Are virtual internships worth it?
15 Apr 2021

We believe passionately at F4S that young people are our future but sometimes they need support and guidance on their journey into the workplace.  As a charity, we offer this support in a number of ways, one of which is virtual work experience.  Together with our partner Workfinder we help connect young people to opportunities within exciting growth companies.

We asked one of our interns, Robbie Lennie, about his experiences of remote work placements and why he thought they would benefit his future career. Here's what he had to say...

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By Robbie Lennie, Social Media Intern, Founders4Schools

Are virtual internships worth it?

Yes, they are. Having work experience may be the difference between you landing that first job or missing out to somebody else. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have switched to remote internships and future employers will be happy if you have pursued one of these opportunities.

According to UCAS, two-thirds of employers look for relevant work experience when assessing a graduate job application. If you have had difficulty finding traditional work experience or would prefer a more casual placement to complete alongside your studies, a virtual placement will be perfect for you.

How do virtual internships work?

The move to work from home has seen a large increase since 2020, some companies may continue the practice post-pandemic. This hasn’t just been the case for permanent roles either, there are hundreds of opportunities for remote work experience.

If you apply through Workfinder, you complete a simple application process that will allow the employer to establish whether you are a good fit for the placement. You may be invited to a video interview before being offered the role.

Once you start your placement you will be introduced to your main point of contact, this is the person you should go to for any queries you may have. If you can handle a larger workload or need more breathing room, let them know.

A company may take on an intern when they are planning to launch a new project. You could be working on a new website, helping to promote an upcoming webinar, or assisting with the expansion of the business. You will be given real and useful tasks to complete for the business from the comfort of your bedroom and you will be developing real skills that you can talk about on your CV.

Are they better or worse than classic work experience?

From the placements I have completed, virtual work experience is more “relaxed” compared to the traditional method. This doesn’t mean they are worse, I would actually argue the opposite. It doesn’t mean they are easier either. It just means that if you prefer to work at your own pace, then a remote opportunity can give you much more freedom (as long as you still complete the tasks asked of you in time).

You also won’t be asked to complete the menial intern jobs of getting coffees for the team or running errands for your holder. When taking on a virtual intern, companies will want to make the most of having you on the team and will set you meaningful tasks.

Don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities to socialise and talk with others in the business also, internships are a great way to make new contacts and grow new networks. This is your time of discovery, you can find out what roles people do and what that entails, this will all help you when you start applying for permanent roles. People are busy though, so don’t take up too much time. Your main priority should always be completing the tasks you are set.

Do employers value remote internships?

Many recruiters have told me that the number one question they will be asking in interviews going forward is “what did you do during the pandemic?”

At first, this question seems very unfair, jobs continue to be difficult to find, even if you had one you may have been put on furlough. Employers are keen to see your resilience and initiative however, how you spent your time whilst stuck at home will tell them a lot about your character and may help them decide if they want to hire you.

Lockdown opened up new opportunities for online webinars, remote projects, and free courses that, previously, weren’t available. I personally try to attend at least one educational webinar per week and as soon as I learned of Workfinder, I decided I would try and find at least one placement per term at university.

The nature of Workfinder placements has made this goal easy to achieve, you can select the projects that most relate to your chosen fields and can apply by answering just a couple of questions.

Are virtual internships paid?

There are a variety of internships available remotely, some paid and some unpaid. So far I've worked on projects I found through Workfinder, which clearly states whether you are applying to an unpaid or paid opportunity.

When just starting out it can be helpful to can some experience by signing up for a few unpaid placements to land the paid ones, however, the short-term nature of placements means this can easily be balanced alongside your studies. These types of positions offer a taste of what it's like to work in a new role or industry to get initial experience and are flexible enough to fit around your schedule.

All paid placements must pay the national minimum wage at least, many actually offer you more than this and so offer a great way to earn some money whilst gaining experience in a role you enjoy and may want to continue full-time in the future.

Why I recommend doing work experience

I would absolutely recommend finding work experience whilst you study. Virtual placements can offer more freedom than physical placements and give you just as much value. The more roles you can find, the better prepared you will feel when it comes to finding a permanent job. You will also build a wealth of connections that can help you in the future.

>>Click here if you're a student interested in finding out more about work experience?

>>Does your business have a project that 18-24 year old would benefit from an extra pair of hands?

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