Difference Between Virtual Internship and Virtual Organization Internship" so you can understand and enjoy the full benefits of this article.
Now that we are all on the same page, let's go over the reasons why it's so difficult to successfully participate in a virtual organization internship:
The Surprise Element
It's not at all what you were expecting. It's like being told prior to coming to the United States that some streets were paved with gold and that you can literally pick money up from the streets, the land of milk and honey. You can say whatever you want to say and do whatever you want to do without a worry in the world. That is, of course, until you find out the truth for yourself.
In a sense, that's what happens to most of us at the very beginning when we think about a virtual organization internship. We tend to have this romanticized notion of working in a "virtual environment" and all its perks and benefits. The freedom of not having someone looking over our shoulders and micromanaging all our moves; being able to get away from the political intrigues, gossips, backstabbing and ass-kissing that is common in the brick and mortar workplace; and being able to work at our own pace, leisure and discretion as long as the job gets done on time and on schedule.
But here is what we don't know: 1) the rules of engagement in a virtual organization are completely different than what we are accustomed to in the brick and mortar or social network space; 2) the expertise level and quality of work expected and required in a virtual organization internship are much, much greater than that of a typical internship since the primary purpose of the internship is to expose and mentor us on "virtual organizations" and the "virtual organization management discipline" while, at the same time, allowing us to "showcase" our education and knowledge in the virtual organization environment; and 3) an extraordinary amount of discipline and strong code of ethics are required.
In other words, there is no room for mediocrity and you really, really need to already be an exceptional student with a good set of skills. A virtual organization internship is NOT designed to mentor or provide you with educational training in your current field of study or serve as a means to get your foot in the door at some company.
The Cost Element
The virtual organization training and performance monitoring is extensive; is conducted on a daily basis by a high-level executive, thus making a virtual organization internship an extremely costly proposition for the sponsoring organization. Therefore, there is zero tolerance for nonsense, mediocrity, or lack of commitment. The minute your mentor gets the impression that you are just skating by, farting around and passing the time away, or just having a difficult time adjusting to the new virtual organization landscape, you will be dropped from the program. After all, time that is poorly spent on you is time that could be used toward other productive and revenue generating endeavors - as the saying goes, time is money.
The Fence Sitting Element
Sitting on the fence is something that we have all been guilty of at some point or another during our lifetime. I am sure you can remember how hesitant you were at being the first one to get on the dance floor, regardless of your dancing skills. This is one of the most fatal mistakes that most virtual organization interns (and executives alike) make. Their first tendency is to begin to look around to see who else is around and doing what, instead of getting down to the task at hand. They are scared to be alone, lack confidence in their individual ability to execute, jerk around and play games, or go into a "deep freeze" mode. By the time they get a chance to begin to warm up a little bit, it's too late and they are sent packing for failing to meet the very high standards of a virtual organization internship.
How to Overcome These 3 Challenges and Begin to Kick Butt From Day One
Begin to show seriousness and establish goodwill early on throughout the process. Be sure to send a cover letter which outlines your interest in "virtual organizations" and the "virtual organization management" discipline and why you want to be part of this exclusive club. Invest the time needed to read and understand these three documents: 1) Difference Between Virtual Internship and Virtual Organization Internship, 2) A Global Need for Principled Leadership, and 3) A Global Need for Principled Leaders. These documents provide a great deal of insight into virtual organizations and the virtual organization management discipline and the reasons why they will be in our future for a long time to come.
Virtual Organization Employers like the fact that you've taken the time to read and understand the ad you're responding to since they know from experience that most candidates don't really give a hoot. It's all about Quick Scan Job Title and Submit Resume.
Follow the process. Although you may not know it, the minute that you respond to an ad from a virtual organization employer, you are being evaluated on your ability to learn and adapt to a new process in a new environment. You are not just responding to an ad. If it makes you feel as if you were applying for admission to grad school, then you are not far off from the mark - and there is a good reason for that. Your potential employer wants to know whether or not they should invest in you and if you are worth the effort. They don't want to bother with cocky and arrogant candidates who have issues with the process they have to follow. Therefore, do not dismiss any request as being too cumbersome or time-consuming, or provide sloppy content. That's the surest way to get fired without ever being hired in the first place.
Timeliness is next to godliness. All meetings and conferences will always be held via videoconference, therefore, absent a force majeure event, there is never a reason to be late for a meeting. Waiting to log into the conference room at the very last minute says a whole lot about you. If anything can happen, it will - and, unfortunately, right when you're trying to login at the last minute, that's when your computer decides to crash or stall on you. As well, there are millions of other reasons why you may be prevented from logging in.
Nonetheless, regardless of the situation, be sure to place a call into the conference on a timely basis using the call-in number for the conference and then request to be excused if a videoconference is mandatory. Otherwise, the employer will assume they're dealing with a flake and ban you from further consideration for any current or future opportunities.
Our practice is to warn all candidates in advance that the conference room will close at exactly the time scheduled - not one minute before or after - and to at least place a call into the teleconference using the call-in number provided if there is an emergency. Failure to follow that simple directive causes nearly 50% of all candidates who are scheduled for videoconferences to be automatically excluded from further consideration.
Once upon a time, we used to try to be flexible, however, we've found out over the years that the candidates (internship or regular staff) who started out on the wrong foot tended to be irredeemable, mediocre performers, and unable to adapt and thrive in a virtual organization environment. Now, we have Zero tolerance for candidates who have a problem with timeliness. One minute is all it takes to have a virtual organization employer permanently close the door on you.
Here is a very interesting stat: Based on experience over a 20-year period, we can expect over 30% of candidates to be early and ready to proceed on a timely basis during a scheduled teleconference or videoconference; 50% will be late for one reason or another for at least one minute or more; and the remaining 20% will just be No Show-No Call.
Maintain a professional appearance at all times. Just because you are working in a virtual environment doesn't mean you have to wear your Mickey Mouse t-shirt and look as if you just woke up during meetings and conferences with colleagues and clients. In the absence of any directives, assume that the dress code for all meetings is business professional.
Don't allow yourself to get caught with your pants down. Once you receive an offer, do not underestimate the challenges that are ahead of you. No one is going to baby you, try to bond with you, try to build trust, try to handle you with kid gloves, or try to motivate you in order to get you going. Your new virtual organization internship sponsor is looking for any valid excuse to get rid of interns they consider to be royalty with a sense of entitlement, sacred cows, prima donnas, unethical, burdensome, substandard performers, scared, insecure, lazy, procrastinators, game players or spoiled brats.
A virtual organization internship is "hard work" and requires a lot of dedication and effort starting Day One. And since you are evaluated and given an actual virtual organization performance score on a daily basis, these scores do add up - which means you cannot afford to slack off for one minute, let alone a full day or week. Otherwise, you will wind up digging yourself into such a deep hole that you won't be able to crawl out of it. As a general rule, the minute that your virtual organization performance score drops below the "Satisfactory" level, you are dropped from the program.
Keep this in mind: Many new virtual organization interns will not last beyond 7 days and a great number of them are dropped after the very first day for just that reason. That is why you have to be on your A-game from Day One in order to complete a bona fide virtual organization internship and join the ranks of successful virtual organization alumni.
Don't fall for the fanciful notion that a "virtual internship" gives you a great deal of flexibility. First and foremost, this isn't a virtual internship. It is a "virtual organization internship" and, by now, you should already know the difference. Second, "Don't believe the hype!" That is the number one delusion that plagues most "virtual" or "virtual organization" workers. Somehow or another, they've led themselves to believe that just because the nature of the work is virtual, this gives them a great deal of flexibility in terms of when they can do their job.
This delusion causes them to pack their full day schedule with every sort of activity known to mankind (slight exaggeration, of course) -- sometimes even an extra job or a Mediterranean cruise vacation -- and then believe that, through some sort of miracle, they will somehow find the time needed to perform their "virtual" or "virtual organization" tasks.
Be humble and keep an open mind. There is nothing worse than a closed mind. There is so much to learn from and share with your colleagues. The connections you make during your brief stay in a virtual organization could make the difference between day and night for your career, so don't shut out others or give the impression that you have nothing to learn from them. I've learned a great deal from the interns I have had the privilege and honor to mentor over the past 18 years and will continue to do so. Failure to do so would be a sad day for the virtual organization management discipline.
I could go on and on, for days and weeks on end, about all the things you should do or look out for, which would take all the fun and excitement and mystery about a virtual organization internship. Therefore, for the sake of brevity (don't laugh), I will stop for now. Best of luck with your virtual organization internship!
About Author: Pierre Coupet, Q of Virtual Organization Management is the founder of Virtual Organization Management Institute (VOMI), VOMI Virtual Organization Academy, and Virtual Organization Recruiter; and is also the founder of the modern virtual organization management and virtual organization recruitment disciplines pioneered since 1997. Contact directly at firstname.lastname@example.org; via the Virtual Organization Recruiter community to discuss this article; or via CHAT.
Credits: Stock photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net