Our Guide to Virtual Internships 2021

Take control of your career in an uncertain world. In your own time, and at your own pace.

Here’s everything you need to know to get your head round virtual work experience. 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 3000-piece tiger shark puzzle?

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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. (It’s all the same thing.) Virtual internships are inclusive, open to anyone and everyone, and typically 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

Certain larger employers, like Microsoft and Google, already have the technology and infrastructure to deliver their own virtual work experience programmes. These are designed to mirror real life wherever possible, and are replacing face-to-face work experience during lockdown. 

Hear what a few Virtual Insight students had to say when they submitted a review to RateMyPlacement.co.uk...

”It was very well-paced and interactive throughout, and I definitely learnt a lot.”
"The structure was fantastic. We were always busy for most of the day learning about different sectors of the bank, and I am so grateful that they provided us with this opportunity.”
"We had to complete online courses beforehand, and then each virtual session had a clear focus and goal. This was useful because I could let my buddy know what we were planning on covering… then ask for help as to how to get the most out of the session.”
2. Short, module-based programmes designed to develop a specific set of skills

Other companies; including KPMG, Linklaters and CitiBank, have partnered with InsideSherpa to create module-based virtual internships. These require students to carry out and submit a series of tasks via an online platform.

Hear what a few Virtual Insight students had to say when they submitted a review to RateMyPlacement.co.uk...

We’ve just launched our own Work Ready Virtual Experience with InsideSherpa and Development Beyond Learning. (Zip ahead to read all about it.)

What do they involve?

What do they involve?

Virtual interns don’t just log on, send a few emails and then put Tiger King on. Instead, they work alongside full-time employees 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.

Which industries offer virtual internships?

More than you might think!

There aren’t many silver linings to a worldwide pandemic. But the coronavirus has 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, law, 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...

Work Ready Virtual Experience

Powered by RateMyPlacement.co.uk, InsideSherpa and Development Beyond Learning (DBL)

Coronavirus or no coronavirus, we think no student should have to forfeit their chance of getting work experience before they graduate.

So when the country went to lockdown, we put our heads together…and partnered up with the fantastic teams over at InsideSherpa and Development Beyond Learning (DBL).

Together, we’ve created a virtual experience designed to equip students with all the soft skills they need to slot into the workplace.

The programme is broken down into THREE different modules; including Wellbeing and Resilience Under Lockdown, Virtual First Impressions and Remote Networking.

You’ll build essential skills that translate into the workplace. AND get a certificate for your CV and LinkedIn, once you’ve completed every task. (Something to show off to prospective employers.)

Some quick facts about the programme...

  • It’s FREE to join!
  • Open to any student with a university email address
  • No entry requirements or interview
  • Complete the programme at your own pace
  • Takes around 5-6 hours to complete

AND once you’ve successfully completed it... you’ll be shortlisted for some VERY exclusive opportunities with RateMyPlacement.co.uk and DBL. (It’s all incredibly VIP.)

Head over to our blog for a step-by-step guide to the programme. Or click below to sign up now.

SIGN UP!
Scroll through our Corona Zone for the lowdown on the lockdown; from how to ace your video interview in 10 minutes, to 5 playlists for every occasion.

Why have virtual internships become so popular?

An increasing number of companies have embraced flexible working options in recent years, with 1.7 million UK employees working mainly from home in 2019

Then in March 2020, a little thing called COVID-19 came along. And everything came to a standstill. It was like an episode of Bernard’s Watch. Except you had to stay at home.

Suddenly the majority of the UK’s workforce was working in their pyjamas - 49.2% of them to be precise. And companies across the country had to act fast to put in place the necessary systems and policies for remote working...

Here’s a quick recap...

The world of undergraduate recruitment was turned upside down by COVID-19. 31% of businesses reduced their internships and placements. And 68% cut their short-term work experience programmes altogether...

BUT hundreds upon hundreds of companies powered on. They didn’t want to give up on students. (You’re the future workforce after all.) And, in a stroke of genius, they moved their work experience programmes online.

Virtual finance internships were amongst the first to emerge, with Deloitte making a quick decision to turn their summer internships virtual. And Goldman Sachs promising to cough up the full 10-week salary, despite shortening their internship to five weeks.

Now you’ll find virtual internships in a huge variety of roles and industries; from software engineering to consulting and marketing.

And it’s no secret that 2020’s mass shift to remote working will have an impact on the future world of work…  Tools like Zoom and Slack make communication easy when you’re not in the office. Employees are said to be happier and more productive. AND it’s good for the planet.

So we reckon virtual internships are here for the long run.

Keep reading to find out why that could be terrific news for your career.

Are virtual internships worth it?

The short answer is, YES. But as with any career decision, it’s always a good shout to weigh up the pros and cons first. We’ve broken those down for you, so you know what you’re getting into...

THE PROS

HIGHLY FLEXIBLE 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.

FREE! 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 decent 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 CONFIDENCE Never 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.

ACCESSIBLE 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."

THE CONS

LESS COMMUNICATION 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 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.

There might be more distractions when working at home...

SPOTLIGHT ON: KPMG virtual internships

KPMG’s Data Analytics Virtual Internship is an opportunity to experience what it’s like to work in a leading data analytics team - without leaving the house.

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”.

Do you still get paid?

This all depends on which type of virtual experience you opt for. 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.

RateMyPlacement.co.uk champions those employers who pay their interns a fair wage. However, there are GIANT benefits to keeping up the momentum in your career - whilst you’re stuck at home.

As well as getting an insight into a business, virtual internships are a golden opportunity to gain essential soft skills that employers are looking for in 2020. There are none of the costs associated with a face-to-face internship. And 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, are offering a £1,000 bursary for their two-month remote internship.

Search for virtual work experience

SPOTLIGHT ON: Linklaters virtual internships

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 HEAPS AND HEAPS 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 legal internship, you’ll get a certificate that will look marvellous on future applications.

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