Student FAQs for Remote Work

MSU Career Services Network provides some some FAQs on remote or virtual internships and project-based work that students may face as employers adjust to new working formats due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Following is information to help students understand how these experiences are different from traditional internships and tips for ensuring your success in virtual employment roles.


Remote or Virtual Internships

How is a remote internship different from a regular internship?

In a remote internship, you complete some or all 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. Remote internships should still have a clear description of intern responsibilities, expectations and deliverables.

How do I succeed in a remote internship?

You’ll want to connect with your supervisor to get a clear set of goals, deadlines and other expectations and to establish regular meetings for reviewing progress. You should also seek out a mentor and maintain work hours that align to your manager’s and even mentor’s if possible so you can more easily and quickly communicate and get timely feedback.

Lastly, establish a daily work schedule for ensuring your focus on the work provided and identify a separate work area from your living area to reduce distractions and help maintain daily work/life balance.

Best practices for participating in remote internships:

  • Determine preferred methods of synchronous and asynchronous communication (i.e., email, chat, videoconference, phone) and identify and review the technologies and tools you may be required to use in advance.
  • Schedule regular check-in meetings with your supervisor (daily, weekly, etc.).
  • Maintain a set working schedule during normal business hours for the employer.
  • Participate in structured learning opportunities (i.e., attend team meetings, request informational interviews with employees, seek out relevant online training and webinars).
  • Be good-natured about structured team-building activities with other interns and staff to create community (i.e., Zoom meet-ups, online game parties, virtual competitions).

Project-Based Work

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

If an employer does not have ongoing work to justify a summer-long internship, it might choose to hire a project assistant. The key differences lie in the shorter duration of the experience.

Project-based assignments typically take 2-6 weeks to complete, require a less structured work schedule (no required number of hours or set schedule, like 8 a.m.-5 p.m.), and include fewer formal learning opportunities (although training is still essential).

Best practices for participating in project-based work assignments:

  • Establish clear objectives, deliverables and all deadlines for projects, including stakeholder reviews, progress reviews and deadlines for any checklist items for the project.
  • Schedule regular project review and evaluation meetings with your supervisor. Because of the short duration of the project work, these may need to be scheduled more frequently than weekly.
  • Use a secure file share system to keep project plans, data sets, deliverables and other documents that can be accessed by a manager or where the manager can provide access to necessary materials to support project completion.

Other Considerations

If you are hoping to intern for credit, the organization you’re considering must be an established, legitimate business or non-profit, as evidenced by considerations such as a physical location, website, history of offering paid employment, listed telephone number, tax ID number, etc.

Show flexibility, be willing to adapt to quickly changing circumstances, and commit to learning new tools and technologies that will help you showcase your skills and meet employer expectations.

Don’t assume your employer will reach out to you to ask how things are going. Take initiative and contact your manager with updates and questions; remind them you’ve finished your project; ask for more assignments, etc. In remote work, it’s okay to overcommunicate.

While remote internships can allow you to work at your convenience, plan to communicate with your employer during regular business hours.


Other Tips for Success

Set up your physical workspace. For example, when your laptop is hooked up to the monitor and external keyboard, it’s work time. When it’s on your lap, it’s personal time.

Be positive. The less face time you have with people, the less they know how to interpret your tone in written communications.

Don’t procrastinate on projects. It is easy to get distracted when working from home, so establish personal goals that reward you for completing daily tasks or milestones and for achieving deadlines.


How to Find Virtual Jobs & Other Experiential Learning Opportunities

Finding jobs and internship opportunities:

  • Log into Handshake and use search jobs using the keyword “remote” or “virtual.”
  • Ask employers directly about remote internship possibilities.
  • Search opportunities through Parker Dewey (not a MSU partner), a micro-internship provider.

Considering virtual volunteering:

  • Review opportunities available through MSU’s Center for Community-Engaged Learning: Flex your skills in research, transcription, proofreading, translating, website design, project management, social media, audiobook creation, providing financial education, tech training, mapping and federal service.
  • COVID-19 Volunteering: Help the State of Michigan through this crisis by lending your talents.