During a virtual internship, you might be required to use a remote conferencing tool such as Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts for both one-to-one discussions and group calls.
Here are some top tips from Bednarz (2016) for maximising the experience:
Prior to the call:
- check the time zone
- have an agenda prepared (you could even share it with the other person in advance)
- test your equipment
- eliminate possible interruptions
- wear appropriate clothing and think about lighting; for example, try not to have a window behind you.
During the call:
- focus on the conversation and think about your non-verbal cues, such as eye contact, posture etc.
- remember to look into the camera, particularly when you are talking about something important; that way, they will see eye contact from you and be more engaged with what you are saying
- check for understanding – ask questions, invite feedback, etc.; make regular glances at the other person’s face so you can check their facial expressions
- smile and keep the conversation going – use phrases like ‘are you with me?’ or ‘do you know what I mean?’ as this can help with awkward pauses if the connection is slow.
After the call:
- follow up with an email summarising agreed points and further steps.
Now have a go for yourself.
Activity 3 Have a remote conversation
If you’ve never used a visual tool like Skype before, it is worth familiarising yourself with it or something similar. Even if you don’t end up undertaking a virtual internship, as you saw in Week 5, many employers use these tools in their recruitment processes or to have internal meetings with staff from other offices etc., so it will be beneficial to experience using one beforehand.
Find a friend or family member who you know you can have a relaxed conversation with and ask them if they’ve used any of these tools before. Any tool that includes live images of both people involved in the conversation would be good. For example, you could even use Facetime or WhatsApp video calling.
Arrange a time to have a conversation.
After you’ve done it, ask your friend or family member for some feedback about how you came across.
How did you feel? Did you manage to do the things Bednarz suggested? It can be awkward at first, and you need to get used to issues such as eye contact or images that are a little delayed or freeze periodically. But once you’ve got used to those, it should become easier. Maybe you could repeat the activity until you do feel comfortable. This will be a useful skill for the future.
Email is likely to be another commonly used tool in your virtual internship (or, indeed, any internship or work experience). In was in fact estimated that by the end of 2019, the number of email users worldwide was over 2.9 billion (Radicati Group, 2015). Here are some rules that will help you write more effective emails:
- subject lines are important – they should be clear and informative and grab the receiver’s attention
- text should be clear and succinct – it might be easier to send a couple of emails on different subjects rather than one very lengthy one covering several topics
- always proofread what you have written
- check your tone and be polite – for example, using capital letters in an email can add emphasis but can also appear to the receiver as if you are SHOUTING AT THEM!
It is also important to maintain formality and professionalism in your work emails. Try to avoid slang, abbreviations or an over-familiar tone, as you never know how the reader will perceive it.
So now you have a better idea of the process of communication, you can start to think about the content and how you can use that to build effective relationships from a distance.