Summer Interns Gone?
Consider Hiring Virtual Interns

September 22nd, 2016

virtual internships

By Michael Solomon, 10x Management Co-Founder

I can still see where he sat all summer–Eric, our amazing MBA intern from NYU Stern. Eric worked on a myriad of projects we didn’t have the capacity to get to before the rest of the year. He moved the needle in so many important ways from business development and public relations to search engine optimization and web development.

Eric did it all. And then…in a flash…he was gone and back to school.

Every year summer interns are hired and perform an untold amount of work for companies all over the country. In turn, when they leave and head back to school there’s often a gaping hole for companies to fill.

At 10x Management, we are in the business of matching brilliant tech freelancers (some of whom like working “odd hours”) with world-class companies that need the best minds working on their biggest problems. This got us thinking… Why do interns need to come to the office every day to learn new skills or be helpful? Why do interns need to work regularly scheduled hours?

In short, why can’t we hire virtual interns that work remotely from school, home, the library and so on–rather than in the office? Or hire an intern that works in the office sometimes as well as remotely, based on their school schedule and needs? According to The New York Times, there’s a trend wherein growing numbers of college students are opting out of traditional in-office internships or juggling them with remote opportunities.

Given the nature of remote positions, students should take time to investigate offsite opportunities that will provide the maximum reward for them. And employers managing remote personnel in any capacity need to focus on two factors: 1) Find self-motivated individuals who can work remotely; 2) Learn how to manage people effectively when you don’t see them every day — or any day, as it were.

We’ll spend the rest of this article helping you think through these two items.

  1. Find Self-Motivated People Who Can Work Remotely

In 5 years of hiring and overseeing the work of literally hundreds of world-class technology freelancers, we’ve learned that a few unexpected traits make some people more productive while working remotely than others.

  • History of Independent Sports — People who run track, play golf, rock climb, or do other sports (that don’t require large teams and infrastructure) are the people who do things alone for the joy of it.
  • They Have Active Hobbies — People with active hobbies they enjoy, can regularly sit down for a few hours in the evening and focus on one thing. People without hobbies tend to either zone out in front of the TV or go out every night, neither indicating they will make or have time for projects.
  • They are Organized Precrastinators — Precrastinators are the opposite of procrastinators. Precrastinators tend to be good at planning their time and delivering items ahead of schedule. Procrastinators wait till the last minute. People who are organized and like to stay ahead of schedule are amazing to work with remotely.
  1. Learn How to Manage People You Don’t See Every Day

Managing people is an art. It’s important to discuss the nature of your internship at the outset, and together define expectations and boundaries to avoid misunderstanding.

Set Expectations — It’s best to be crystal clear about what the intern will be working on.

  • What are the intern’s duties, responsibilities and liabilities?
  • What are the deliverables and timeline? We recommend against putting a remote intern in an on-going “role” on the team. Project or research based work is best.
  • Can they commit to the entire project, or just a period of time?

Structure Your Time — Once you have a specific project outlined, structure how you will work together.

  • Set regular intern training sessions and check-ins in order to provide useful feedback. Determine how often you two will touch base? What modes of communication will you use: email, Google Hangout, Skype, etc?
  • Ensure there’s open communication between both parties – transparency rules. Just because an intern is working remotely for you, doesn’t mean this is a one way street. An internship should be a mutually beneficial relationship, wherein you as a mentor are accessible and provide insight to help make the most of their experience with you.
  • Make them feel like part of the team. People who feel included and appreciated work harder. Invite your intern to call-in for all hands meetings and office celebrations.

Ultimately, whether an internship is in-person, remote or a mixture of both the experience is a win-win situation. Positive for the intern who gains new career connections, guidance, builds their resume and gains work experience in an industry of interest. And positive for the company that has the added assistance of interns that might turn into potential new hires. These are just a couple of the rewards of running an internship program.

Now, Go Hire Some Remote Interns!

Have you thought about or hired a virtual intern at your company? We’d love to hear about your experience. Please share it in the comments.

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