Here’s everything you need to know to get your head round virtual internships. The highs, the lows, and everything in between.
Imagine being able to gain professional experience from your kitchen table. Well, a virtual internship allows you to do just that.
But what is a virtual internship? Are they worth your time? And where can you find one? All very valid questions. All answered in this one-stop guide to virtual work experience.
Itching to get back to your 1000-piece Squid Games puzzle? Skip ahead to...
What is a virtual internship?
Virtual internships refer to any kind of work experience that you can do from home; including placements, insights and vacation schemes.
You may also hear them referred to as remote internships, online internships or virtual experiences. (They’re all the same thing.)
Virtual internships are inclusive, open to anyone and everyone, and often self-paced so you can choose your own hours. All you need is a decent WiFi connection!
How do they work?
Most virtual internships will take one of TWO formats:
1. Structured programmes offering an insight into the business and its culture
Some larger companies, like Microsoft and Google, have the technology and infrastructure to deliver their own virtual work experience programmes. These are designed to mirror real life wherever possible, and include opportunities to network and socialise with other employees.
2. Short, module-based programmes designed to develop a specific set of skills
Other companies; including Accenture, KPMG, Linklaters and CitiBank, have partnered with Forage to create module-based virtual internships. These require students to carry out and submit a series of tasks via an online platform.
DID YOU KNOW? Students who apply to a company after completing their Forage programme are 2 to 5x more likely to land the job!
We’ve launched our own Work Ready Virtual Experience with Forage and Development Beyond Learning. (Zip ahead and read all about it.)
What do you do in a virtual internship?
Virtual interns don’t just log on, send a few emails and then put Derry Girls on. Instead, they work on real-life projects that have real value for the business.
The best virtual internships are well-structured, impactful and highly relevant; ensuring both you and the business get the most out of the experience.
You can expect the likes of...
- Comprehensive induction training
- Regular check-ins with your manager
- Model examples of work for comparison
- Feedback on your performance
- A dedicated mentor and/or buddy for support
- Key skills workshops and application advice
As the whole thing is run online, you won’t meet anyone in person on a virtual internship. But you will be in regular contact with your manager, team and other interns.
Most companies will use a variety of digital tools to communicate, depending on the task at hand. Meetings might be conducted on Zoom, whilst quick questions are usually best resolved via Slack, phone or email. Get to know how your company communicates early on so you’re synced with everyone else.
HEADS UP! Some virtual internships will be better at keeping students in the loop than others. So don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for guidance if you feel a bit lost - that’s what your manager, mentor and team are there for.
Hear what a few students had to say when they reviewed their virtual internship on RateMyPlacement.co.uk...
"The virtual experience was fantastic. It offered a unique opportunity to network with my own peers, but also ask questions to graduates and senior employees."
"It was very well-paced and interactive throughout, and I definitely learnt a lot."
"Every day, we would have two "coffee roulette" sessions to meet other participants, as well as partners and trainees at the firm. In the afternoons, we worked on a competitive business simulation game. We also played an escape room game and watched a magician!"
Which industries offer virtual internships?
More than you might think!
There aren’t many silver linings to a worldwide pandemic. But the coronavirus proved that working from home is possible for HEAPS AND HEAPS of different jobs.
So you won’t just find virtual work experience in the tech world. Or a digital marketing agency. You’ll also find it in sectors like banking, consulting, software engineering, fashion, and even medicine. In global corporations, SMEs and start-ups alike.
Keen to crack on with your search? Find some of the best virtual internships in the UK below...
Apply for Virtual Internship Jobs
Work Ready Virtual Experience
RateMyPlacement.co.uk has teamed up with Forage and Development Beyond Learning (DBL) to offer a FREE online work experience programme.
Open to all students with a university email address, this is an opportunity to build the soft skills you need to take the world of work by storm - from the comfort of your sofa.
The programme is broken down into THREE different modules; including Wellbeing and Resilience, Virtual First Impressions and Virtual Networking.
Some quick facts about the programme...
- It’s FREE to join!
- No entry requirements or interview
- Do it in your own time, and at your own pace
- Takes around 5-6 hours to complete
- Gain a certificate for your CV and LinkedIn
Head over to our blog for a step-by-step guide to the programme. Or click below to sign up now.SIGN UP
Are virtual internships worth it?
The short answer is YES. Virtual internships are definitely worth taking a break from Derry Girls for. But as with any career decision, it’s always a good shout to weigh up the pros and cons first.
Virtual internships tend to be self-paced programmes so you can choose your own schedule, and fit them around other commitments if needed.
YOU COULD BE ANYWHERE...
You can work for any company in the world, without the hassle and expense of relocating. Making it a brilliant option for anyone who doesn’t live in a big city.
Aside from all the tea and Hobnobs you’ll consume, most virtual internships don’t cost a penny. There’s no commute. No rent to pay. No Pret to tempt you at lunch. (And some even pay a salary!)
TEST-DRIVE MULTIPLE CAREERS
Virtual internships are usually shorter than others. So you could fit in multiple programmes before graduating, in a variety of different sectors.
DEVELOP SKILLS EMPLOYERS WANT
Companies specifically design their virtual experiences to train students in the exact skills they are looking for - before hiring them.
IT’S CV GOLD
Virtual work experience shows employers you’ve taken the time to explore a career in their business or industry. This will catch their eye when it comes to applying for further work experience and graduate programmes.
GAIN CONFIDENCENever stepped foot in an office? A virtual internship will equip you with the skills you need to thrive in the workplace - from the comfort and safety of your own home.
Virtual experiences break down geographical, social and financial barriers. There’s no cost and they’re open to people from any background, university or degree discipline.
Don’t just take our word for it. Hear what these students had to say about their virtual experience...
"I love having the freedom to work through all the web-based activities at my convenience. Having it on my mobile and laptop means I can do it anywhere - even in pyjamas if I want."
"Thank you for giving insights on how real-time applications are built in the industry, and exposure to new technologies and tools."
"Just completed an online training programme for White & Case, made possible by Inside Sherpa. Definitely recommend it to anyone who is curious about a career in the legal industry, especially from a non-law background."
It can be easier to feel isolated or confused without that face-to-face element. But the best virtual internships will set out clear objectives, and give you plenty of opportunities to ask questions and get feedback on your performance.
YOU NEED TO BE MOTIVATED
Managing your own time is a fine art. Particularly when there’s no one keeping an eye on you. But if you make a routine and stick to it, you should be just fine. Plus it shows employers you have crucial skills like self-discipline, time management and digital literacy.
YOU WON’T ALWAYS EXPERIENCE THE COMPANY CULTURE
This is true for short, module-based programs. But others incorporate virtual social events (e.g. coffee breaks, chat rooms and networking sessions) for interns to connect with their team and senior leaders.
Previous virtual interns at Microsoft have done everything from hosting their own volunteer projects to sharing TED-style talks and writing their own musical!
TOP TIP: Before signing up for a virtual internship, make sure you know what you’re signing up for. How much contact will you have? What kind of training will they offer? And what will be expected from you? If you can’t find that information on the sign-up page, drop them an email.
Do virtual internships pay?
This all depends on which type of programme you opt for, as some virtual internships in the UK offer a salary and others don’t. Here’s what you need to know...
- Short, module-based programmes, such as our Work Ready Virtual Experience, are usually unpaid.
- Start-ups, NGOs and charities are less likely to be able to afford to pay virtual interns.
- Large companies running longer virtual internships usually offer some form of financial contribution. Deloitte, for example, gave candidates a £500 goodwill payment for their four-week virtual programme.
Here at RateMyPlacement.co.uk, we champion employers who pay their interns a fair wage. However, there are GIANT benefits to getting some virtual experience if you can spare the time.
Not only are virtual internships a golden opportunity to develop the exact skills employers are looking for, but there are none of the costs associated with a face-to-face internship and they rarely last longer than a week. (So you can fit them around paid work if needed.)
Some universities even hand out bursaries for virtual work experience, so it’s worth reaching out to them first if you’re worried about the financial strain. The University of Birmingham, for example, offers a £1,000 bursary for their two-month remote internship.Apply for virtual internships
SPOTLIGHT ON: KPMG virtual internship
KPMG’s Data Analytics Virtual Internship is an opportunity to experience what it’s like to work in a leading data analytics team - at the click of a button.
Interns on the programme carry out similar work to KPMG graduates, developing the very skills they need to excel as an analytics consultant.
This KPMG virtual internship consists of THREE modules; Data Quality Assessment, Data Insights, Data Insights and Presentation. Each can be completed in your own time, at your own pace.
You’ll receive video instructions from a KPMG employee before you start each task. And model answers to compare your work with once it’s submitted, so you can see how a professional would approach the task.
If KPMG is on your list of dream employers, completing a virtual internship with them will demonstrate that. It won’t guarantee you a spot on their other programs, but they have said: "We will consider students favourably who complete the programme".
SPOTLIGHT ON: Linklaters virtual internship
Fun fact, the Linklaters Virtual Programme was the first of its kind among law firms in the UK.
Since then, several other global firms have followed suit; including Pinsent Masons, Clifford Chance and White & Case LLP. So there are lots of virtual legal internships out there.
With Linklaters’ virtual internship, students from any background (legal or not) can experience life in a commercial law firm. The self-paced program is designed to take you through the lifecycle of a deal; from pitching to communicating with clients.
There are SEVEN tasks in total, each designed to hone a specific set of skills. For example...
TASK: Help the Linklaters team pitch to a group of banks looking to hire legal advisors for a complex fintech acquisition.
TIME: Aim to spend around 1.5 hours on the task.
PRACTICAL SKILLS: Business development, client pitching and Powerpoint.
Once you’ve completed each task, you’ll be sent model solutions from the Linklaters team to see how they would have approached it. And at the end of your virtual internship, you’ll get a certificate that will look marvellous on future applications.Search for virtual internship jobs