Internships and placements

What are virtual internships and how do they work?

22 Jun 2023, 13:23

Virtual internships are a way of undertaking work experience with an employer but done digitally and remotely rather than in person.

Man in a video call meeting on his laptop

As a result of the pandemic, employers are now far more aware of the need and scope of virtual internships, and how they can make them as rewarding as possible for students and graduates.

  • learning and training opportunities provided via an e-learning platform – this is likely to be a mix of soft skills training for everyone and job-specific training for your particular scheme

  • distinct project work, either individually or as part of a group – this means that you are likely to work on single projects rather than helping out lots of people on smaller tasks (as you might do in the office)

  • one-to-one digital consultations and catch ups with your manager and, if provided, your allocated buddy and/or mentor (a buddy tends to be a graduate employee there to make sure you are OK, while a mentor is usually a senior level employee)

  • digital networking sessions with employees around the business

  • digital socialising opportunities with other interns, current graduates and other employees


During the pandemic a Cibyl Ireland & UK survey found that many students were worried about not having the right technical equipment for their virtual internship. The technology and software needed will vary according to employers. If you are concerned about not having the right technology, we recommend you speak with your contact at the employer (whether the recruiter or your intern programme manager). They may be able to help come up with a solution, and in some cases, provide you with some equipment but this would obviously be the exception rather than the rule.


Another major concern that emerged from the survey was the question of whether and how interns would gain good quality feedback. It’s worth noting that how managers and colleagues provide feedback does vary between and within employers in normal times anyway, with good managers providing regular, specific, one-to-one feedback. It’s also fair to say that most organisations are alert to the potential downsides of working in isolation and are putting processes in place to facilitate regular contact and feedback, particularly for those still learning. So, if anything, you may get more feedback during a virtual internship than you would do face to face.

Jobs and virtual internships

Traditionally, most employers use their internships to recruit for their graduate programme, either offering interns a graduate job at the end of the internship or fast-tracking them through to the final stages of the graduate recruitment process.

Some recruiters plan to use their internships as a selection method as before, perhaps with an additional assessment step built in, such as another interview. Others aren’t, but it would be surprising to us if they didn’t encourage impressive interns to apply for graduate vacancies when the time comes.

How to get the most from it

As with an in-person internship, the best way to get the most out of a virtual internship is to throw yourself into it. For example:

  • Take part in all training modules open to you, even optional ones.

  • Contribute to online chats and networking sessions, even if you feel awkward. Other people will feel similarly.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from colleagues on your current work, your future career and so on.

  • Actively seek feedback and, whatever you do, learn from it and act on it. Ask questions but make a note of the answers, so that you don’t need to ask the same question again.

  • Work on your time management, prioritise and complete tasks promptly. Make brief notes of what you did, what you achieved and any feedback so that you can update your CV later.

On your CV, don’t be afraid to say that it was a virtual internship; in the current climate, when not all internships are fully in-person, taking part in a virtual internship will give you kudos. When writing it up, emphasise what you have learned and what you did, including if you have become familiar with any new apps, platforms or programmes.

What if I don’t have a virtual internship?

Don’t worry too much, employers know that virtual internships are not for everybody and don’t suit every sector.

Try do some online learning and earn a certification or add volunteering to your to-do list. Once employers see you adding to your skills, they will be impressed.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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