Virtual Internships and Co-ops

A virtual internship or co-op experience can be a great option if you want to get engineering experience but don't have the time or opportunity to relocate temporarily. While a virtual work assignment can provide the same benefits as an onsite assignment, there are many ways in which remote work is different (and sometimes challenging):

  • Not all internships or co-ops lend themselves equally to virtual work. Students in some majors, such as computer science, may have an easier time finding virtual internships than students in other majors who might normally want to do internships in manufacturing settings, for example.
  • It's easy to feel disconnected. Even with all the technology that is available to help you connect with colleagues (including videoconferencing platforms that allow you to see your supervisor and other team members), working remotely can make you feel isolated.
  • It can be difficult to stay motivated. When you are working at a company or organization, you have accountability factors built into your experience, like being expected to show up at a certain time and having meetings and collaborations with colleagues onsite. When you work at home, you have to motivate yourself to stay on track and avoid distractions.

Finding Virtual Internships and Co-ops

Traditional Search Sites with Keywords

You can use traditional job search sites (including Nittany Lion Careers) and use keywords to find positions that allow you to work either full- or part-time virtually. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) suggests using the following key words when searching some well-known job search sites:

  • Career Builder: Type in "telecommute" or "remote" as a keyword
  • Chegg Internships (formerly internships.com): Use keyword search "Remote"
  • Glassdoor: Filter- more- WFH or Remote turn on
  • Idealist: Use keyword "remote"
  • Indeed: COVID-19 resources
  • LinkedIn: Click "Remote" under location search on job tab
  • Monster: Use keyword search "Work from Home"
  • The Muse: Type "Flexible/Remote"
  • WayUp: Click "View Remote Jobs"

Virtual Job Posting Sites

Tips For Success

Here are some suggestions for making your virtual internship or co-op as productive and enriching as possible.

Request Pre-Assignment Information

Once you have accepted the offer, make sure you know all the necessary details prior to starting your virtual internship or co-op:

  • On what date and at what time should you "show up" on your first day?
  • What will your regular work hours be? If your hours are mostly flexible, are there specific times when you must you be available online for meetings, etc.?
  • Who is your supervisor? If there is an internship/co-op coordinator, who is that individual? Make sure you have contact information.
  • Which technologies/platforms is the employer using for meetings and conferencing?

Make a Good First Impression

In a virtual internship or co-op—as in an onsite position—it's important to start off on the right foot with your supervisor and team members. Be on time for your first meeting or videoconference. Introduce yourself. Be pleasant and smile. Ask questions.

Use Best Practices for Videoconferencing

Zoom is the platform that many employers use for videoconferencing, so it's important to know how to use Zoom effectively:

  • Make sure you know how to connect to the meeting, turn on your microphone and camera, and mute and unmute yourself. If desired, test your settings before a meeting.
  • Use a comfortable pair of headphones. Headphones will help minimize any echo from your computer speakers and will give you a microphone that is closer to your mouth so audio quality is better.
  • Choose your location wisely. Aim to have:
    • A stable internet connection (a hard-wired ethernet connection is most reliable)
    • A quiet, tidy, well-lit room (do not sit in front of windows, however)
    • A comfortable chair that won't encourage you to slouch or swivel
  • Use virtual backgrounds sparingly. Lighting, framing, processor speed, and distance to camera are among many factors that impact the success of a virtual background.
  • Place your camera at eye level. Prop your laptop on a box or stack of books, if necessary, to get the camera at eye level. Your eyes should appear in the upper third of the screen.
  • Dress professionally, at least from the waist up (if you will be seated for the entire meeting). Wear brighter solid colors; avoid wearing all black or all white. Try not to wear something that is the same color as the background behind you.

Complete Required Training

During the first few days and weeks, your employer will provide training materials for your onboarding. Complete all requirements by the specified deadline. Communicate with your supervisor if you have problems or questions.

Set and Keep a Regular Work Schedule

Make sure you are working during the times when your supervisor expects you to be available. Try to minimize distractions during your work hours—work in a quiet place, wear headphones if you live with others, and turn off social media.

Meet With Your Supervisor Regularly

Ask your supervisor to videoconference with you at least once per week, if he/she hasn't already requested to do so. Regular meetings will help you stay accountable and on-track with your assignments. They will also give you the opportunity to ask questions or ask for clarification as needed. Let your supervisor know if you are having trouble keeping up with your workload.

If your employer has an internship/co-op coordinator, ask to meet with that person regularly as well. The coordinator can also help you resolve any issues or misunderstandings with your supervisor or team members.

Immerse Yourself Fully

Although it can be easy to think of a virtual internship or co-op as just an online work experience, you will get more out of it if you participate fully even in the social aspects that are offered, including virtual chats and coffee breaks. Get to know your team members as much as possible, including other interns from Penn State and other institutions.

Be Patient

When you're working remotely, you can't pop in to your supervisor's or colleague's office to ask a quick question. With a virtual experience, there has to be a mutual understanding that people are not always available in real time and that sometimes you have to connect by email and wait for a response.

 

Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032