Can you really get work experience online?
Virtual work experience, also known as e-experience, remote work experience or online work experience enables students to complete a short course, a placement or an internship from home (or another convenient location).
The work experience itself will differ depending on the company, however it is not too dissimilar to regular work experience in that you will learn about the job and the industry by observing and performing assigned tasks.
E-learning will play a large part in a virtual internship. With many virtual work experience schemes structured similarly to online courses. A short virtual work experience placement is also likely to be less intense and time consuming as one in-person.
You may be invited to attend virtual meetings to help you gain a greater insight into the company. Virtual networking is also sometimes available.
Typically, this type of work experience only requires a computer or laptop and a secure network connection. You may also need a webcam and microphone/headset if they are not included in your PC or laptop. Virtual communication/networking software such as Skype, Google Teams or Zoom may also be required.
This means positions are open to prospective candidates in other cities or even countries. More placements can be offered as physical space is not an issue. It also opens up more work experience and internships for those with accessibility issues.
If you cannot apply for a standard work experience placement or internship due to location or accessibility, it is worth enquiring if they offer a virtual alternative.
No travel costs
Since you can work from home, you don’t need to pay petrol, bus or train fares to get to the company’s base or operations. You can also make your own food, saving on expensive lunches.
The ability to work remotely is an increasingly desirable trait in an employee. This kind of remote experience can help you build your confidence working alone. You can also learn skills such as time management and self-discipline to ensure you never miss a deadline.
Learn and improve technical skills
Conducting your work experience or an internship via a computer and, potentially, communication software will require you to learn or at least use some technical skills. Some virtual work experience will see you complete tasks using different types of software.
Disadvantages of virtual work experience
No system is perfect, and there are a few drawbacks to virtual work experience:
Lack of face-to-face interaction
Firstly, one of the main benefits of work experience is to get answers straight from the horse’s mouth and interact with staff in a real working environment. Although you can still talk to colleagues on a virtual placement, it is not the same as being a physical presence in the company.
This could mean you don’t acquire or hone those interpersonal skills of speaking and listening, nor the confidence to speak up and share ideas.
It is much harder to built a bond through virtual interactions. This could also result in feeling isolated. You’ll also miss out on any social activities within your new work team.
Not only can things get lost in translation when communicating online, but any technical issues can stop you from being involved in a particular meeting or conversation entirely. In some cases, you could lose a whole day to ‘technical difficulties’ on what could be a fairly short placement.
Self-discipline is required
This is also a potential ‘con’ as if you do lack discipline, you could quickly fall behind and not fully benefit from the experience.
Potential for scams
Although virtual work experience and internships are verified forms of work experience, some might use the lure of an exciting online internship to extract money or information from prospective candidates.
Always make sure that any virtual opportunity you apply for is authentic and never give out personal details or banking information without thoroughly checking.
Virtual work experience opportunities should come from the companies themselves, or verified job/apprentice and work experience information sites such as this one.
Who offers virtual work experience?
Although virtual work experience is a fairly new practice, several companies across a variety of business sectors have begun to add it to their offering.
Online work experience can be a great recruitment tools for companies, giving them a chance to make an impression on students who could one day apply for an apprenticeship or graduate scheme.
Sectors offering virtual placements include:
- business and consultancy
A taste of the companies that now offer virtual internships/work experience include;
- Baker McKenzie
- JP Morgan
- Latham & Watkins
- Pinsent Masons
- White & Case
This is far from an exhaustive list, and more and more companies are starting to offer virtual internships and work experience.
Even if it is not presented as an option, there is no harm in asking if virtual work experience would be possible, the worst they can say is no!
We hope this page has given you a bit more insight into work experience and how to find the right type of work experience for you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll do our very best to help you.