From Associate to Intern: With a Virtual Internship, Sophie Expanded Her Horizons

Now you can do virtual internships and gain work experience from home, thanks to rising technology and employer flexibility around lockdown! Sophie shares her story.

What does ‘virtual internship’ mean?

A virtual internship is a structure internship programme that means you, the intern, can gain experience working at a company. The only difference between a virtual internship and a standard one is that with a virtual internship you are taking part from home, not at the job site.

Sophie’s here to talk you through her own virtual internship experience with the upReach charity – who won the ‘Embracing Digital’ award in 2020!

“I cannot even begin to express how transformative this virtual internship has been”

I have just completed a four-week internship organised by social mobility charity upReach. The internship was aimed at helping myself and others develop our knowledge of Charity and Public Sector work (work in organisations run by government) as well as to develop key skills we will need to succeed in the sector. Skills like communication, teamwork and self-reflection, to name a few. In addition, we got the opportunity to present to important people in the organisations we were learning about, as well as the opportunity to network with these people and ask questions about working in the charity and public sector. I cannot even begin to express in words how transformative this virtual internship experience has been for both my personal and professional development!

How I found out about this virtual internship…

I first found out about upReach, including the incredible work they do supporting prospective and current university students from disadvantaged backgrounds, through a connection on Linkedin. I became an associate.

I was notified by my upReach Programme Coordinator Dulcie about the internship. UpReach was aware that many of its associates (myself included) were having their internship postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic, and therefore decided to run this internship to allow us all to develop our skills and knowledge.

How was my virtual internship carried out?

The internship was pretty comprehensive, covering a number of areas.

– Weekly group projects

The first aspect was the weekly group projects. We were randomly assigned to a different group each week and assigned a project, often with scope to pick a particular topic.

I worked through a variety of projects including:

  • Increasing BAME representation on the TeachFirst graduate programme
  • Addressing what the government is doing to improve education in prisons
  • Researching how volunteering can help improve young people’s mental wellbeing.

At the end of the week we presented our projects via Zoom (an online meeting tool) to key people in the organisation to help improve our presentation skills. We also received peer feedback which we could use to further improve.

– Online training and webinars

Alongside these weekly projects we attended a number of online webinars on soft skills such as teamwork, presenting and reflection, as well as technical sessions on policy and research.

– Online skills workshops and interview practice

In addition, we had skills sessions targeted towards improving our employability by working on networking and interview skills. In our final week, we had an opportunity to enact these interview tips in a mock virtual interview and assessment centre.

Responsibility and using technology: overcoming challenges

The biggest challenge of the internship has been learning how to operate a group project solely online, through Whatsapp chats and Zoom calls. It certainly takes some getting used to, but I have no doubt that learning these skills will help my career in the future.

With a virtual internship I presented research to important decision makers – and worked with some amazing young people too

The most fun aspect of the internship has been the opportunity to work with fellow upReach associates I had not previously met. They blew me away with their talent, professionalism and creativity and were equally passionate about making a difference in the world.

The biggest achievement for me would have to be presenting our research to such important people. It was such a surreal experience, knowing that our research may help contribute to research and policy changes in these organisations!

Are you interested in doing a virtual internship too?

Thank you for sharing your story, Sophie!

Sophie was proactive and volunteered with an organisation she was passionate about – that’s how she heard about their virtual internships. But you can still discover virtual opportunities even if you don’t know the employer or organisation yet.

As a starting point, just search online for “virtual internships UK” and see what comes up.

Remember: It doesn’t have to be local to your area. A virtual internship can open up your options because it all takes place online…

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For more information, please email info@youthemployment.org.uk or call 01536 513388.

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