Remote internships started to become extremely popular during the Covid-19 pandemic, and are definitely here to stay! If you’ve never done a virtual placement before, you might be wondering “are remote internships legit?”
It’s understandable to have questions. If you’ve just landed a virtual internship, you might be thinking that it’s too good to be true! That being said, an increasing number of internships (and full-time jobs for that matter) are remote or location-flexible. Because of this growing popularity, it’s important to be able to identify legitimate opportunities and know how to spot virtual internship scams.
The Intern Group has been placing interns from all backgrounds with companies and organizations around the world since 2011, and we’ve got the answers to all of your remote internship questions!
We’ll start by outlining the top benefits of these virtual professional placements, and then make sure you know which opportunities are legitimate, and which really are too good to be true.
The benefits of remote internships
The importance of internships cannot be overstated. Whether you’re a high school student, a university student, or a young professional, you’ve undoubtedly seen the impact an internship has on your professional prospects.
Multiple studies have shown that students with internships on their resumes are more likely to receive multiple job offers when they graduate. And even better, over half of internships result in full-time job offers.
Even if you don’t want to stay on with your host organization when your internship is over, there’s no denying the benefits of getting that hands-on experience. Today, most internships involve impactful projects that offer the chance to put your skills to use and to develop new and useful transferable skills. So you’re never wasting your time with an internship, even if you decide the company or industry isn’t for you. In fact, an internship is the best way to test out a career field you aren’t quite sure about.
On a closely related topic, internships are an excellent way to begin building a professional network and to find mentorship in your field. It’s never too early to start thinking about your network. As an intern, you often get to liaise with people from around your organization, including in the executive suite. It’s an excellent position from which to ask people about their careers and successes, as well as what advice they have for young professionals. And if you’re able to take that extra step and find a professional mentor, you’ll be far ahead of your peers.
Are virtual internships good for my career?
In addition to the benefits we laid out above, which are also true of traditional office internships, there are a few reasons virtual internships in particular are great opportunities. Here are the top three reasons a virtual internship will boost your career:
Develop time management skills
One of the main differences between a virtual internship and a more traditional placement is the amount of independent direction required. As a remote intern, you’ll quickly learn to manage your own time efficiently, prioritize your work, and problem solve. You won’t have a manager or supervisor looking over your shoulder, and depending on the placement, you might be working in different time zones from your team. These skills are incredibly valuable to employers in every industry, even for in-office roles, and can set you apart from a crowd of applicants for a full-time role in the future.
Access to global companies
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the rise of virtual internships is the access they provide to international companies and professionals. For many people, interning with a company outside of their home country wouldn’t have been possible if it required to travel, visas, and more. But remote placements offer increased access to international experience. A remote internship is an excellent way to get to know the business culture of another country, practice your foreign language skills in a professional setting, and build international contacts, all without leaving your home.
Experience the digital nomad life
Last but certainly not least, remote internships are excellent for your career if you think you might be interested in the global nomad lifestyle. The flexibility to travel the world while making money in your career used to be extremely rare but highly sought after. Today, the digital nomad life is much more common, but for obvious reasons is just as popular. And with a virtual internship, you no longer have to be a travel blogger or an independent contractor to make this life a reality. Interns with remote placements can conduct them from just about anywhere in the world with a stable internet connection, meaning you can get a start on your travel goals early!
How to avoid internship scams
Now that you know about the benefits of virtual internships, let’s dig into virtual internship scams and how to avoid them. There are several key elements to look for that can help you determine whether an internship is legit.
Keep in mind that there are several types of scams you might run into. Even if an organization really does have a position available, some companies are just looking for free labor. You don’t want to waste your time making copies or stuffing envelopes, or even just sending out mass emails.
Start by reading the internship posting very carefully. Typos and other grammatical problems in a posting are often red flags. Look for a list of intern tasks, and see if the position is paid. Now, keep in mind that many internships are unpaid, and this can vary from industry to industry and country to country. However, a paid position can sometimes indicate a company’s financial situation, especially if you’re applying directly and aren’t being placed through an internship program.
Once you’ve sifted through the internship listing itself, it’s time to look for reviews and testimonials. This is one of the most important steps when it comes to how to avoid internship scams. Look for reviews that mention the types of projects an intern worked on, and whether they recommend the placement to future interns. If a company has a longstanding internship program, they’re likely to highlight the experience of past interns, so look for blog posts or testimonial videos.
For example, The Intern Group has over 10,000 alumni around the world. When you run a search for Intern Group testimonials, you’ll find interns explaining how the program helped them realize their potential, and develop their skills. They often mention specific companies or organizations they interned for, as well as projects they accomplished.
Here’s an example of a testimonial video that can give you a good sense of an intern’s experience. Notice how she mentions the skills she developed, like HTML, and the name of her host organization:
Other good ways to help decide whether an internship is legitimate include researching their application process and looking for the company or program on other platforms. Do they require an interview? Do they ask you for a CV or resume? Does it cost money to apply? These are all key questions to ask before getting too invested in an application process.
And when it comes to researching a company or program, remember that there’s much more out there than just their website or job posting! Look for a company blog or podcast, find out where they’ve been featured by reputable news publications, and even check out their LinkedIn pages to see who works there, where they’re based, and how many employees they have.
Where can I find a good remote internship?
There are many great ways to find a virtual placement. Of course, the best path for you will depend on your interests, background, and goals. A safe place to start is often through your university, or the career department at your school. Many institutions hire career development professionals who vet internship opportunities before passing them on to students. You may also have the chance to attend a career fair, where you can meet companies hiring interns in person. As an added bonus, most universities maintain a virtual career board you can return to even after you graduate.
As you start to branch out from your academic institution, many options require a little more vetting on your part. You can find internship postings on websites like LinkedIn and Indeed, but remember that you’ll need to do more research to decide whether they’re a legitimate placement.
Consider checking out various lists of top companies to intern for in your industry. For example, this list from careers platform FirstHand lays out the 20 best accounting internships for the year.
Another excellent option for those who want to ensure their internship is legitimate and beneficial are internship programs. These programs, like those offered by The Intern Group, Global Experiences, and others, usually include much more than just the internship placement. For example, The Intern Group’s programs include career coaching, scheduled networking events, a keynote speaker series just for interns, and things like visa and travel assistance for those who want to take their remote placements abroad.
When you’re applying for an internship program, make sure you find out what’s included, what the program costs, and what types of companies and organizations they’ve placed interns with in the past. And above all, find out what alumni of the program have to say about their experiences!