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4 Reasons You Should Consider a Virtual Internship

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May 20 2014, Published 11:32 a.m. ET

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As I began the long procession of searching online for internships, I had to come to terms with a disappointing fact- as a student with a hunger to gain work experience as a writer, I was living on the wrong side of the country! No matter how hard I looked, San Diego did not hold the opportunities I was looking for.

So what was the answer to my dilemma? I have two words for you: virtual internship.

On the topic of students and internships, Forbes staff writer, Jacquelyn Smith, reveals that an internship “may be the easiest way to secure a full-time gig.” Based off the 2012 infographic presented by Internships.com, 69% of large companies and 39% of small companies made full-time job offers to their interns. Even further, 33% of those employers said that they hire virtual interns- a 20% increase from the year before.

Internships.com is calling internships “the new interview,” as employers potentially use this to determine whether students are company material. A virtual internship is yet another unique and flexible way for students to gain work experience without the trouble of traveling or commuting.

Here are four reasons why a virtual internship can be essential for your career:

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1. Work with People across the Country

Looking at my friends and all the people they know across the country, I used to ask myself, “What kind of bubble am I living in?” Well, not anymore!

The world really is becoming a smaller place, and through a virtual internship, I’ve been able to make connections with people across varying states. Like I previously mentioned in my article about workshifting, my boss and I live on opposite sides of the country, and yet, we are still able to collaborate.

The next time I have a chance to travel to NYC, Portland, Chicago, or another city, I’ll most likely have someone to catch up with. Remember, connections equal more opportunities; a virtual internship can make your connections even broader!

2. Learn How to Work Independently

In his article, “15 Traits of the Ideal Employee,” Ken Sundheim writes, “When hiring for any size business, it’s not what the candidates know today.  Information can always be taught.  The most intelligent companies hire on future success and heavily weigh personality when determining the most apt employees.”

Guess what’s rated as number four on his list? That’s right- an employee that is autonomous. Sundheim continues a writes that employers are looking for employees “who can get the job done without extensive hand-holding.” With a virtual internship, there is no one to supervise you while you work. While this may cause some students to procrastinate at first, it can also be a great way to teach yourself to become self-sufficient.

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Of course, your boss will greatly appreciate your ability to get things done, but even further, knowing that you can be productive on your own also serves a great confidence booster.

3. Figure out What Kind of Work Environment Works for You

Just as Jacob Cass explored in his article, “Should You Be Working from Home?,” not everyone is cut out for work away from work. While some people are able to remain on task without supervision, others find that they still need the structure of an office environment. However, there’s no real way to know until you’ve tried both!

In 2012, Citrix surveyed 100 people in the business world, including senior managers, middle managers, junior and admin employees, business owners, and freelancers and asked them thoughts on working outside of the office. Of those 100 people, 93 percent of them said they would work from home if they had the option to.

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Whether your career leads to work outside of the office or not, a virtual internship is a great way to explore what kind of work environment you perform best in. Be creative and work in different locations with varying noise level and people- a coffee shop, the library, at home on the couch. Exploring your options can bring you more direction and ease when it comes time to choose your career path.

4. Find New Tools to Incorporate into Your Communication

As a new user to programs, such as of Gmail and Google Hangouts, I was struggling during my first weeks at Her Agenda. For example, I would end up being late to online meetings, because I didn’t know how to connect to the incoming video calls! I used to get so embarrassed about not knowing certain technology, but guess what? Exposure is one of the main keys to learning.

Since starting my internship with Her Agenda, I have learned great tools, such as how to run phones conferences and record video chats. I even had the pleasure of learning from my boss’ friend in New York, who taught me how to make GIFs via join.me; we connected our screens from across the country! With all of this and more, I have learned some great skills that I can now incorporate into my future job opportunities.

Whether your future career requires you to work in a office or not, a virtual internship can help expose you to new opportunities and assist you in learning specific skills. The world’s work environments are becoming more and more flexible, so take advantage of it!

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