Virtual & Micro-Internships
Fundamentals of Virtual Internships
If you are considering offering virtual internship opportunities, it's important to remember that the fundamentals of a strong internship program remain the same. Whether in person or virtual, all internships should include the following:
- Support & buy-in from organization leadership
- A clear job description and expectations
- A strong onboarding process and orientation
- Meaningful projects for the student & employer
- Strong supervision & mentorship opportunities
- Strong communication between organization, supervisor, student, faculty advisor (if needed)
- Professional development & networking opportunities
- An element of FUN!
Questions to Consider
If you are considering moving your internship to a virtual experience, it is helpful to consider the following questions:
- Can the work of the intern be done remotely?
- Are you able to offer quality projects that are meaningful to interns and beneficial to the organization?
- Is the organization able to support an intern remotely?
- Is the organization able to supply the intern with the required technology needs to conduct their work?
- Are you comfortable supervising a student who is working remotely?
- What type of communication channels does your organization and are you able to include the intern?
Best Practices for Virtual Internships
- Send intern a First Day Welcome Box filled with branded items from the organization. This helps the intern feel part of the organization from day one and included as part of the team.
- Fill their inbox with important first-day information, a schedule of meetings, important departmental processes, and procedures. This helps reduce any first-day anxiety for the intern and lets them plan out their days.
- Have supervisors plan to spend much of their day with the intern. This will allow time for questions, to resolve any technology issues, and to set clear expectations for the role of the intern.
- Start communicating with your intern early in the process, prior to their official start date. This can be done over email, via LinkedIn, or other platforms and is very helpful in ensuring a smooth start for the intern.
- Make sure your intern has all required log-in information including passwords & links to all platforms your organization will be using. This helps to ensure that interns are included in all meetings and communication within the organization.
- Continue to hold weekly supervisor and/or mentor meetings. This consistent form of communication helps to build a connection between the intern, supervisor, and the work they are doing to move the organization forward. Including other professionals in meetings is another way to connect the intern to the broader work of the organization.
- It is helpful for supervisors to frequently check in with your intern regarding their classes, workload, and their ability/interest in taking on new tasks.
- Create challenges and games for interns that promote teamwork, networking, and deeper learning about the organization.
- Host virtual Lunch & Learn events to bring interns and organizational leadership together for shared learning and networking opportunities.
- Introduce interns to the organization's Employee Resource Groups and include interns in all ERG virtual events.
Keeping the Fun
- More so than ever, it is important to keep an element of fun to an internship experience. Some suggested ideas include:
- Virtual Escape Room
- Virtual Volunteering
- Zoom Trivia
Benefits of Virtual Internships
We have learned that there are many unexpected benefits with virtual internships, for both the student and the employer. These benefits have allowed for continued planning for virtual internships well into the future.
- The incorporation of new technologies and systems to streamline workflow
- Virtual recruiting events allow for an increase in the talent pool and more diversity in applications
- Allows for inclusion of virtual internship opportunities in future strategic planning
- Increased opportunities for internships within a national and global context
- Increased flexibility in work schedules and time commitments
- Maintained the ability to gain professional skills and networking opportunities in a virtual platform
Micro-Internships & Project Based Internships
In some cases, providing a traditional semester-long internship is not feasible within your organization. There are alternative options to a traditional internship that still benefit the organization and the student's experience.
Micro-Internships/Project Based Internship
Micro-Internships are short-term projects that are specific to the employer's needs. This could include projects that are completed within a shorter time frame (i.e. 3-6 weeks) and work well with smaller organizations who are looking to begin developing an internship program. For students looking to receive academic credit, it is recommended to have at least 50 hours of work to equal 1 credit hour.
There are multiple benefits to Micro-Internships/Project Based Internships. They allow students to gain a variety of experiences at different organizations across industries, as well as benefiting employers who may not have enough work for full semester interns. Micro-Internships/Project Based Internships have been shown to be helpful for small organizations and start-ups.