This summer, I have been interning with Deore Design, a creative communications agency located in the greater Austin, Texas area. One month into my internship, and I have still never been to Texas; I am working 100% remotely from my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Though I was initially nervous to begin a virtual internship, this experience has proven to be a great one so far. Given the nature of our increasingly digital (and competitively stressful) world, it’s not surprising that more and more students are accepting virtual and micro-internship positions to further their development.
The stress and competition is so high that as soon as classes are back in session in the fall, some students are already starting to think about how they will spend the following summer, many of whom begin the internship application process at this time. Since having an internship is a requirement at many colleges (the ethical validity of this requirement is a different story), university faculty and professors often assist students in this application process or offer guidance and seminars. In these formal academic settings, the focus is more often than not on the traditional summer internship experience given that virtual or micro-internships are still a new concept for many.
However, there is great value in both of these options (virtual internships are internships completed online; micro-internships are shorter and more project oriented experiences). Parker Dewey, a company that sets college students up with companies looking interns, defines micro-internships as “short-term, paid, professional assignments that are similar to those given to new hires or interns.” Students, universities, and companies should not discredit these types of experiences by neglecting to promote and accept them in the same capacity as traditional opportunities or by neglecting to offer students insight into being successful in a these unconventional environments. Doing so would foster a more inclusive, savvy, and forward-thinking college environment, would enable students to complete internship requirements despite economic background or location, and would prepare students for multiple types of experiences, bolstering their marketability upon graduation.
Jason Wingard commented on the impact of economic limitations on students participating in certain internships. He says, “Due to economic limitations, many students lack access to traditional internships—which may require quitting a job or moving to another state…business leaders will shoulder the responsibility of narrowing this internship inequality gap. In doing so, they will access a wider pool of talent, and a diverse array of skills, that will undoubtedly strengthen their teams. One strategy is offering ‘micro-internships,’ which allow students to work remotely on short-term projects while continuing to take courses, live in student housing, and hold other jobs” (Forbes 2019).
In my first weeks with Deore Design, I have learned that a virtual internship comes with benefits and challenges. One of the clearest advantages to a virtual internship is the money saved. Many college students do not live in a city where they can easily commute to an internship in an office. This means that students must often pack up and move to a new city where their internship is located. I’ve done this type of internship in the past, and while it was a rewarding experience to live in a different city, travel and living expenses certainly added up. While I am extremely privileged to have had this opportunity, universities cannot assume that it is an option for everyone.
Other benefits of working virtual or micro-internships is learning how to work outside of an office. The trick is staying productive and motivated. Everyday of my virtual internship, I wake up early and prepare as if I was going to an office. I feel that I am learning how to motivate myself and overcome procrastination. Virtual and micro-internships also allow the intern to work around other plans in the summer such as classes, jobs, programs, or other internships. Working around more than one commitment in the summer is a great way to make the most of your time off from school and build an impressive resume.
I’ve enjoyed learning more about virtual internships by experiencing one for myself. At the culmination of my time with Deore Design (in a few weeks), I’ll be publishing another article on all of the lessons learned in this position. Stay tuned as I unpack those lessons and findings from this unconventional, virtual internship experience.