7 Tips For Finding A Virtual Internship In 2021
How do you find a remote internship?
Nearly every job has changed in the past year because of COVID-19. For students, it’s a particularly uncertain time—many classes are virtual, school events have been postponed, and internships have been delayed or canceled. If you’re feeling uneasy about what comes next, you’re not alone; that feeling comes naturally for many students as they near graduation even in non-pandemic years.
Whether you’re looking to expand your resume or looking for work experience during your final year of school, we’ve outlined some tips to help you find and secure a virtual internship this semester. It may not be the rigorous in-person internship you had planned to take, but remember this time period is an anomaly and future employers will recognize that. Cultivate yourself and invest in your career, when you can, but know that it’s okay to feel the emotions that come with upheaval. You’re not falling behind, you’re just adjusting to something wildly new. We all are.
1. Polish your resume & cover letter
This is an important step in any application process. If you’re looking for remote work, emphasize your ability to work independently, communicate clearly, and navigate tech with ease. Many companies are leaning heavily on Zoom and Slack, so review your experience and update your resume language accordingly.
Even if your summer internship was canceled, you can add it to your resume with a note about the COVID cancellation alongside where you would have worked and what you would have done. Reach out to that internship’s administrator to see if there are other roles they might recommend you for, or if they could make an intro at another company.
And don’t skimp on the cover letter, especially when the role is looking for creativity and writing skills. “Write an amazing cover letter,” emphasizes Puno, digital educator and founder of ilovecreatives. “Resumes are boring. They barely show your personality. Cover letters let you show how much you understand the company’s business and culture.”
Customize your cover letter for each position you apply for, and research the brand to match their tone in your note. Here’s a comprehensive guide to writing an eye-catching cover letter. It’s best to write clearly and concisely, avoid fluffy jargon, and focus on the skills you have and how they can help the company in question.
2. Update your profiles and portfolios
If you have public-facing or easily-searched social media profiles, update your bios and profile pictures so that they feel appropriate. Even if you’re private on Instagram, casual viewers can still see your bio, so it’s worth double-checking.
A LinkedIn profile is also worth having, especially if you’re applying for internships in business or financial roles. Showcase your professionalism and use these tips for networking using LinkedIn. Don’t sleep on this platform, it’s a powerful one.
If you’re applying for creative or developer roles, make sure your work is accessible online. A portfolio can help you bridge the final gap for a potential employer.
“If you have a portfolio—the work is going to speak for itself,” says Puno, who also explains that showcasing your work can help answer the most important questions: “Why does your skillset, personality, experience, excitement match what they are looking for? Make them do as little work as possible as they’re already sifting through tons of applicants.”
3. Look in the right places
Google is great, but there are many other hidden corners of the internet for finding opportunities, including student classifieds and school-specific job boards. Contact your academic advisor about internships at your school and ask about upcoming virtual internship or career fairs. Connecting with department heads in your area of study and adjacent ones is also an excellent way to introduce yourself and find opportunities within your current network.
Outside of your college, sites like ilovecreatives, Indeed, Internships.com, Fairygodboss, and LinkedIn are helpful too—just be sure to check the box to filter for work-from-home/virtual/remote opportunities.
Many career paths require specialized internships, like healthcare. This is where Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter can be valuable to hear firsthand experiences and approaches to finding field-specific opportunities.
4. Reach out
Cold outreach can be successful, but keep unsolicited emails brief, contextual, and professional. Explain why you’re interested in learning about potential opportunities with a brief summary of your skills, and offer portfolio links. If a potential hiring manager reviews these emails quickly, you’ll want to ensure they see what matters most—your work.
Create a list of relevant local, regional, and global businesses and vary your outreach based on the experience you’re seeking. A “big name” on your resume looks great, but in 2021, any internship that cultivates your skills and leads to a letter of recommendation works. Post inquiries in alumni networks, or reach out to graduates from your degree program on LinkedIn. Even if it doesn’t translate to a work opportunity, they may offer to have a Zoom call to share their experience and advise your search.
5. Remember your own needs
When you start interviewing and corresponding about roles, advocate for yourself. It’s perfectly acceptable to inquire about compensation, schedule flexibility, and work accommodations. Stay on the lookout for micro-internships as well, which are smaller project-based activations that can help bridge the gap until more in-person internships become available.
You can always check in on Glassdoor reviews and search Reddit for firsthand experiences at companies to make sure it’s a good fit. Remember: You’re looking for an employment situation that’s beneficial to both you and the employer. Your skills are valuable and your boundaries deserve to be respected.
6. Stay organized
During the search (and after, if you’ve successfully secured a role), stay organized with Google keyword alerts (here’s how to set them up for job searches), calendar notifications, and everything you need to take ample notes. Follow up and send thank you notes after interviews, and keep links to previously published work on-hand.
And one pro-tip from an embarrassing firsthand experience: Be sure to double-check time zones when setting up phone calls and interviews. There’s nothing more awkward than being completely offline when you’re supposed to be making a good first impression.
7. What to do if you can’t find an internship
If the year winds to a close and you haven’t secured your dream internship, remember 2020 and 2021 have been unique years that we’re all navigating together. But there is some good news: Side projects are still a good way to build out your portfolio and showcase your skills without an official internship.
“Every job that I ever got was either directly because of a side project or I was able to talk about it in the interview,” says Puno. “Side projects show that you know how to ideate AND execute. [They] also show that you are self-motivated and down to dig into the unknown.” It’s okay if the side project isn’t directly linked to the industry you want to work in, but the more relevant, the better.
Look for online volunteer opportunities (here’s our guide) and ways to get involved with political campaigns that you’re passionate about—those things can look good on a resume, too. If you’re a creative, reach out to small local businesses and use your writing, marketing, social media, or photography skills to help them stand out during COVID. You may even consider setting up a profile on Upwork to find freelance opportunities.
Be sure to value your work—and if you’re providing services for free, outline your boundaries clearly. Negotiate pay as you gain experience, and don’t offer services that you cannot afford to perform. Your work is valuable and should be paid for, so keep that in mind as you build your experience.
Finally, produce your own creative projects online. Video, photography, and copy skills all have currency when you’re officially on the job market. If you need tutelage, check out our list of places to take online courses and classes (some of them are free, and many are affordable). And don’t hesitate to reach out to creatives you admire to ask your burning questions or see if you can “grab a Zoom coffee” with them. Good luck in your search! 💛
Are you looking for internships this fall and winter? Share your tips below!
Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her rabbits, or practicing at the yoga studio.