There are some advantages, however, within this new-found freedom that make you happy to be a virtual intern – and some disadvantages that just make you question your sanity.
1. No need to tolerate morning people or those nauseating happy-peppy co-workers.
For those of you who are not morning people, and derive zero pleasure from smiling and greeting overly-exuberant people in the workplace (especially on Mondays), a virtual internship is perfect. You control all your interactions with colleagues and can be “unavailable” on IM or Skype as long as you want to be (within the boss’ definition of reason, of course).
2. Being coherent is optional
So you’ve overslept. No time for a shower. And you’ve got an 8:30am conference call. No sweat. Roll out of bed, clear your head, knock down your bed-head if on camera – and appear to sound alive and well for the call. When in doubt, ask relevant questions that make you sound attentive and give you a little more wake-up time (or at least time to come up with another clever question while you consume the energy drink you cleverly poured into a coffee cup pre-meeting).
3. Pants are optional
Sweats or your favorite shorts are your daily uniform. Since shoes and socks are just plain wrong with sweats or shorts, those are optional as well. All you really need – even for Skype – is boxers and a dress shirt. Just remember to put on pants before your first Starbucks run.
4. Work the hours when you are most productive
Who the f^&% decided that the “official” international work day regimen would start early in the morning? You’re a night owl, most productive from 7pm to 3am. Virtual internships were made for you. Have it your way.
5. Avoiding rush hour nonsense
Since you’ve made the smart move to a virtual internship, you don’t have to join the millions of lemmings making the zombie-march to the office every day. You don’t really even need a car (as long as you can bum a ride to Panera for those all-important “team meetings”).
1. If you want coffee, you have to make it yourself
Working outside the Borg collective means no access to the community coffee pot. Not that you’re missing much – how many people really have the skills to make a good pot of coffee anyway? But working remotely means you now must hone those skills – or con your roommate into a “I-buy-u-fly” Starbucks run.
2. Missing those water cooler or over-the-cubicle-wall conversations
One of the all-time great office pastimes is the infamous casual conversation. For some, this is the primary reason for going to work. Where else can you talk about last night’s Daily Show, which celebrity just entered rehab, or find out who was arrested – again. All while pretending to be on your way to a “meeting”? No matter how hard you try, it’s just not the same sharing those moments on IM.
3. Boss subsidized meals and happy hours
The meager wages you’re earning guarantee that if you’re hitting lunch or happy hour with the boss – you don’t have to pay. Working remotely really puts a damper on this time-honored tradition – and has a serious negative effect on your pot of funds. Unless, of course, you skip happy hour.
4. Managing multiple applications for communication
In the old days of “telecommuting”, people only had to deal with email, the telephone and the handsome (albeit hairy) FedEx driver. Now…not good enough. Email is going the way of dinosaurs. And there are so many options for digital communication that most of your day can be spent on Twitter, Skype, Gmail chat, Yahoo IM, and so on, and so on. There is no escape.
5. Roommates: “you’re at home all day – clean the place!”
Just because you’re home all day in no way means you’re also the maid. So your roommates who work in an office all day long get upset when you don’t clean the kitchen during your work day. Ask them how many toilets they cleaned at the office that day. That should shut ‘em up.
A virtual internship isn’t for everybody. But those who enjoy the advantages – and mitigate the disadvantages with patience and a sense of humor – are happy to be “in the club”.
Think about that the next time some over-caffeinated cheerleader gets in your face with a 130 decibel “Good Morning” as you get off the elevator.
About the Author: A passionate supporter of Gen Y talent, CEO and Founder of YouTern Mark Babbitt is a serial entrepreneur and mentor. Mark has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO regarding internships, higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce and career development. Recently, Mark was honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors”. You can contact Mark via email or on Twitter: @YouTernMark.