Internships are a wonderful opportunity for increasing your work experience and boosting your résumé. But, when you are balancing a full class schedule and a college social life, it can be hard to find time for a conventional internship. Remote internships, on the other hand, allow you the freedom to work flexible hours from your dorm room while still gaining valuable experience.
How to Land a Remote Internship
With the help of sophisticated technology, companies these days can hire interns from anywhere, often saving themselves the costs of housing an additional employee. You can find a remote internship in almost any field; you just need to do some research. Don't be afraid to reach out to companies as well. For example, if you are pursuing a law degree, you can contact local law firms and ask if you can write the monthly newsletter or maintain the company's blog.
Even though a remote internship might seem more lax, apply with a résumé and cover letter tailored to the specific company and position in which you are interested. Be sure to mention any prior experience working remotely, even if it's only through an online class, as well as any familiarity with online tools frequently used by remote workers such as team productivity apps, communication apps and file sharing sites.
Set a Schedule and Stick with It
It's vital to set a work schedule for your internship and commit to this time. This allows your employer to know when to expect your work. A schedule will also help you balance the demands of school and your internship, without sacrificing sleep or social events. Cramming regular late night work sessions into your busy week can lead to feeling overwhelmed, while also jeopardizing your health and your grades.
Working online means dealing with a lot of distractions, especially from social media. If you allow yourself to be sidetracked by your friends' photos, instant messages, online games and interesting news articles, it will take you twice as long to finish your work.
To maintain your focus, use apps that block certain websites for a set amount of time for all devices. A timer can also be helpful. Set the timer for 15 minutes and work intensely until it goes off. Once the 15 minutes is up, reward yourself with a 5-minute break. Repeat as necessary.
Check In with Your Supervisor Regularly
Internships are unique because they are designed to help students learn and grow, as well as network with people in their desired field. Interns should be in continual communication with their employer.
Yohan Jacob, CEO of Retailbound, hires two to four remote interns a year to assist with the company's blogger outreach, e-mail campaigns and content creation.
"Make sure communication is the best thing," he says. "With remote employees or interns, it's easy to feel isolated. With regular, two-way communication, both the manager and the intern know what's going on. The interns that worked out the best for us were the ones who over-communicated or were quick to respond."
He expects weekly check-ins from his interns but is also impressed by those who check in through e-mail, chat or quick phone calls more frequently.
Get in a Professional Mindset
Think the best part of a remote internship is working in your pajamas? Think again. Several psychology studies suggest that the clothes we wear can influence how we think and act. Dress career casual, just as you would for an on-site internship. Getting dressed and looking professional allows you to get in the work mindset.
Along with dressing professionally, communicate professionally. E-mails to your supervisor and other employees should be more formal and more thoughtful than a tweet or Facebook post.
Go the Extra Mile
With an internship, just showing up to work every day isn't really enough. Instead, when employees put in more effort than is required, they make an impression on employers.
"Interns who show initiative rate very high with us," says Jacob. "We like interns who know how to 'connect the dots' and are able to go beyond what the intern job description states on paper."
Don't be afraid to pitch new ideas to your employer and to work collaboratively and communicate often by phone or IM with the rest of the team. Communication is a must for interns and supervisors, but connecting with other employees is also essential for developing trust and building up professional relationships that can be beneficial after the internship has ended. Surpass expectations and look for unique ways to do more than just the required work. For example, if you notice the company could benefit by using another social media platform, mention it to your supervisor and suggest an action plan.
Ultimately, the goal of having an internship is to get a stellar recommendation letter and make valuable connections - potentially even leading to a full-time job, remote or on-site. But to get there, it's vital to first show your employer that the company needs you and that you cannot be easily replaced by another intern.