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Intern Diaries: How a Virtual Internship is Helping Me Become a Better Writer

July 19, 2012

Victoria Shockley (@Victoria_Writes) is a sophomore at North Carolina State University where she’s an English major with a concentration in Scientific & Technical Communication. She currently works as a virtual intern with Women Writers, Women Books, an online magazine by and about contemporary women writers.

VictoriaShockley headshot 150x150 Intern Diaries: How a Virtual Internship is Helping Me Become a Better WriterBy Victoria Shockley

This summer I am working as a virtual intern for the online-only magazine Women Writers, Women Books. This is the first time I have experienced working virtually, but I love it! It’s very flexible and allows you the opportunity to work at odd hours, such as early in the morning or late at night. Being a writer, I often feel most inspired and get my best work done after midnight! Working remotely also makes it easy to balance my internship, my part-time job, time with family and friends, and my three summer classes at college.

Through working as a virtual intern, I’ve acquired a number of new skills. I’ve learned how to upload articles and edit photos on WordPress, and I have done screen-sharing with my editor using www.join.me. We use www.dropbox.com, which allows my editor and me to share documents just by dropping them into a folder on our computers! Since I work virtually and never have any face-to-face contact with my editor, it’s crucial to be able to do remote phone conferencing and to be willing to email progress reports so that we both know where we are on projects. Also, I’m keeping track of and recording my work hours in a detailed time log the way a virtual contractor would need to.

“My advice to anyone planning to do a virtual internship is to determine ahead of time whether you have good organizational and communication skills, motivation, and the ability to manage your time.”

In addition to new technology, I’ve also been able to learn about different styles of writing. Typically I’m used to writing and editing essays for my college courses, which is very formal compared to the more colloquial language of Internet blog posts. I’ve had to get used to the fact that sometimes slang is okay on the Internet, and contractions like “it’s” and “that’s” are acceptable, whereas in a research paper they would be frowned upon. The format is different as well; I don’t have to worry about adding citations or a works cited list! I think it has broadened my writing and editing skills to be able to recognize what kind of style a particular piece of writing should have based on the audience, and whether a word or phrase is acceptable for that style.

My advice to anyone planning to do a virtual internship is to determine ahead of time whether you have good organizational and communication skills, motivation, and the ability to manage your time. Working remotely means you don’t have set hours where you’re in an office, and no in-person supervisor, so you’ll need to be able to independently determine how much work you need to put into a project each day in order to meet deadlines. You also have to be able to organize a list (or multiple lists!) of what projects you’ve started, which ones are finished and need to be approved, and how much time you spent on each one of them. Since you don’t meet in person with your editor or manager, you need to be able to effectively communicate to them (via email and phone) what stage you are at in a project or if you need help or clarification.

In addition, make sure you know ahead of time what your goals are for the internship, and communicate them up front to your supervisor. Mutual benefit for both you and your virtual supervisor is very important, and highlighting what you and your boss hope to achieve by the end of the internship is crucial to making it a valuable experience for both parties.

Victoria, thanks for taking the time to share this with us! Students,  find your own virtual internship. Leave your questions about virtual internships below.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ilyan Kei Lavanway September 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Virtual internship sounds like a writer's dream come true, and a real challenge. I can see how one would have to be a self starter and take initiative to manage workloads and meet deadlines.

I like how you pointed out one of the main differences between fiction or blog writing and technical writing, regrading the use of contractions. I think the same goes for acronyms. I do not like to abbreviate unless I have first spelled out the full name of something.

Great article. There's never a dull moment in the life of a writer. It's hard work.

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