This year millions of students are set to miss out on valuable internship experience to help them land a job upon graduating. And with offices closed for 2020, many are looking to remote internships. 

Fortunately, the crisis has spawned a proliferation of remote internship opportunities with many big corporates offering virtual internships in 2020. And many new players entering the market. 

At Start Me Up, we’ve been running remote internships for college undergrads and recent grads for over four years. We think remote internships are a great way to build your resume (and even get international work experience – while travel is off the cards).

Here’s our advice for what to look for when hunting for a remote internship. 

Prioritize remote-first companies 

In the world of remote work we often talk about ‘remote-first’ companies. These are established remote companies that have effective protocols and procedures for managing remote interns. And were actively running distributed teams long before COVID-19 became a thing. 

Interning with a remote-first company means you’re more likely to get the training, nurturing and tools you need to work remotely effectively. Take GitLab for example, which operates completely remotely and published its own remote manifesto in 2015 when there were just nine team members at the company. 

Companies that have only recently made the switch to operating remotely are less likely to have the kind of systems and culture needed to help support you during your internship. 

Look for companies with hiring momentum

Many jobs boards post old and out of date internship adverts just to make their boards look busy. 

Do your own research. Look for companies that are actively hiring right now and that have momentum. It’s more likely that you’ll be joining a company that’s in a growth phase and you won’t be wasting your time applying for a role that’s no longer active with an organization that no longer exists. 

Think big

When you initially thought about applying to internships, you probably focused on the companies that were hiring in the capital city to the country where you’re from. 

When you’re interning remotely you can effectively intern for any organization, anywhere. Want to intern for a Silicon Valley startup, a social enterprise in Bali or an engineering firm in Paris (from home)? You can (without getting on a plane or having to navigate immigration rules). 

Prioritize managers with great communication skills

Making tea is what a bad internship looks like in real life. In the world of remote work a bad internship is being ignored.

One of the things that most people struggle with when they transition to remote work is that it requires amazing written communication skills. This is not something that comes naturally to lots of people. Managers who’re used to striking up conversation casually in an office environment, can falter when they only have email and chat options at their disposal.   

Look for a role with a flexible organization

Good roles offer the potential to be fluid. When I was an intern (many years ago), I quit an office-based internship because there was no scope to shape the work. I was handed a spreadsheet and told to copy names out of it and send the contacts pre-made templated emails. At no point, did anyone ask me what I wanted to get out of the experience, or did I get to shape the direction of the work.  

In a good role, you have the power to shape your experience. And you should see your internship as an opportunity to follow your curiosity and pursue areas of business that interest you. So look for a manager that asks you what you want to get out of the experience.

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