Move over cubicle, hello virtual employment

Usually when you think of an internship, you think of working in a small office room at a big corporate company filing papers, organizing the mail room, or going on coffee runs. But what if you completely transformed the traditional intern job and made it virtual? The virtual internship course here at DePaul University is designed to take the internship experience somewhere more familiar…home.

“Each student has an internship in which they perform online duties for their employer, but with minimal face-to-face contact and they do it remotely—in their home, library, Starbucks, whatever,” said Professor Mike Conklin, who teaches CMN 395, the virtual internship course at DePaul. “Their duties can range from doing research and managing web content to producing YouTube posts and creating Facebook pages.”

The main objective of this course is to prepare students to work in a self-disciplined and professional manner with a supervisor or virtual team in order to finish the projects assigned on deadline. This course will develop a framework for a job search campaign or entrepreneurship plan like freelance or contact work that showcases skills learned or honed.

“Technology has changed the way we work. The communication tools available to us now (Skype, email, instant messaging, smart phones, webinars, etc.) allow us to work with people anywhere in the world without ever meeting them,” said Graciela Kenig, director of internships for the College of Communication at DePaul. “There was increased demand for interns who could write articles or manage social media from the comfort of their home. So I started to explore the possibilities… I had decided this class was needed at DePaul before I even knew that Columbia University offered it.”

Columbia University in New York is the only university besides DePaul to offer the course, but DePaul’s approach is quite different than Columbia’s. This class meets once per week where students discuss the challenges and rewards of virtual work. Some of the downfalls for having virtual employment are the ability for people to stay motivated, organized, and focused when completing a task. Some people can become distracted by family and friends when working at home so creating boundaries is vital to be proactive. Many people enjoy working and communicating with others in high-energy environments that some might experience in an office building.

“This class was designed with the communication professions in mind and it is reserved exclusively for communication majors and minors who meet the pre-requisites — They have to have already worked in a traditional internship, or have held a job for at least six months,” said Kenig. All students should be prepared to work virtually because, at one time or another, they may be asked to do so.”

With all the interesting and productive courses offered at DePaul, CMN 395 “Succeeding in Your Virtual Internship,” is among the most informational and progressive courses.

“This course can work especially well in a major metropolitan city like Chicago, where there are numerous, local opportunities and experiences for us to tap,” said Conklin. As we progress, the course becomes recognized for its viability, as I know it will, we will continue to massage the thing and branch into new horizons.”

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