There are many benefits of offering internships at your organisation. Asides from traditional internship programmes, you should consider virtual internships. A virtual internship or “telecommuting” is when an intern works remotely, that is, from outside the office.

Small and medium-sized enterprises, online businesses, and startups stand to gain a lot from virtual internships because it saves overhead costs. Some specific positions are easier to manage as virtual internships than others. Sales, marketing, social media management and marketing, graphic design, virtual assistant, writing, and research internships are examples of internships that work well as remote internships.

Benefits of virtual internships

With virtual internships, you have the opportunity to select from a larger pool of candidates. It does not matter where they live, where they are from, if they are in school or not, they can work from wherever they are. Traditional internships, on the other hand, require interns who would be able to come into the office every day. Virtual internships allow you to effectively reach and screen new talent. You get to pick  from a pool of candidates with distinct experiences and educational backgrounds. You can also make the most of intern talent even during the school period.

Another advantage is that it saves the organisation time, space and money. Because the intern is working away from the office, you do not have to provide any extra equipment. You don’t have to pay for extra supplies and office perks, thereby saving some money. This is especially useful for small businesses and start-ups. You only employ workers on an as need basis such as when you are working on a new project. Virtual internships also help reduce unproductive, paid hours of work. A well structured virtual internship maximizes productivity.

Virtual internships enable employers to gain the many rewards of internships while working around student time constraints.

Making it work

With proper planning and management, almost any internship could become a virtual position. For any internship programme to be successful for both the organisation and the intern, there must be constant and effective communication, a clear direction, and solid management.

There should be a detailed position description which contains what is expected of the intern and outlines job requirements, frequency of meetings and any other important information that explains what the intern needs to know to perform effectively. This work plan also helps the organisation provide proper guidance, supervision, mentoring and feedback.

There should be a person assigned to the intern – the point of contact between the intern and the organisation – whose responsibility is to communicate regularly with the intern and provide feedback, supervision and mentoring. This person should also monitor the progress of the intern to make sure that tasks stay on track. Meetings can be virtual or physical and should be scheduled regularly so as to pass on important information, allow the intern an opportunity to ask questions and to give performance evaluations and feedback to the intern. Interns should also be given quantifiable goals with milestones to measure progress and performance.

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