In today’s digital workforce, you can work an eight-hour shift in the comfort of your pajamas.
By Ashley Wertz, University of Pittsburgh
In the digital age, the ability to gain internship experience is becoming easier than ever, no matter where you attend college.
It seems the most challenging part is sifting through pages upon pages on Internship.com and deciding whether or not you can fit in another commitment amongst studying, working, sleeping and procrastinating. Depending on what you want out of an internship, there are ways to retain your sanity while unlocking major achievements.
One of the main ways students are cramming in internships without traveling across the country is by taking advantage of remote internships. An online internship may sound bogus, but consider how many jobs internet access has made possible. Freelancers, writers, artists, programmers and any position that doesn’t require being at the office in the flesh are finding more opportunities than ever.
People are no longer limited to their immediate surroundings. You can find a job on the other side of the planet without getting out of your pajamas. Of course, depending on what you want to do, an on-site experience may be more beneficial. Here are few things to consider when choosing an internship.
1. How Much Time Do You Have?
Everyone’s schedule is different, but for most college students, time always seems to be closing in around you. A normal day consists of one deadline after the next without any room to breathe.
Remote internships work well for those who plan by the minute. They save travel time because all you have to do is plop down in front of your laptop. Some require you to attend weekly or monthly meetings, which may be hard in some cases, especially if you’re working with a company in a different time zone. But chances are most companies offering remote internships are aware that they’re attracting students from across the country, so they will make it work if you’re the right fit.
Since you’ll be fairly autonomous, you’ll be able to choose the times you work on assignments. As long as you meet designated deadlines, there’s no rule that says you can’t work at 4 a.m. On-site work is usually restricted to the company location, which may or may not be open for your use outside of office hours.
If you happen to be one of those lucky ducks that has more time than they know what to do with, remote internships can be equally as beneficial. While taking on several on-site internships can be overwhelming, participating in two or three remote internships may give you just as much experience without wearing you thin from going back and forth.
2. How Badly Do You Want Money?
Because remote internships don’t require any travel expenses, many don’t offer stipends or pay. Whether or not this works for you is entirely up to your living situation. Some students are happy to work in exchange for valuable experience and guidance, but for others, it might not be an option.
If you’re going for an unpaid internship though, you might as well choose the remote option. There aren’t any additional costs, like moving to New York City and living in a broom closet for $1,000 per month. You also cut out transportation costs, whether it’s bus fare or gas. Working remotely is like having an online class, but you don’t have to pay for it.
3. Are You Willing/Able to Travel?
Maybe this isn’t your first rodeo. College students are encouraged from the second they start freshman year to collect internships like they’re Pokémon cards. Eventually, you may want to pursue an internship that gives you more of a hands-on experience. This is especially helpful for those who are taking a gap year or want to take advantage of summer breaks. Companies offering summer-long on-site internships are also more likely to offer payment, whether it’s through housing or a stipend.
However, many internships are available during the spring and fall semesters, so taking a four-month internship in a different state just isn’t going to work. For those who attend school in the city, finding an internship in your desired field that’s not too far from campus is probably an option. You don’t have to travel far to find a semi-interesting prospect, but for anyone living in a small town or rural area, there’s not much aside from your local newspaper.
City living is also straight-up dreadful for some. It’s common to sacrifice on-site opportunities because of the idea of living within proximity of so many other human beings. It used to be more difficult to find internships or jobs, especially in creative fields, without living in either NYC or Cali. Now you have the chance to retain solitude while still gaining experience.
4. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
This is probably the most obvious and important question: What is your goal? If you want to be a civil engineer and build bridges, remote internships aren’t going to do you any favors, unless there’s a company that trains via Rollercoaster Tycoon. Finding remote internships with companies that deal with coding and software may also be tough, since it involves team-oriented work.
If you want to write, manage site content (advertising, graphic design, etc.) or most anything that involves working independently or via video conference, then a remote internship is an excellent choice. If you’re a team player who gets bored after a few hours alone, I wouldn’t suggest the virtual route. But remember, remote internships are not “easier” just because you don’t have to be in an office or at a studio.
Like on-site internships, virtual internships offer their own distinctive set of challenges. You have to be self-sufficient and meet deadlines without much nudging or supervision from coordinators. So, if this thought doesn’t deter you and your ultimate goal is to work remotely or with online content, a virtual internship might be the best place to start.