Employer FAQs for Remote Work

MSU Career Services Network provides some FAQs on remote or virtual internships and project-based work for students as employers and industries adjust to remote work arrangements due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Your organization may have student employees who typically work onsite who now need to transition to a remote work environment. Or, you may need to offer a shorter-term paid or unpaid position instead of a planned 10- to 12-week role.

In an effort to help you make any necessary transitions, we have included below some best practices being adopted by many other employer partners to maintain their strong talent pipeline from MSU.


Remote Internships (Virtual Internships)

How is a remote internship different from a regular internship?

In a remote internship, the student completes all or some of the job duties from a remote location. The definition of internship should still apply: a work experience that is supervised, emphasizes learning and professional development and is evaluative. A remote internship can provide students with a safe, work-based learning experience grounded in an authentic task or project for your organization.

How do I make a remote internship successful for my organization and the student?

It is important to provide increased structure, mentorship and oversight to support a student working in a remote environment.

Best practices of remote internships include:

  • Have clear objectives, deliverables, and intermediate (internal) deadlines for projects.
  • Establish clear methods of synchronous and asynchronous communication (i.e., email, chat, phone conference, videoconference) and ensure access to required technologies and tools.
  • Create a regular schedule for supervisor check-ins (weekly at minimum).
  • Maintain a set working schedule (10-40 hours) during normal business hours.
  • Provide structured learning opportunities for interns (i.e., observing online meetings, participating in informational interviews with employees, presenting to teams).
  • Develop structured team-building activities with other interns and staff to create community (i.e., Zoom meet-ups, online game parties, company trivia).

Micro-Internships (Project-Based Work)

What is a micro-internship (project-based work)?

If your organization is no longer able to provide the planned scope of work interns, hiring for project-based work (micro-internship) may be an option to consider. The key differences lie in the shorter duration (micro-internships typically last 5-40 hours or 1-4 weeks), less-structured work scheduled and fewer formal learning opportunities (although training is still essential).

What are the best practices of micro-internship (project-based work assignments)?

  • Have clear objectives, deliverables, and intermediate (internal) deadlines for projects.
  • Schedule regular supervisory check ins (weekly or more often as appropriate).
  • Identify meaningful projects and opportunities that can be successfully completed in 2-6 weeks.

What are some “Notes of Caution” regarding remote internship/micro-internship work?

Students may struggle with time management when working from home and may need extra supervision or assistance in structuring their work time.

Professional experiences, like meeting professionals in different functional areas of the company or going to online company meetings, provide essential insight for student interns, regardless of how long their internship/project work assignments last.

Despite being “digital natives,” students may need training on professional communication expectations or technologies your company uses for teleworking.

Unlike “gig economy” workers, project-based interns rely on review and feedback as part of the learning process. This will take extra time and effort on the part of the employer, including setting internal deadlines for projects.

In all instances where possible, students should be compensated fairly.

What are some good resources for remote student work environments?

  • Face-to-Face Communication: GoToMeeting, Zoom, FaceTime, WebEx, Zoho Meetings
  • Other Communication Tools: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Email, Instant Messenger
  • Project Management Software: Asana, OpenProject, nTask, Monday, Trello, Basecamp
  • Secure Online File Sharing: DropBox, Box, GoFile

Converting an Internship from In-Person to Remote

How do I transition an onsite internship to a remote internship?

  • Create a transition plan, update your learning contract and share these materials with your intern.
  • Consider projects that might be less time-sensitive but benefit your long-term goals.
    • Create social media posts, candid video testimonials and other digital content for future campus recruiting and marketing use (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn)
    • Host online focus groups or create surveys to send to customers to help capture satisfaction or drive decision making related to future services and offerings.
    • Update forms or handouts to reflect current branding and marketing standards.
  • Consider partnering on projects with another unit or an organization. For instance, the MSU Libraries offered faculty the opportunity to use its student staff to help conduct research for faculty projects. Identify partner organizations that might have a project assignment for students.

Recruiting MSU Talent for Remote/Virtual Internships

Post to Handshake, MSU’s job posting platform for students of all majors.

  • Include keywords “virtual” or “remote” in the title of your job posting, as postings are often searched by title keyword.
  • Include a description that reflects the virtual environment expectations (hours worked, technology expected, pay).

For further questions, contact MSU Career Services Network at careerservices@csp.msu.edu or 517-355-9510.