5 virtual internship tips for students and graduates

By Angus Kincaid

Following a virtual internship week with Nathan Rous PR, university student Angus Kincaid shares his top tips.

Meet Angus...

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Alongside my anthropology and archaeology degree at the University of Durham, I wanted to gain as much experience in the real world of work as possible. It was vital for me to complete plenty of work experience in summer 2020 before going into my third year, and to see what potential careers are out there for me to pursue.

I’m interested primarily in people, and more specifically the relationships between people and their surroundings, which is why the world of PR is so interesting to me. I live in Shropshire where Nathan Rous PR has its main office, and I’ve heard the name a lot over the years. They have done fantastic work with businesses here in the UK as well as overseas, and some relatives and family friends of mine also use the firm for their own PR campaigns.

From office-based placements to virtual internships: the pandemic created a 'new normal'

I emailed the managing director, Nathan Rous, directly earlier in 2020 and he offered me a two-week work experience placement in July, but unfortunately that fell through due to the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.

However, Nathan was true to his word and we managed to organise another date later on for when the office was back open.

Just as my week was about to start, the prime minister encouraged all office workers to once again work from home if they could, and so my virtual work experience began.

Teamwork and communication during a virtual internship - how does it work?

Virtual interning has definitely been different to the office-based interning I’ve done in the past.

As an extrovert, I find it paramount to get to know at least some members of the team on a personal level in order to really connect with a group. However, with Google Hangouts and email as the main medium of exchange this week, it has been very different and required me to really put my hat into the ring in order to get heard and get the most out of this week’s work. And I definitely got a lot out of it!

Example activities on a virtual internship in PR...

I’ve written blogs, drafted press releases, researched news for clients and even attended a board meeting for a local community farm where I was given space to float some of my ideas to the virtual room, some of which were liked and taken up.

My 5 top tips for getting a virtual internship and making the most of it:

1. Just ask.

My mother has always said “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” which I have definitely found to be the case. When I found out that my initial plan to work for Nathan Rous PR had been cancelled, I was debating whether to pester them later on in the summer; it turns out that doing so was one of the best things I did with my lockdown.

2. Get nosey.

If you are ever confused about anything, ask, ask and ask again until you know. Doing work experience without understanding how the company works is nothing more than a name on your CV.

3. Don’t hold back on sharing.

Getting your own ideas and opinions heard makes you individual and helps you stand out. As well as getting noticed, sharing your own ideas proves to the company which has given you its time that you understand what is going on and are trying to contribute actively.

4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

As good as it is to look keen and competent, don’t take on more than you can manage or make promises you cannot stick to. Keep the people who are giving you work up to date with what you are doing so they know how much you can handle.

5. Be open to being corrected.

Part of the reason for interning is that you want to get to know how a company or sector works. I spent a good proportion of one day’s work doing something that was not at all what I had been asked to do. When I was called out on it and told that what I’d done wasn’t right, I found that apologising and moving on straight away was the best way through it.

Is a virtual internship worth it?

It’s a really difficult time for students at the moment but work experience and internships are so important when it comes to standing out in job applications and interviews.

These insights were brought to you by Future TalentEd magazine.

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This piece was first featured in our Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Future TalentEd magazine for careers leaders, parents and students.

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