The Basics

Virtual and Year-Round Internships Offer More Options

Have you considered hiring an intern or starting an internship program at your company? The internship experience is a win-win situation. Positive for the intern who gains work experience in an industry of interest, networks with employees and managers who could later assist with career choices, and starts a decision-making process regarding possible lifelong career options. Positive for the company that has the added assistance of young employees, meets and vets possible full-time hires, and contributes to the education of students who will enter a particular industry better prepared due to experience gained at your company. These are just a few of the benefits of running an internship program.

As you start deliberating the positive aspects of an internship program, large questions regarding logistics will surface, and if not addressed, run the risk of derailing the process. Questions like: Do we have the space for an intern? Can we find interns year round so we can keep our continuity? How do we find the best interns for our company when it’s hard to find students in our area?

There are many different types of internships, so before you shut down the deliberations, check out these two internship options.

Virtual interns: Virtual interns are those who work remotely—at school, home, library and so on—rather than in your office. There are many reasons for choosing this option.

Benefits

  • Finding the right intern for your company is essential. A virtual situation allows you to find interns outside of your geographic location. Maybe the schools in your area don’t offer classes or majors that relate directly to your needs, or an excellent intern already working for you needs to relocate out of the area. Broaden your search for interns across the country or retain the services of a relocating intern by establishing a virtual internship that allows students to gain experience without having to work from your location.
  • You can post your virtual internships on internships.com and find students that way—free of charge.
  • Office space and resources are not an issue.
  • Students with laptops are mobile and can work flexible hours. They can work from dorm rooms, the library, a classroom, and set their own schedule in consultation with their office supervisor. Student life is very different than the office world and a virtual situation will allow you, the company, to harness the talent of a young intern without forcing that intern to compromise school and life to mesh with a 9 to 5 schedule.
  • Virtual interns are a natural complement to an organization that is distributed, or works from home offices or a variety of locations.

 How to manage virtual interns

  • You still need an intern manager who will train interns, assign tasks and check in to see progress daily and weekly.
  • Many employers find timesheets a helpful tool to keep track of projects and time committed to each.
  • Schedule a weekly phone call to review work, discuss next projects and share any feedback with interns.
  • Stay in regular contact and be sure to set aside time for training your intern.
  • Some organizations have interns come into the office once or twice a month and then work remotely for regular daily tasks.

 

Year-round interns:  Over are the days of summer-only internships. As students become more mobile and engaged with exploring career options earlier, the boundaries of the summer internship have broken down. You can find an intern and continue working with them across semesters or find new interns each season.

 How many hours a week can interns work during their school year?

  • It’s not unusual for internships during the school year to be 5 to 10 hours a week while the students attend classes or hold part-time jobs.
  • You can talk to your potential interns about the number of hours they can work each week. Students will vary on the hours they can provide depending on their school and other commitments.
  • Keep in mind that these can be on-site interns or work remotely (virtually).

 Benefits

  • The benefit of using interns year-round is without the start and stop of students that pop in only during the summer your company may be able to retain one particular intern across more than one season and extend the experience for both parties.  
  • Interns are often a source of potential new hires; continuing a relationship with interns that fit well with your organization over more than one semester/period will allow you to further consider and train them.
  • Using interns in a year-round capacity can also mean that various departments can have interns. Perhaps it is typical for you to hire interns in marketing. Why not consider interns for accounting or HR? Or, you can consider having interns rotate through various departments over the course of the year. They benefit from learning more about your work and industry and you get to aid a variety of departments.

Virtual internships and year-round internships are two options that will allow your company to think outside the internship box. Consider the extended projects an intern could complete in either format, the saved resources of eliminating non-stop intern hiring, or computer/office space considerations. It may take a different type of organization level, a review of the intern/supervisor relationship, and a reformat of the traditional internship, but it will be worth it when your company is able to hire and retain the best intern for the program regardless of location and scheduling.