If you were to form your idea of an internship based solely on movies and TV, you’d probably picture long hours spent in a skyscraper somewhere, picking up lunch for executives and making copies all day long. Thankfully, the reality of internships isn’t quite so limited: internships can be found virtually everywhere, in any industry, and can be far more hands-on. Here at Handshake, for example, interns can do everything from push out code on our mobile app to writing articles for our blog!
But what happens when your internship takes place remotely, eliminating the in-office aspects of your program? According to Handshake survey data, virtual internships are now more common than ever, with 60% of employers planning to offer them in the coming year. Whether you originally planned to work from home during your internship or not, there are plenty of ways to maximize your experience as a remote intern to make the best impression and learn the most about your career path.
1. Set boundaries, even if your hours and location are flexible
Because remote internships are often project-based rather than hourly, it can be easy to treat them like homework, squeezing in a few minutes of work here and there between other commitments. For Handshake Social & Editorial Manager Brinton Botkin, setting “office hours” was key to succeeding in her remote internships during college.
“Even though my internships focused more on the finished work I turned in and less on the hours I spent, I still treated it like a regular in-office job,” she says. “I would block off time on my calendar and post up in a coffee shop, the library, or even in my kitchen at home and turn everything else on Do Not Disturb while I worked. Setting aside a dedicated time and space for my internship work helped me ensure that my deadlines were met, I was prompt and communicative with my managers, and that I could balance the rest of my life, too—I wasn’t trying to multitask on my internship responsibilities while at my coffee shop job or in class.”
2. Find time to connect with mentors
In a remote internship, you don't get the same everyday face-time with colleagues that you might enjoy in an office environment. In order to supplement this, consider requesting a standing video meeting with your manager, or requesting 15-minute “walk and talks” phone calls to get to know people in different functions. It’s common for interns to invite colleagues out for casual coffee chats in traditional office environments, so consider this your chance to accomplish the same thing from afar! You can also connect with peers and other young professionals on Handshake to help build connections within your desired industry and learn about the path ahead.
3. Practice overcommunication
When you don’t have the benefit of physical proximity, it can be hard to feel connected to your management during an internship. Chat with your manager about how best they’d like updates about your work, and make sure to follow through via those channels—if they prefer emails, consider sending a weekly email recap about lessons you’ve learned, projects you’ve made progress on, and any questions that might have arisen during the week. If they prefer face-to-face meetings, come to your video check-ins prepared with notes, questions, and ideas.
4. Ask for feedback
The biggest benefit to any internship is getting real-life experience in the workplace, which can help shape your future plans and mold your skillset to suit your career goals. In order to maximize your remote internship experience, be clear with your manager that you desire feedback so that you can continue to grow as a professional. This might mean hopping on a quick call to review changes they’ve made to a project draft you delivered, or using suggestions and comments in a Google Sheet.
When soliciting feedback from colleagues, it’s key to accept said feedback graciously; think of critique as a favor, because it will help you improve your work. The lessons you take away from your internship will follow you into your first full-time job in your desired field, so capture every bit of advice you can!
5. Document your achievements
Whether you spend a month in your role or chug away for a whole semester, the time often flies by—and so can your projects. If you keep a record of major focus areas and accomplishments over the course of your internship, you can look back and reflect on your growth at the conclusion of your internship. This can benefit both you and your manager; a robust list of tangible achievements can help them quantify the benefit of their organization’s internship program, and you can use the same log to update your resume, fill your portfolio, and inform special skills for your Handshake profile.
6. Ask for a letter of recommendation
A persuasive professional endorsement from a past internship can prove extremely useful when applying for full-time work after graduation. Simply use this guide when asking for a letter of recommendation or to use your manager as a future professional reference.
There’s no reason why working remotely during your internship should hold you back from any of the advantages of a traditional work environment. With the right attitude, you can find many ways to make a great impression on your colleagues, forge lasting connections with peers, and take valuable lessons away from your experience.