The typical image journalism students envision when they hear “internship” is spending a semester in a major city, learning the ropes of a publication’s office and completing some less-than-desirable tasks. These types of internships are usually offered in the summer and are limited to unpaid positions, which make commuting and housing arrangements nearly impossible for most on a collegiate budget. This is where virtual internships come in to save the day, and your resume.
Virtual internships are exactly what they sound like; an online internship experience, and they are becoming increasingly popular in today’s Internet-savvy age. A prospective intern will likely request, complete and submit an application online, undergo an interview via Skype or phone and then communicate, collaborate and contribute online for the duration of their internship.
Like the majority of internships in general, most virtual internships are paid in experience rather than in a monetary manner. Although some extra pocket money is always appreciated, virtual internships have various advantages over other internships that many don’t realize.
Virtual internships cost nearly nothing but time. An intern has the luxury of working from home. Many office-based internships require their intern to travel and live in the city of their workplace, which are typically located in major cities. All in all, virtual internships are more cost-effective as interns are not expected or required to spend a large sum of money on travel and housing arrangements to participate in an unpaid internship.
Another money-saver resides in an intern’s wardrobe. Many office-based internships require some sort of professional dress code, which often times leads to an expensive shopping spree. Interns participating in virtual internships aren’t restricted to a formal dress policy and are able to work in anything, including their pajamas. The only exception to this relaxed system is for videoconferences.
Working in an online environment means adding more virtual-savvy skills to your resume. Rather than communicating in a physical office, an intern is responsible for connecting through a variety of channels such as email, social media, Skype, etc. Also, many virtual internships expect interns to publish and promote their work on their own, which includes learning and understanding the behind-the-scenes of sites like WordPress and strategizing on social media updates. Additionally, because your employers won’t be able to see you physically working, an intern will be responsible for constant communication and collaboration with their team as a way to show attendance and progress on their daily tasks.
And, as a final perk, many fear that virtual atmospheres are an isolated, limited workplace, as an intern won’t be exposed to in-person communication; however, virtual internships allow for a much bigger network than most interns realize. First of all, virtual internship directors usually have the ability to bring in a greater number of interns simply because they don’t have to try to fit them all into an office space. This means, an internship class will more than likely be significantly bigger online than in an office, which puts an intern into a larger networking pool. Additionally, social media is a significant factor in virtual internships and many interns will contribute to social media rosters and private groups, which means more Facebook friends and Twitter followers. This may not seem like a big deal, but when a former intern begins promoting work from their future endeavors it will be shared with an incredibly large network of past colleagues.
There are pros and cons to all internships that journalism students apply for; however, Ed endorses virtual internships as legitimate and worth your while. If you don’t have the budget for a NYC internship, dust off the savings jar and apply for a virtual internship in the meantime.