After A-Levels, what can you do during that 8 – 9 months of break before you embrace university? Most of your peers will consider seeking for part-time or contract jobs which range from desk-bound jobs to the service industry. Other than these mainstream jobs, you can consider the more unconventional route – internship. I interned at a Public Relations agency for about 6 months before I started university. My internship experience reinforced my decision to major in NUS’ Communications and New Media with a focus on communication management. I will share more about this in this post. I thank my wonderful colleagues and supervisors who guided me well and were very patient with my mistakes. They completed my internship experience. I am very thankful for the trust they had in me till the very end.
This article will debunk the common myths of internships that you may have.
Myth 1: ‘Isn’t it too early to seek an internship before university?’
It is never too early. It is important to note that your polytechnic peers have already completed at least one internship during their polytechnic years, which means that they are one step in front of you in terms of work experiences.
For those who have a desired major in mind, you can try out the industry that is related to that major. For example, if you are interested in the communications industry, you can try out public relations, advertising or marketing related internships. Although it sounds intimidating to intern without much background knowledge of the industry, you will get the hang of things soon. You will make mistakes that add to the weight load of your colleagues; be reprimanded, or feel very guilty for making mistakes. However, you will feel accomplished when you complete a challenging task. All of these bittersweet memories are precious experiences that you will keep for very long as they help you to mature and be a better teammate and worker. Project work in JC is insufficient for you to learn soft skills related to working in groups. You have to experience it for yourself in the real world.
Let me share with you my experience regarding the above point – I remember how lost I was in writing press releases and crafting emails. I made mistakes by leaving attachments out from emails, addressing the recipient wrongly (I always mixed up first and last names), making grammar mistakes etc. I also could not format documents properly as I lacked an eye for detail. I was not familiar with magazines and bloggers so I found it hard to recommend which media outlet is suitable for the clients. I caused a lot of burden to my ex-colleagues and supervisors as they always had to cover things up for me. At times they warned me, at times they let it go. I felt very bad and hence, I tried my best to catch up on the workings of the agency – learning to craft succinct emails with good English, familiarize myself with media outlets styles etc. Of course, until the very end of the internship, I was never the perfect worker as I still lacked a lot. However, this internship will remain as one of the best choices I have ever had as there are just so much I learnt that it is actually hard to list down every single detail here.
By knowing where I was lacking from the internship, I’ve picked modules that I think will strengthen my skills to be a good employee in the communications field, such as ‘Social Media in Communication Management’ and ‘Strategic Communication: Concepts’. To improve my writing skills, I intend to take up a module titled ‘Writing for Communication Management’ in the near future. At the very least, I will not be that lost when asked to write a press release. During my internship, I had to convey an idea to a client by using Paint to craft out the rough sketch. Hence, I decided to take up the module ‘Design for Strategic Communication’ to prep myself up for such needs. Photoshop will always be more professional than Paint, right?
Furthermore, with relevant industry experience, it makes learning more fun and efficient when you enroll in related modules during university. I am able to link theories to practice and I get excited when I link them together. You may argue that you can embark on internships during universities. However, you will miss out on opportunities to link theory to practice before you embark on that internship since you will probably take a few modules that are related to your desired major.
There is no limit to the number of internships you can have. Why not start early?
Myth 2: ‘Why seek an internship when jobs that rely on contracts offer higher pay than internships?’
It is true that most contract jobs offer much higher pay than internship pays. Contract jobs usually offer above $1000 per month, unlike internships which offer an average of $600 to $900 per month, as seen from the job listing from Recruit Express and the internship listing from Intern SG. Although pay is an important factor that most of you consider when seeking for a job, work experience is also very important in the long run. Yes, higher pay means more money to afford things that you like, be it an overseas graduation trip with your friends or simply purchasing more of your favourite clothes. However, internship experience is also as important, or even more important than pay if you want to be ahead of your peers for the above reasons I have mentioned above. Money can be earned back in future, but each internship experience is unique and cannot be bought by money.
For those who are unsure of which career path they should take, internships allow you to have a sneak-peek into different industries so that you can judge for yourselves whether or not you are suitable for that industry. You are at the stage of your life whereby you are figuring out which career path you want to embark on. It is possible to ask around for personal experiences and reading up online. However, working experience is subjective. The experience of others may not be the same for you. That is – what others find interesting may be boring to you in reality. Hence, you have to figure out what really suits you on your own by embarking on internships from different industries to judge for yourself.
For those who are very sure of what you want, you should embark on internships relevant to your passion. For example, those whose forte is writing can choose to embark on editorial or public relations internships which require decent writing competency. From there, you can judge if you want to continue your journey in that industry, or change your desired route after you realise that the industry does not fit you. This is especially important as it is better to change career routes earlier on in our lives, then to realise after you graduate from university that you do not suit a particular career path at all. By changing your desired career route earlier, you can take your internship experience into consideration when deciding on your university major.
Myth 3: “No employers will hire me for internships as I am not experienced enough.”
Yes, some internship positions demand for higher educational qualifications hence they seek for university undergraduates, but not all internships base their search on that. I submitted my resume to many companies and went for multiple interviews before I settled down on a Public Relations agency. According to my personal experience, I would say that it was about 50-50. In fact, most employers were kind to me and some were even nice enough to explain to me why they couldn’t hire me (e.g. looking for university students). However, the 50-50 gauge should be taken with caution as my experience revolved around the marketing, PR and advertising fields. It also depends on the demand and supply at that point in time when you are seeking internships.
Furthermore, going for multiple interviews will boost your interview skills. Different companies lookout for different things that range from language abilities, character, software competence, interest etc. Your resume reflects little about you – your education achievements are just a part of what employers are looking out for. Hence, interviews are important as they reflect the traits that are not reflected in your resume. Universities are very aware of this, which is why most universities provide students with workshops that train their interview skills, such as NUS’ ‘Resume writing and interviewing skills’ workshop for cohort 2015. You will make mistakes during your interviews, but they will guide you to be a better interviewee as you learn from the mistakes you make.
How should you seek for internships? Below is a list of portals you can consider.
Most of the interviews I secured were from this site. The companies listed in this site range from Multinational Corporations (MNCs) to Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It is updated every day. The companies belong to a wide range of industries such as media, healthcare, finance, retail, accountancy and many more. With this site, you are sure to find something you like! To add on, each listing has its own page which lists down all the important details you need such as allowance, location, job period etc. You only need to have one brief resume that you have to fill up once you have an account. The same resume will be sent to all your desired companies. Some companies may ask you to submit a more detailed resume if needed. Such features make it convenient for internship seekers who are intending to send their resume to multiple companies.
Other related sites include:
These sites work in a similar fashion as Internsg. You can search for jobs on multiple platforms to have greater access to the variety of internship opportunities suitable for you.
Internships are valuable and I hope that A-Level graduates will not discriminate against themselves because of the three myths stated above. Why do you need to wait till undergraduate years to seek an internship when you can seek for one now?