We all know how technologies like VoIP, video-chat and online fax make it easy to have a virtual office. Stay at home and set up video-conference when it’s time for a meeting. But here’s a new spin on that: Virtual internships.
Some problems with this immediately jump to mind. When I did an internship, one of the great things that I took away was an idea of how an office worked. Although I was given small, basic level assignments as befit an intern, my supervisors made sure that I was also given insight into the project as a whole and the way the business was run. I was allowed to sit in on meetings that weren’t strictly relevant to me and listen in on conversations with clients, even if I wouldn’t be working on their projects. It was those things, just as much as the work I did, that taught me about the field I was thinking of entering. I just don’t know if you can get those things over the phone and from scheduled video conferences.
Once again however, the question depends on the purpose of an internship. Learning about the field before you enter it is the primary goal for some interns, but not all. Others simply want to build up their resume before entering the job search. This does that, since after even a virtual internship a student can prove that they have handled certain tasks.
Another option is to combine virtual internships with another kind of training. Columbia University for example, provides time management and virtual communication training so that students can get the most possible out of their virtual internships. Some companies take on regular summer interns, but allow students to continue the work throughout the year from home or college campuses. These students have been able to get a look inside the company and can also add a consistent job to their resume and sometimes even get hired full time by the company once they have finished their degree.
At the end of the day however, even a straight-up virtual internship has advantages, primarily for students who may not be able to afford commuting or living far away from their home or dorms. Although this may not be the ideal internship, it is still better than what would have otherwise been available. Virtual internships are also an opportunity for adults who may already be supporting a family, to learn about a new field or set up their resume for a career switch without leaving their jobs.
Bottom line, I think I have to chalk up another point to modern technology. It’s important to be careful not to confuse an in-house internship with a virtual one. The advantages are not the same and serve very different purposes. But they even the playing field. When the job market is tight, every advantage is important to job seekers and those advantages can come at a cost. I can’t argue with a resume booster that requires nothing more than hard work.