I belatedly decided my junior year of college that I was no longer interested in going to medical school. This is a rather shocking transition, as I went from finding research labs and hospitals to volunteer at, to trying to navigate the “normal job” system—internship searches, career fairs, online applications. One of the biggest lessons I learned while going through (and mostly failing at) the process was how much I lacked transferable skills. I spent so much time the first couple years of my college career surviving my classes, finding clubs I liked, and figuring out how to handle mice in a laboratory, that there were very few skills I could effectively market to the real world. I was definitely “bettering myself” and “becoming more worldly” and all that stuff that universities like to talk about. But it seemed to me that, to be able to perform well at a real job, having some actual experience doing real things would be helpful. And I felt behind already, since I had spent 2+ years (and two summers) in pre-med thinking I wouldn’t have to worry about “normal jobs.” So I gave myself the goal of finding an internship for the spring, with the idea of learning new skills.
The challenge was that I would still be in school full time, severely limiting my options. My options were pretty limited in Philadelphia, especially in finding an opportunity that I could start within the next month or so. Thus, I expanded my search and options by thinking remote.
For those that haven’t caught on yet—I was successful with this goal, and have been working as an intern with Vocatio these past few months.
What might not have been obvious is that I’ve been working remotely the entire time. Everyone else at Vocatio is based in Los Angeles, whereas I was all by myself on the east coast in Philadelphia. Working remotely has been an incredibly valuable experience for myself, as I was able to not only gain transferable skills, but also improve my work ethic and mindset. And it allowed me to build that experience during the semester, so I can get more experience somewhere else during the summer.
Here are some reasons why I’ve found my remote internship particularly valuable:
It makes doing an internship while in school more feasible
As I said earlier, my goal was to gain skills that I could later tell a future potential employer, “Hey I know how to do this!” Sometimes it’s really hard to balance the opportunity to gain skills with school. For example, commuting between my campus and a potential workplace was one concern I had to consider—would I have time to work in between classes? Or would I have to wait until the weekends to go in? While working for Vocatio, I was able to do work whenever I had the free time to do so. This meant anything between spending five minutes during my lunch to find pictures for social media content, to waiting until the late hours of the day (or technically, the early hours of the next day) to write an article or draft a community email. You would not be able to have this type of flexibility if you could only work on location. Being able to work whenever I could meant I was much more successful at balancing work with my other obligations.
You’ll develop better time management, proactivity, and accountability
One of the best outcomes from this internship was the improvement of my soft skills, namely my natural baseline for proactivity and accountability. My communications with the rest of the Vocatio team mainly revolved around thrice weekly team video calls, and Slack chats in between. It’s very easy to slack off or not be as involved as you could be—the internship didn’t interact with any other aspect of my life, making it sometimes easy to forget obligations. There are no coworkers or bosses in the room looking over your shoulder or making you feel guilty for procrastinating. You have to have the individual drive to manage and organize your time, make deadlines, and stay on task.
Ultimately, however, I had to remind myself that I personally chose to do this internship to gain skills. If I wasn’t going to put in the effort to practice and learn, then there was no point in my doing this internship. With this mentality, you’ll naturally learn to become more proactive and willing to take charge of the tasks that are given to you, which are latent skills that will prove useful in later careers.
You’ll find valuable opportunities and experiences you’d never have considered otherwise
As someone living in Philadelphia, I would have never considered working with a startup in Los Angeles. This means I would have limited myself on internship options. Although it’s certainly true that some of the skills and experiences I gained while at Vocatio maybe could have been found in local internships, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s been a unique opportunity.
Basically, if you’re someone who’s lacking in work experience for your resume or looking to try out an industry you haven’t focused on in the past; or if you’re tied to a specific location and want to broaden your opportunities, definitely consider remote internships on top of your usual search. With a positive mindset, they can be extremely valuable.
Note 6/5/18: At the completion of Joy’s semester-long internship, she had the opportunity to fly to Los Angeles last week to see California, meet the rest of the team, and help out with the execution of our Career Hacks UCLA workshops