Developing a Virtual or Micro-Internship
As we begin looking at the changing world of internships it is important to understand the basic definition and of what an internship is. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) defines an internship as: A form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable, applied experience and to make connections in professional fields that are considering for career paths. They also give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.
In addition, an effective internship should help the student by providing:
- Sustained engagement with the culture of an actual workplace
- Participation in authentic tasks that are meaningful to the organization
- Supervision by staff at the host site who are trained in mentorship
- Cultivation of social capital that is valuable to their professional career
So what is a virtual or micro-internship?
Virtual Internships are internships that are done online or remotely anytime of the year. This allows the student to work on a global scale but stay local. The student is placed with a company and reports to a supervisor. The student stays in regular contact with the supervisor and team via virtual methods such as video call, phone call, email and instant messenger. (virtualinternships.com/faqs)
Micro-Internships are short-term, paid, professional assignments that are similar to those given to new hires or interns. These projects enable college students, graduate students and recent college graduates to demonstrate skills, explore career paths and build their networks as they seek the right full-time role. Unlike traditional internships, Micro-Internships can take place year-round, range typically from 5 to 40 hours of work and include projects being completed between one week and one month. Micro-Internships are used by companies ranging from those in the Fortune 100 to emerging start-ups, and include departments such as sales, marketing, technology, HR and finance. (www.parkerdewey.com/faq)
How do I set up a virtual internship for our students?
The process of an online internship varies depending on if you work with an established third-party firm or organize the internship on your own. The third-party firms establish processes for matching students to employers, provide operational platforms and offer services to support these programs; more information on these organizations and procedures are available at their websites (see resources page).
Best practices for employers considering delivering a virtual internship
For organizations that are considering hosting online internships for the Summer of 2020, here are some suggestions:
- Allocate enough time before the start of the virtual internship to:
- Train internship supervisor on mentoring best-practices
- Determine the right software and programs for conducting and managing work
- Provide training to staff and students on the new software and systems
- Develop a work plan for the intern, including training materials and activities that the intern will need to develop their technical skills
- Define expectations for all parties involved
- Establish a regular communication plan including allocated time for feedback and mentoring
- Develop a well-rounded internship experience that allows the student to learn about your organization and professional field, build upon both technical and soft skills, and engage in meaningful projects that allow students to demonstrate their mastery of classroom content and develop applied skills they are learning.
- Prepare meaningful tasks and projects that are planned out in a logical order that the intern will be able to manage and perform the work independently. If possible, write a workplan that covers the entire experience or at minimum provide a weekly or bi-weekly workplan to help guide the student.
- Engage the entire team in the virtual internship process to allow the students to interact with a variety of colleagues on multiple topics in various platforms.
- Provide clear instructions and descriptions of the work to be done as well as any necessary materials to allow the student access to the information throughout the day as needed.