You got the internship! Your desk will be…your desk.

Interning has always been a great way to put yourself ahead of the competition when applying for entry-level jobs—an added bonus on your resume. However, as the job market becomes more competitive, doing internships is more important than ever. A lot of internships are in larger cities (such as New York or Los Angeles) and are offered over the summer break, making them inaccessible for many college students. Recently, there has been a trend among startup companies to offer virtual internships. These internships can be done at a distance allowing interns to check in a few times a week to get new tasks and check progress.

As a seven-time virtual intern myself, I can attest to the benefits. Scheduling work around your classes can be hard enough before you add in extra-curricular activities. Often virtual internships allow greater flexibility than office work. This means that you can do the tasks during the time of day that works best for you, even if that’s one in the morning! Virtual internships typically require fewer hours per week as well, allowing you to take one on even during tough semesters.

Now that you’ve heard the benefits, here are some tips for finding, securing and completing a virtual internship.

Finding a Virtual Internship

Just like when searching for a traditional internship, you should start with the companies for which you would most like to work. Try writing the company’s HR department to ask if they offer virtual internships. It may be that the company has never considered this before and asking shows great initiative!

If you don’t find a position by asking companies, try a job board. While you can always search the more traditional job sites, in recent years a large number of internship only boards have cropped up. Intern Queen, Youtern, Internships.com, and Intern Web are all great resources. When you’re on these sites you can search for an internship based on a city and most will have a virtual option.

Applying for the Internship

Now that you’ve gathered a list of companies and internship openings it’s time to start applying. Follow the instructions listed on the job board as closely as possible: note deadlines, supplements to submit and where to send the application. The worst thing to do would be to ignore explicit instructions—show attention to detail and you might get the interview.

When writing your cover letter, be sure to address how you fit each of the qualities listed on the job posting. For example, if the position requires you to work with social media, tell the recruiters how you started your own successful blog or how you have a thousand followers on Twitter. The cover letter is the place to really sell yourself for the job—don’t be afraid to flaunt your accomplishments!

The Job Interview

For the initial job interview you will want to establish a means of communication. If you are in the same general area as the internship a phone call may suffice. However if you are farther away, or on another continent like I am, Skype or Google Chat are great tools to use. Setting up an account on either is easy and it can save a lot of headache about international phone calls.

Remember to check the time zone for your interviewer. The first virtual interview I ever had, I hadn’t realized the interviewer was two hours ahead of me! Not only was I late for the interview but I had also written my cover letter about being on time—what a disaster. It’s easy to assume that the time you’ve agreed upon is in your own time zone but by double-checking you’ll save yourself a lot of embarrassment.

The Best Ways to Keep In Touch

Because you may be across the country from the company you are working for it is important to have a clear method of communication. Whether it’s scheduling tasks, creating a workflow or giving job training you will need to be in touch with your employer. Exchange Skype or Google names, phone numbers and the best times to contact each other and you should be set.

Using an online work system can help keep you on schedule and your boss in the loop. I like to use Google docs but any online word processor should work the same way. By creating documents and then sharing them with employers, they will always know where you are on a given project.

Another great online tool is email. I know it sounds lame but a good old-fashioned email can go along way in terms of keeping you on the same page as your employer. When you are assigned tasks that require you to liaise with others, email is often the fastest way to exchange information.

Alexandra M. Patterson is a junior English major at Kenyon College. She is currently studying abroad at the University of Exeter and is doing four virtual internships this semester. Find out more about Alexandra on LinkedIn, her blog or on Twitter.

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