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Entry by Anastasiya Elaeva, Indiana INTERNnet Intern

In Monday’s blog entry, I provided you with Interactive Intelligence’s perspective on virtual internships.  I also recently spoke with one of Interactive Intelligence’s virtual interns, Courtney Guard, who would like to share her advice on having a successful internship experience.  An economics major at Purdue University with minors in business management and political science, she is currently doing an internship in the office of Interactive Intelligence, a global provider of business communications solutions.  However, last fall she worked for the company from her campus, assisting with the management of Interactive Intelligence’s customer accounts.

Courtney’s started as a regular summer intern in Interactive Intelligence’s office.  When her term at the company was over, she talked to her manager about the possibility of keeping her job over the fall while working from home.  Courtney really wanted to have a professional job in the fall semester, since she already had experience working part-time on her campus.  Her manager agreed, and Courtney was able to continue her professional development.

Courtney learned that working on her own turned out to be much harder than it used to be in the office, where she could easily ask for her manager or other colleagues’ help.  She had to plan her hours and motivate herself to complete assignments on time.  Courtney and her supervisor communicated primarily via email.  She had to plan her communication ahead of time because she was working at night or over weekends.  If she had a question, she made sure to ask it during the company’s working hours.  At the end of each month or after the completion of a certain assignment, Courtney and her supervisor would set up a phone call to share updates and recommendations.

“Previous experience working in the office definitely helps,” explains Courtney.  “It helps you feel the company’s atmosphere.”  For students who are planning to do virtual internships, she recommends visiting the company first, trying to understand its corporate culture, and getting to know people there.  A virtual internship may make a student feel disconnected from a company – that’s why virtual interns should work hard on establishing better communication with their supervisors and colleagues.  As Courtney advises, “Make it a little bit more personal.”  Doing a virtual internship may seem more difficult than a regular one, but it has many benefits, including independence, self-reliance, flexible hours, and extended professional experience during the academic year.

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