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Top tips for undertaking a virtual internship

Leyla Mohammed, who joined us this past month as part of the University of Exeter’s summer internship programme has created this guide on how to ace your first virtual internship…

Four weeks ago, I was lucky enough to land a short-term internship with Creative Access – entirely remote, due to current circumstances. To most, the idea of starting what’s meant to be an entirely active learning experience from the comfort of your home does not seem easy. As excited as I was, I was definitely nervous about managing a full-time working lifestyle from the same home I’d been quarantined in for the past 4 months!

Four weeks later, with my internship now coming to an end, I can safely say that my apprehension was unnecessary – every aspect of the remote internship was enjoyable, every day brought something new, and as I grew more comfortable, I learned things about how to effectively work from home that made everything easier, and much more valuable. Based on my experience, here are my tips on working an internship from home, and how to get the most out of it!

  • Establish a routine: If you find that having a sense of structure increases your productivity, establishing a daily routine is the best thing you can do. As tempting as it can be to just roll out of bed 5 minutes before your workday starts (since you’re not actually leaving the house), waking up early and getting ready as if you’re going into an office will mentally prepare you to be the most productive you can.
  • Separate your “workspace” from your “rest space”: Even though you might want to lounge out on the sofa, you’ll find that you’re much more productive sat up at a desk, or a similar alternative. This isn’t entirely achievable for everyone, but the important thing is creating an environment that you associate with work, that is separate to that which you associate with relaxing.
  • Establish good communication: Basically, don’t be afraid to call people! Everyone at Creative Access was so lovely and welcoming, and never once made me feel like I had to hold back or refrain from asking for help! However, it’s normal to sometimes feel like you’re bothering people by asking a million questions – especially when you have to keep ringing/emailing/texting instead of just speaking face-to-face as you would in an office. Remember that it’s a learning experience – they want you to ask questions!
  • Make note of feedback: As I said, it’s a learning experience. If you’re lucky enough to be given lots of feedback on your performance and work, make note of it! Use the given feedback to learn and grow, so that your contributions to the team are more and more valuable.
  • Give regular updates: Be sure to update your colleagues regularly on what you’re doing and what you have done. At Creative Access we had daily check-ins which were super helpful. The last thing any employer wants to do is chase down their intern asking multiple times what it is they’ve actually done! I got into the habit of sending out an “update” email or text at the end of each day, summarising whatever it was I’d completed.
  • Be confident: This is such a cliché, but it is so true. Confidence goes a long way, especially when joining an established team as an intern. Have confidence in your thoughts and ideas, and it will show!
  • Make the most of it! Another slight cliché, but remember that being able to work from home is a privilege. The company you’re working for has total confidence in you. It’s up to you to put in 110% effort, so go out of your way to be an excellent addition to their team.
  • But, finally, don’t be too harsh on yourself: That being said, remember not to overwork yourself. “Work From Home Guilt” is a real thing! It’s a common guilt complex where people working from home feel the need to work outside of hours, or even around the clock. I can attest to this – there were days where I felt like I had to start early or finish late (on my own accord, of course). Recognise that this is a common guilt complex that comes with the process of getting used to working from home. Going out of your way to do extra work is great to an extent, but don’t overdo it!

The most important thing to remember to do is embrace every moment, and give yourself credit – working from home isn’t easy to begin with, but it certainly gets more manageable the longer you go along.

Good luck!