Over the past few years, with the aftermath of the global financial crisis reinventing every aspect of the business scene that had previously seemed immutable, virtual… anything has become a trend. Simply stamp the buzzword ‘virtual’ next to an aspect of business life and you’ve got yourself covered in terms of appearing informed and up-to-speed. There are virtual offices, virtual jobs, virtual conferences, and now virtual internships are also quickly gaining ground around the world. They may sound like a new and complex concept for the older generation on the job market, but millennials, members of the Y Generation, are embracing them without any reserve. That’s because, as popular market research knowledge says, they are digitally native and have no qualms about working remotely, be it for paid work, or simply to amass experience. Here are five things anyone looking for a job or professional experience in a given field of work should know about the definition of virtual internships.
1. Virtual internships are becoming increasingly popular
It’s not just word ‘on the street’ that has recruiters tipped off on this trend. A recent survey, completed from data collected in 2012 by a major internship aggregator, has revealed that out of the 300 companies they mined for data, 33 per cent provided virtual internships to potential candidates. That ratio represents a 20 per cent uptake compared to 2011. And the supply seems to be matching the demand, too, as 71 per cent of the students polled for the purposes of this survey said they would be willing to enroll in a virtual internship.
2. They can be completed remotely
The advantage of remoteness is one degree removed from a no-brainer, when it comes to virtual internships. As with every type of virtual activity, remote internships come with the great advantage of allowing the subject to complete the workload off-site – this is why these internships are also referred to as remote internships, or telecommute internships. Basically, you could be interning for any company, anywhere in the world, right from the comfort of your own living room, home office, or favorite coffee shop. You don’t need more hardware to do this than a safe Internet connection and a laptop or desktop computer.
3. They allow you to focus on school
This benefit of virtual internships ties in with the one mentioned within the previous tip. Since you don’t have any work hours to clock or punch in for, you can flexibly organize your schedule, so that your school work doesn’t suffer. This, of course, makes remote internships ideal both for students, irrespective of education level, as well as for stay-at-home parents, or individuals who are also working a part-time job. Flexibility also comes with lower expenses for the intern, since they don’t have to pay for commuting to the office and they can juggle with the responsibilities on their daily schedule as they see fit.
4. They open up a world of possibilities – literally
If you live in a major city, which also happens to be a big university center or a location with a thriving business scene, then it’s likely that there’s no shortage of internship opportunities immediately available for you. However, many students hail from smaller towns, or places where companies they are interested in haven’t set up shop. Virtual internships can allow them to gain experience with major businesses, without having to bear the costs of relocation, or even those of a daily commute. In this sense, virtual internships are a genuine boon for those living in cities where their industry of choice is not as well represented as they would like it to be.
5. Virtual internships do come with some drawbacks
There is still a lot to be said about the shortcomings of virtual internships, since this trend is still in its early stages. For one thing, being physically present on the job can help make you stand out and have you form a good impression on your immediate supervisor. But perhaps the biggest drawback to interning remotely is that this practice hinders your networking opportunities. Creating liaisons which you can use later on during the course of your professional career is one of the biggest advantages of an internship. When you’re working from home, in your pajamas, you are also missing out on meeting those people who could help you make a name for yourself in the business.