Micro-Internships

Center for Career Development

Micro-Internships and Virtual Internships

Internships are a primary way that students are able to couple experience to their academic experience. Semester and summer internships (full and part time) and January Career Exploration experiences have been available at Gustavus for over 40 years. While valuable, these experiences are not always available, or at least not easily available, for some students. Micro and Virtual Internships expand the possibilities to offer internship experiences to more students.

What is a Micro-internship? 

Micro-internships are short-term, professional assignments that are similar to those given to new hires or interns. They usually consist of projects requiring 5 to 40 hours of work over one week to two months, can occur anytime of the year and easily lend themselves to remote/virtual settings. They are highly-specific, focused positions which are project based with stated expected outcomes often in arenas like lead generation, content creation, or data entry. Ideally these experiences include regular supervision and guiding conversations from the hosting site and result in a tangible result or product. Micro-internships may or may not be paid. On average interns who are paid receive a fixed fee, typically equating to $10 to $25 per hour.

Benefits of Micro-internships:

  • Flexibility with time commitment and location.
  • Produce a tangible product demonstrating skills and abilities.
  • Less expensive for site and candidate (relocation, travel, housing, etc.).
  • Increased diversity of candidate pools for employers and expanded opportunities for candidates. (Includes candidates with health limitations personal commitments).
  • Interns have the opportunity to showcase communication, problem solving, grit, and the other skills that are vital to success.

Challenges of Micro-internships:

  • Requires intentional planning to make projects specific and focused.
  • Requires clear and intentional communication. 
  • Requires planned training, communication, and accountability.
  • Requires intentional review of expectations on topics such as: frequency and method of communication, project feedback, accountability, and networking/mentoring opportunities.

What is a Virtual Internship?

A virtual internship is like an in-person internship, except that it’s done entirely online. The intern gains valuable experience while working remotely, rather than being physically present within a “typical” office setting. Ideally the virtual internship includes an assigned project along with opportunity for training, engagement with the site, networking and career mentoring. Virtual internships may or may not be done for academic credit. They may or may not be paid. Ideally, virtual internships are project assignments with hosting site engagement and career mentoring/networking lasting a minimum of 6 weeks and with at least 10 hours of work per week. This helps ensure an immersive and robust experiential learning opportunity. Virtual internships may or may not be paid. On average interns who are paid receive a fixed fee, typically equating to $10 to $25 per hour.

Benefits of Virtual Internships?

  • Flexibility: Work hours are often more flexible, with students often completing their work outside of the standard 8-5 workday. (A great option for candidates who need to take classes and/or need employment and/or have personal commitments.)
  • Convenient location: Virtual internships allow interns to work from locations most convenient to them.
  • Affordability: Virtual internships can lower the financial burden interns typically take on when completing an in-person internship such as relocation costs (some students incur housing costs both on campus and near the worksite) or travel costs incurred during the commute to work.
  • Accessible to a wider range of candidates: By mitigating the consequences of a bad hire — employers may consider and select candidates they might otherwise overlook. And candidates with financial, health, educational, personal commitments are able to participate.
  • Assess intern qualities: Interns have opportunity to showcase communication, problem solving, grit, and the other core skills that are vital to success
  • Promotes equitable hiring: Reduces the inequities of traditional internships by providing invaluable professional training to a broad array of students.

How are Virtual Internships different from a regular internship?

  • Increased accountability: Micro internships offer flexibility but they also require greater accountability. Interns need to remain vigilant, committed to deadlines, and have the drive to create a personal framework of accountability.
  • Absence of in-person networking opportunities: With less “face-time” on-site, opportunity for networking and gaining career information and mentoring will require planning and intentionality (rather than the organic, spontaneous networking that comes from encountering others in a physical office). 
  • Different methods for communication: Because micro internships are more independent and often virtual, interns and sites need to be intentionally about communication expectations. It will require agreement on methods of communication (email, video or phone calls, site’s internal instant messaging application such as Slack, Webex, or Google Hangout Chat, among others), frequency of communication and opportunities for questions and sharing information.
  • Delayed response time: With less in-person time, there is a natural communication delay that occurs, interns await responses from their supervisors typically by email or instant message.

Find an Opportunity or Need Financial Help?
For assistance in your search for a Micro-Internship or Virtual Internship please fill out this short application. A member of the Career Development team will get back to you in 2-3 business days.

Micro-Internship and Virtual Internship Opportunities Assistance Application

If you are in need for financial assistance for your internship, please see our Engaged Learning web page.
Gustavus Engaged Learning Fund

JR 6/10/20