Case study

Virtual intern — Helena Potter

Helena studied History with a year abroad at the University of Birmingham. She's currently completing a an internship with CoachBright

What kind of internship did you do and with what employer?

I'm doing a virtual internship with CoachBright, a national social mobility charity that aims to level the playing field for disadvantaged kids through coaching programmes.

How did you find out about the Student Knowledge Exchange Internships at the University of Birmingham?

Through my university’s careers network service.

Why did you decide to do a virtual internship?

During the pandemic, it has been difficult to gain work experience. I realised that a virtual internship is the most effective way of learning a range of skills that will make you more employable in our digitised world.

My university has been very helpful with organising and advertising internships.

What was the application process like?

I submitted a cover letter expressing my interest and relevant experience, and my CV. After this I was invited to an interview that I fortunately passed.

What did your virtual internship involve?

My internship is an 'in-at-the-deep-end' role, so I have been involved with a large scope of projects, working Monday-Thursday 9am to 5pm. This has ranged from programme design by creating engaging content for their website and social media platforms, to helping write a guide to tutoring. I have also developed my creative skills by using Canva. I will be involved in the summer school programme by coaching year 6 pupils in their transition to year 7. I have also gained important skills in writing informally rather than essay-style writing.

Were you paid during your internship?

The university gave me a substantial bursary to cover the five-week period.

What are the benefits of a virtual internship?

Virtual internships are very flexible and can work around your schedule. You can also easily develop your ability to work online and use different online platforms, such as Zoom and Slack. It has been very sociable, despite not being able to see everyone, as we often have zoom meetings to catch up.

I have also developed my time management and organisational skills by managing my own tasks and responsibilities.

You can work from anywhere in the world so you can easily access companies and organisations which may have previously been inaccessible due to travel and rent costs.

In your experience what were the drawbacks?

Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to meet some of my colleagues, however it would have been great to work with them in person more regularly as they are such a friendly and dynamic team. Due to its online nature, you cannot experience the traditional office environment. I am also not the biggest fan of sitting at my desk all day, having just spent my final year of university in my room, but it is a small price to pay to get involved in such an exciting internship.

What three qualities make a successful virtual intern?

  • Time management - you do not have a boss constantly over your shoulder telling you what to do. It is up to you to manage your own tasks and organise your time.
  • Flexibility - it is likely that you will be involved in a range of tasks. If you are open to do anything, you will learn a lot and gain valuable new skills.
  • Pro-active - sometimes you can make tasks for yourself to keep busy and make the most out of your time.

How will your virtual internship help your career?

It has given me invaluable skills that employers will be looking for: time management, organisation, teamwork, creativity, and independence. I have enjoyed my time so much that I will apply for a relevant job within CoachBright if one arises.

What are your career ambitions?

I am hoping to pursue a career in the third sector, or within education. This internship is perfect for me as it is a mix of the two.

What advice can you give to others considering a virtual internship?

Apply to something you are passionate about, and not just for the sake of gaining experience. Your passion will shine in your application, and you will be willing to get stuck with all the different tasks during the internship. Without the drive, it is unlikely that you will enjoy being at your desk for a few weeks.

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