Home Should Your Startup Offer Virtual Internships?

Should Your Startup Offer Virtual Internships?

We’ve written several times here at ReadWriteStart about the benefits – for students and for startups – of offering internship opportunities. Almost 70% of college students say they plan to pursue an internship while in school, a smart move considering that recent figures show that 90% of direct-from-college jobs will go to students who’ve had internship experience.

Just as students have expressed an interest in pursuing internships, many startups are also keen to identify potential interns, and there are several companies, including YouTern and InternMatch that work to place students with startups and not just with large, established companies. Internships are a great way to identify (and recruit) young talent.

However matching students and startups can be difficult if students don’t live near thriving entrepreneurial centers. So is it possible then to pursue a virtual internship?

According to YouTern’s CEO Mark Babbitt, requests for virtual internships are actually quite popular and his company finds that just over half the internship opportunities posts to the site are virtual. The most popular categories for virtual internships, he says, are social media, digital media, public relations and marketing.

Communication and Planning are Key – For Virtual and Face-to-Face Internships

Just as any successful internship program, it’s important that you create a work plan so that the student knows exactly what’s required and that you offer good supervision and guidance. “Clear communication is key when participating in a virtual internship,” says Amanda Pochout, co-founder of Pretty Young Professional.

An intern at that company, Alexandra Patterson, says that, “Virtual internships are great but take more work on the part of the intern. It can be easy to slack off because there isn’t someone watching your work time, so self-discipline is a must! The deadlines are always clear which helps keep us all motivated and on schedule.” But these sorts of things hold true whether an internship is virtual or not.

Babbitt says that, with the proper planning, virtual internships can be well suited for startups. “The start-up sees an opportunity to expand their bandwidth, and add youthful energy – without the need to create desk space or acquire additional resources like laptops or phone lines.”

A virtual internship can work well during the academic year, but Babbitt advises those interested in pursuing them over the summer to act quickly. Traditional internships become the norm then as most students are out of school and presumably available in person.

Image credits: Flickr user Tim Morgan

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