Virtual internships have largely become the norm since the countrywide lockdown commenced in March and even now, as lockdowns have been largely relaxed, internships take place remotely ensuring maximum safety and social distancing. For numerous fresh graduates and students who find themselves locked in uncertainty, the proliferation of numerous virtual internships, both at home and abroad, present a new lifeline of opportunity and hope to eke out a sense of working outside.
From research to marketing to human resource management to designing, we see virtual internships recruitments happening on a regular basis attracting an untrammelled flow of applicants willing to try their luck at the job market, whose physical conspicuousness they have been out of touch with. Both small and large-scale companies based in home and abroad, are hiring students to work remote in a clockwork basis of the usual 9 am-5 pm ensuring that the same effort is being put in as it were in physical internships. As the pandemic rages on with more gusto, the office space has shrunk to more on-camera meetings, emails, frantic scheduling, and getting the assigned job done.
Remote work in itself has a range of pros working in its favour. As far as commute time is concerned, Saheel Mahmud from Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology said, "To work from the comfort of your home and not have to worry about being stuck in Dhaka's rigorous traffic and miss the next bus is perhaps one of the best things about my experience as a virtual intern." This comes as a huge plus point enabling greater work efficiency as a recent report by the World Bank stated 3.2 million working hours are lost daily in traffic congestion accounting for a loss of billions of dollars for the economy.
Furthermore, the concept opens up opportunities for current students who otherwise wouldn't have considered taking up the hassle of juggling their academics with work life. Although the ease of this interchangeability depends on the level of flexibility allowed by the organization in question, Afrida Shegufta from Bangladesh University of Professionals had the following takeaway to add, "Balancing both my academics and internship helped me become more productive and learn how to manage time more efficiently. Cross-functional mobility was eased up through virtual platforms which enhanced my knowledge of the corporate world."
As with all forms of work, virtual internships come with its fair share of hurdles. The obvious constraint is its amplified dependency on technology. Technical glitches persist which causes inefficiencies in communicating through emails, online meetings and the like, often having serious consequences if not handled effectively. When asked about his experience, Wasiq Ahmed from the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka said, "Tasks such as doing research-based projects became hard due to restrictions in being able to do primary data collection virtually." This reflects the reality that not all jobs are suited for efficiently being carried out over the internet.
Furthermore, even though it's the organization's duty to ensure seamless communication among its employees, there often lies a low scope for one-to-one communication and hence decreased learning scope through mentorship if proactive measures are not taken by both the intern and the manager. Lastly, due to over-dependency on technology, virtual interns are prone to get limited opportunities to engage with certain operations which have high confidentiality concerns hence a holistic view of true workplace experience is sometimes not met.
All in all, Virtual internships, just like real-life internships, have both part-time and full-time slots of working opportunities, allowing a myriad of different applicants to try out their luck with it. Getting the opportunity to have an internship solely centred on you sitting in front of your laptop and doing all that is required is indeed an invigorating and challenging experience. Here are a few valued few steps by which one can derive the most out of any virtual internship:
All progress – big or small – must be documented
Do keep in check whatever you have learnt in the course of the internship. Jot them down for future purposes. It might be learning to use new software or even using new applications such as Slack or Blue Jeans to synchronize working with your colleagues.
Communication is the key
An internship is a stepping-stone for everyone in the job market. It goes merely beyond the tag of "intern". It involves constant questioning of who has to do what and how the designated work has to be delivered. Good communication skills have always been a top requirement by talent acquisition managers and this is a good platform to work on communication.
Be water. In the course of a hectic internship, flexibility needs to be closely adhered to. From checking emails to being punctual at all times to having all apps downloaded beforehand alongside having good internet connectivity, being flexible is vital to the job.
Keep a designated workspace
In the absence of an office environment, it is easy to lose productivity and this is where the importance of having a workspace comes into play. Make sure the workspace is away from your bed and keep the table clean and organized to foster a clear mindset.
Set goals for yourself
Working in a virtual internship largely depends on you and your work ethic and how you plan to channel your energies to maximize your potential. The only way to maximize the scope of learning is by being proactive and knowing exactly what you intend on getting out of the internship and setting forth accordingly.
In a nutshell, a whole new dimension has been opened up in terms of opportunities with prior geographical constraints taken out of the equation. As opportunities increase, so does the level of competition and hence it is important to prepare yourselves accordingly. While there's scope for learning, it is your job as an intern to maximize your returns from your virtual internship experience and build yourself accordingly as you set out to leave your mark on the corporate world.
Illustration by Zarif Faiaz