Virtual internships – A Student’s Perspective



Rajeev has graduated recently and is waiting to join the permanent posting with the company he was recruited by on the campus. In the meanwhile, Rajeev has decided that he won’t just sit back home, and rather will spend his time meaningfully. And hence came up the idea of doing an internship. Soon enough he grabbed one (the genius that he is), and then he faced the greatest dilemma – to move out of home or not to move out of home. Being his last vacations, he wanted to spend as much time with the family as possible and hence he chose a work from home internship. He is an intern now who can work from his drawing room couch, while on the move in his car, and even updates the latest excel sheets while gulping down a burger at the nearest fast food joint.

Rajeev is not alone. Gone are those days when the employers used to be adamant not to allow the interns a single day of respite from the heavy work they are bestowed upon. With changing times, it’s not surprising that work from home internships, better known as virtual internships, are supported by many of the companies all over the world.

So, what is a virtual internship?

Virtual internships, where the intern never sets foot in the employer’s office, are growing in popularity, particularly for small and web-based companies who look to hire talented employees from a wider geographical region.

Virtual internships give students and employees the opportunity to handle the job ‘their way’, and yet be productive enough for the company. “I did not have to compromise on my passion for sports journalism. While I am based in Goa, ‘The Sports Campus’ from Noida gave me the perfect opportunity to work from home according to my preference of time. My mentor used to communicate with me on a regular basis over phone and email”, says Aditya, a BITS Pilani (Goa campus) student about his recent summer internship experience.

The trend that started in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the IT boom has now become a common practice among students all over the world. Most of the times students and employees who are unable to travel to the office locations are the ones who take up virtual internships. With the huge potential in Indian market, it’s becoming a popular practice for US based start ups also to outsource their works to interns here. Most of them pay well, and hence students, mostly in their undergraduate days, flock in lots to gather experience (hence, build up the CV) and start earning while still in college.

What are the advantages of a virtual internship?

1. Flexibility – For students with all round repertoire and interests, juggling between all of them and giving equal importance at the same time just becomes easier with work from home internship option. With round the hour internet accessibility, you can decide how to spread out your tasks in the calendar, and get each of them done accordingly.

2. Motivation – With friends and families around all the time, and not the boss, ‘being happy’ is just an understatement. “The fact that I can work in my pajamas with none to question me helps me a lot to concentrate on the actual work I am supposed to do”, says Sradhha, who interned with a web development company based in Mumbai last year.

3. Productivity – Less commuting time, less interruptions by colleagues can often work wonders for concentration.

4. Financial gains – If it happens to be a paid internship, saving on the transportation cost helps the students to save the entire pay package.

What are the limitations?

1. Limited mentoring & guidance – Since mostly the interns are fresh graduates or still in college students, they need continuous guidance. Rajeev never wants his skill set to become stagnant over time with the lack of mentoring. Hence, he makes it a point to mail him at least once a day, have some meaningful conversations, and learn new things.

2. Team Spirit – “A virtual internship is very much like a long distance relationship. The learning could be limited as not enough face time is available with the mentor, the networking and team bonding may be weaker (nothing works like water cooler conversations or over team lunch banter to get to know your team and colleagues better)”, says owner of a Gurgaon based start-up.

3. Lack of motivation – Being out of sight may even trigger lack of dedication to the work culture. Students tend to waste productive daytime, and later slog during the nights to complete projects and tasks. With a dedicated 9 to 5 job, balancing work and life outside the cabin becomes easier. Bharat, an IIT-Madras final year student interning with a California based start up, says, “You should be really motivated yourself for the project you have taken up. That is a major pre-requisite to take up virtual internships.”

4. Trust Issue – As Aditya mentions, “It is very important that you do a thorough research on the company you are applying to for virtual internship. If needed, have a conversation with students who already interned with the company in the past. That helps a lot to grow trust on the company before you put in your full effort for it. Also, if the company promises payment, make it a point that you receive a legal note from them in writing.” With trust on stake, neither the interns nor the companies will like to take a chance.

However, many of these limitations can be overcome with a little more discipline and efforts from both the sides. One of the growing trends is for students to take up virtual internships in the same city as company’s office location so that one on one interaction can happen on weekends. In days to come, work from home internships are never going to be out of ‘fashion’. Sonal, a 2nd year undergraduate student with Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communications and a work from home intern with a start-up says, “I like virtual internships because these provide me with opportunities to handle my college studies as well as work on real life projects. Whereas, college helps me build the academic foundation for my career, my internship experiences will certainly help me a lot when I sit for campus interviews with MNCs.”

We agree.

[This article has been previously published as a part of my internship with ‘Internshala’. That too a virtual one. Link here: http://blog.internshala.com/2011/10/virtual-internships-students-perspective/%5D

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