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Virtual Interns: How To Improve Your Email and Phone Communications

August 14, 2012

Victoria Shockley (@Victoria_Writes) is a sophomore at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, majoring in English (with a concentration in Scientific & Technical Communication). She is currently working as a virtual editorial intern, and is planning a career in writing or editing after graduate school.

VictoriaShockley headshot 150x150 Virtual Interns: How To Improve Your Email and Phone CommunicationsBy Victoria Shockley

One of the most important skills to have when working as a virtual intern – or in any type of internship – is the ability to communicate clearly. Whether it’s over the phone, in person, or through emails, you’ll need to be able to clearly articulate questions, status on projects, and acknowledgement of directions. With this post, I’ll outline some easy ways to improve your communication skills.

Email

Respond to any questions you’ve been asked, and acknowledge that you understand any instructions given to you.

If you’re working virtually, chances are that most of the communication with your boss will be conducted via email. In an in-person setting, you’ll probably still be using email to communicate on the days when you aren’t in the office. It’s important for you to be able to write a detailed reply and organize it in a way that is easily readable. To do this, read over the email twice – once when you receive it, and once as you are writing your reply. Respond to any questions you’ve been asked, and acknowledge that you understand any instructions given to you. Don’t assume that your boss knows you understand. If it’s a lengthy email, it’s helpful to read over it in sections, and write your reply to each one as you go. Make sure to use separate paragraphs for each topic you’re covering. You may even need to use numbers or bullet points to denote separate points. The more organized the email is, the easier and quicker it is for your supervisor to read it.

Phone Conversations

Keep a pen and paper handy to take notes or write down new instructions.

Your time and your manager’s time are both very valuable, so make the most of phone conversations. If there are certain topics you want to cover during the call, such as a project on which you need assistance, write them down. Also write down any questions or new ideas. It’s a good idea to create a free account on www.do.com, where you and your boss can schedule tasks for each other. This is a great way for you to keep track of tasks your boss needs you to finish, and for your boss to have a convenient list of items he/she needs to follow up on. During the call itself, keep a pen and paper handy to take notes or write down new instructions. Managers can sometimes be very disorganized (especially if they are managing a variety of different initiatives at once), and it’s good to be prepared to take notes throughout the call. This will ensure that the time is well-spent for both parties.

Progress Updates

Periodically you will need to write progress updates for your boss; this is especially important for those of us who are virtual interns. Without progress updates, our managers have no idea what we’re working on – or even if we’ve been working at all! The report doesn’t have to be formal; sometimes just a few sentences are fine. When you write your report, make sure to clearly state which project you’re referring to (for example, say “Bob Smith’s article titled ‘New Opportunities’” rather than “the article you sent me last week”). If you can, give your supervisor an estimate of when you expect to be finished with the project.

Read more from Victoria: Intern Diaries: How a Virtual Internship is Helping Me Become a Better Writer

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