Much like traditional employment, internships have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Last April, 22 percent of employers surveyed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) said they were revoking offers for summer internship programs.
Luckily for students seeking the experience and networking that internships offer, many organizations have retained their internship programs by transitioning to virtual models. While that means internships may look different these days, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here are a few ways students can use the new internship normal to their advantage.
3 Benefits for College Interns in a Remote World
1. It’s Easier to Take an Internship Based in Another City
Before remote work was the norm, taking a coveted internship may have meant moving to another city — a potentially pricey endeavor, especially if the internship was unpaid. Between moving costs, housing, and living expenses, a student could end up spending thousands on a summer internship above and beyond the cost of the summer credits. That can create a lot of stress, especially if you already have student loans looming when you graduate. What’s more, if you default on those loans in the future because you went into debt to take an internship during your college years, that could harm your ability to get a full-time job.
Now, however, you can apply for virtual internships all over the country, skipping some of the financial hardship that came with traditional in-person internships. In many ways, the move to virtual internships evens the playing field, allowing students from all socioeconomic backgrounds to contend for internships they may have otherwise passed over. This also has the potential to unlock a more diverse intern pool for companies to work with — a win-win.
2. You Could Set Yourself Up to Make More Money
At a traditional internship, students are often treated like junior employees who have to put in long hours to prove themselves and make a good impression. This can leave little extra time for side gigs and additional income, which only adds to the financial burden an internship can place on a person.
Remote internships may be less grueling since you don’t have to spend time and money commuting to an office. This in itself could open up your schedule for a paying part-time job or side gig. What’s more, you’ll likely spend less on business attire since your higher-ups and coworkers will only be seeing you from the waist up. Stocking up on office-friendly pants, shoes, and bags can add up quickly for college students.
A word of warning about internships: Students typically find themselves paying for internship course credits when taking on unpaid internships. The amount per credit can vary from school to school, but using student loans to cover the price will essentially leave you paying interest on the cost of your internship. If you take two unpaid internships and the course fee is $1,000 each, you’ve just added $2,000 to your student loan balance. This could potentially cost you hundreds more in interest.
3. There’s Much More Flexibility
Remote work generally lends itself to more flexibility. Since you won’t be clocking in at an office from 9-to-5 every day, chances are you’ll be able to make your own workspace. This could mean working in a home office one day or an outdoor café the next, depending on the demands of your internship. Being accessible and having a secure Wi-Fi connection might be the only real requirements.
Think about how you work best, then set up an environment conducive to that. The flexibility will likely serve you well. Ninety-four percent of employers surveyed by the HR consulting firm Mercer said that employee productivity has been either the same or better since transitioning to remote work.
How to Leverage Your Remote Work Experience
Going remote could be an opportunity in disguise for interns. The whole reason a student takes an internship is to beef up their resume with real-life work experience. If you’re an adaptable intern who proves they know how to navigate a remote workplace, you could have a leg up over new grads who’ve never held a remote job. In other words, learning how to excel in a virtual internship can show prospective employers you’re flexible and able to adapt to our new way of working.
Be sure to highlight relevant skills you gained from your internship on your resume, and maintain any important relationships you built with coworkers during your time as an intern. Virtual coffee dates are a great way to keep those bonds strong, and you never know when someone you met at your internship might be in a position to hire you as a full-time employee.