interview. Although you might think interviews are nerve-racking, following some simple tips for how to interview for a remote job internship can help you ace any conversation.
Most of the usual advice for interviews still applies: remember to dress nicely, arrive early, and prepare for common interview questions. In addition to standard internship interview questions about your interest in the job and your educational experience, your interviewer might also ask you about your experience with and interest in remote work, as well as your ability to work independently and on a schedule.
Virtual internship interviews are also unique because you have to set up and test your technology. If the interview will occur on a video conferencing platform that you haven’t used before, explore the app a day or two before the interview itself. Make sure to charge your device, enter the call a few minutes early, and make sure your lighting, video, and audio are working properly. There’s nothing worse than missing an interview because your wifi isn’t working or because you can’t figure out how to log on.
Enjoying the Virtual Intern Experience
Once you apply for and get a virtual internship, you might think you’re all ready to go. However, there are a few strategies that you should learn before the virtual internship starts. After all, remote work can introduce new challenges that you won’t have experienced in traditional work settings.
For instance, virtual internships often give you more flexibility and independence. While this can be a good thing for many students, it can also be difficult. Try setting a consistent schedule for yourself, and clear your workspace of distractions. If you have a quiet area where you regularly do your work, you’ll feel more like you’re in the office and will have an easier time completing your tasks. On the other hand, if you’re surrounded by noise or keep getting distracted by online notifications, you’ll struggle in your virtual internship.
It’s also important to be willing to reach out. When you don’t see your supervisor and colleagues every day, it can be harder to engage in natural communication. If you need support or feedback on something, don’t be afraid to send a colleague a message. Being proactive about communication is the best way to get more deeply involved in a remote work environment. Similarly, you should try to make social connections with the people around you. Networking might feel strange in a digital environment, but if you actively reach out to those around you, then you’ll do well.
Lastly, remember to keep track of your work and reflect on your growth. When you perform a task well or get positive feedback, write that down in a journal or notebook. This can be a good professional strategy: if you keep track of your achievements during a virtual internship, then you can add them to a resume or CV and reference them in future job interviews. Tracking your progress can also be personally fulfilling — remote work can sometimes be challenging, so having a reminder of your growth can reinspire you and give you the motivation to continue with your internship. You might also want to take notes about skills you’ve picked up or information you’ve learned over the course of your internship. It might be helpful for you to review these notes later during your internship or after the internship has ended.
Now that you know what a virtual internship is and how to get one, what are you waiting for? Start exploring virtual internships with Intrax Global Internships or another online database. And if you are still looking for more information about the virtual internship application process, explore our other resources for virtual interns:
- 8 tips for how to interview for a remote job internship
- How interns can make the most of a remote internship
- How to thrive in remote student internships
- 5 most popular IT remote internships and how to get one
- The pros and cons of virtual legal internships
- What are virtual student internships and how to apply for one
- 9 advantages of remote coding internships over traditional programs