Virtual Internships: The Pros and Cons
As the workplace continues to become more flexible and advances in technology allow for telecommuting ease, the demand for virtual interns is growing. According to SmarterTechnology.com, intern search engines are reporting huge increases in the number of virtual internship postings. Urban Interns, for instance, says 40 percent of their listings are remote positions.
We checked in with Heather Huhman, career advice blogger, contributor and columnist, plus author of Lies, Damned Lies and Internships: The Truth About Getting From Classroom to Cubicle, about whether the work-from-home internship is all it’s cracked up to be. Here’s the breakdown:
PRO: No geographical limitations. Most remote internships can be performed anywhere with an internet connection. So if most positions in your industry are in New York but you can’t afford New York rent, virtual interning can solve your problem.
CON: Increased competition. Huhman says because there are no geographical boundaries, there’s going to be a nationwide pool of applicants for the job.
PRO: Flexibility. Most virtual internships are not a 9-to-5 gig, so you can fit them into your schedule. “Many young professionals are also taking on large course loads, working part-time jobs, and involved in numerous clubs and student organizations,” says Huhman. “It makes commuting to an internship difficult, if not impossible.”
CON: Increased accountability. Just like students think online courses are “easier” than traditional classes, remote internships may seem like an easy option. But you need to have a strong work ethic and sense of accountability—just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can slack off.
PRO: No commute. Commuting can be a hassle—not to mention a big expense.
CON: No chance to learn office etiquette. Part of what makes internships so great is they are often a student’s first foray in the working world. By telecommuting you’ll miss out on learning cultural norms at the office—like water cooler talk, eating in the lunchroom, and what to do when you run into the CEO in the hall.
PRO: Comfort. You can work in your slippers. Enough said.
CON: No collegiality. Not being in an office means you can miss out on the opportunity to build your network, not to mention Friday happy hours. “In the office, you're often forced to interact with different people because you see them on a regular basis,” says Huhman. Working online you’ll have to make a special effort to stay connected and form relationships.