Like almost everything virtual, virtual internships are rising in popularity. In a 2012 survey, 33 percent of employers hired virtual interns, while over 70 percent of college students said they would consider participating in a virtual internship. While the virtual category continues to help make our lives more convenient and accessible, one may wonder if this growing, virtual trend is a step too far. Should we throw our interns to the virtual world as well?
The answer: It depends. Virtual interns -or remote interns- are generally responsible for performing projects and tasks which do not require their physical presence in the office setting. So if you’re looking for someone to answer phones and to make copies then no, a virtual intern is not right for you. However, if you are looking for a tech savvy college student to beef up your organization’s social media presence or to comb through lengthy Excel files then yes, you should absolutely consider hiring a virtual intern.
Why: Virtual internship programs give employers access to a larger, more qualified pool of intern candidates and also provide a great deal of convenience for both the employer and the intern employee.
How about an Ivy League intern? By opting for this less traditional style of internship, you remove the geographic barriers on your applicant pool. Essentially, you gain access to every college student looking for an internship in America.
It’s more convenient for them. College students who are already juggling classes along with a part-time job often can’t make the normal 9 to 5 hours work into their schedule. Rather, with a virtual internship students can work at their own convenience- whether it’s on a Monday evening or on a Saturday afternoon.
It’s more convenient for you. Since virtual interns do not work in your office setting, you do not need to make additional room for them. This means you save money, time, space, and resources.
Conclusion: There are several counterarguments commonly made against virtual internships. For instance, some people do not feel comfortable relying solely on technology as a means of communication, while others believe exposure to a professional office environment is one of the most advantageous aspects of an in-office internship. Now, although these are fair points to make, virtual communication is reliable most of the time and does still provide a great platform for your intern to enhance their professional communication skills. When it comes down to it, the value an intern gains from their working experience may come in many different forms, nonetheless if an office internship is not compatible with their schedule, then the opportunity for any value to arise won’t exist at all.