My experience working a 6-month HR Internship

Background:

As my 6-month internship is coming to an end, I wanted to share my experience to give some insights to current university students interested in working in Human Resources, more precisely – Talent Acquisition.

For more backstory, I am about to enter my 3rd year of university during the upcoming semester. If you have read my previous article on ‘The Consequences of Overloading in University,’ I mentioned that during the first semester of my second year I pushed myself over the limit. Hence, I was unable to study properly, and my health took a turn for the worse, which led to me deciding to take up my credit-bearing internship early, and for 6 months, as a break from school.

I am a Philosophy Major, which I hope to talk more about in a future article. To keep it short and simple, being a Philosophy major means that I have a broad range of study, and it is related to other disciplines that I can explore in school, such as Psychology or even Sciences. However, since Philosophy is so broad and abstract, there isn’t a definitive job tied to it unless I were a lecturer or an academic researcher. Those often require a specialization on a philosophical topic and either a Master’s Degree or PhD. Therefore, it took me a while (and a lot of research) to figure out what I could do for an internship.

I had some background in Mass Communications, but decided not to pursue it after studying it during my gap year because it did not cater to my interests as much as philosophy and research did. Furthermore, after researching, I found that philosophy students could go into any area if they had the required skillset. However, I was not well-versed in coding, nor do I have much marketing background. Moreover, I was in competition with students who studied these topics in university. While I had some background in Mass Communications, and interests in Politics, it makes more logical sense to hire students that were more well-versed in those topics than me.

However, I was lucky as I was scouted on LinkedIn based on my previous portfolio at a company to be their Corporate Affairs Intern. That was when I decided to look into more internships within the corporate sector and found that I could fulfil the requirements of being a Corporate Affairs Intern, Public Relations Intern, and HR Intern. It did not matter to me that I did not have a strong background in either business or mass communications. After all, it never hurts to try, and if I do not get it, then the right person did.

There is no harm in trying and learning, especially as a university student who is still trying to figure out what they want to do in the future.

After a few applications, interviews, and rejections, I was offered the position of HR Intern (Recruitment Marketing) at my current company, Versuni, or maybe you would be more familiar with its former name – Philips Domestic Appliances. Many people may be unfamiliar with what recruitment marketing is, but it is essentially talent acquisition where we scout and help fill different positions in the company. Sort of like the middleman between the hiring managers and the candidates! Moreover, it also has some marketing aspects regarding how we can improve promoting different roles with how we post them on sites such as LinkedIn, or even designing a few banners here and there. Thus, the start of my 6-month internship.

My Job Scope:

I will not bore you with the specific details or job descriptions they put on LinkedIn, but I will try my best to simplify what I did for you, the readers. I started my role as a Talent Acquisition Intern for APAC in December and will leave in June. At first, it was a bit confusing: as with any internships, I joined early to do the handover with the previous intern and got to know the team. There was a lot of information to take in, and I am glad I had the previous intern to guide me for a couple of weeks before she left.

One of the main things I was doing was helping my supervisor schedule interviews for different roles across APAC, such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Korea. However, my main job scope was to help scout local university students for our different internship positions. I looked through the pile of applicants and essentially scrutinized their resumes to see if they were suitable for the role based on the job description, then forwarded their profiles to the hiring managers.

Afterwards, I will heed the hiring managers’ feedback and schedule interviews with the selected candidates. There were other things involved, such as calling up the candidates to get to know them a bit better – such as finding out more about their previous experiences or interests with the role before the interview, and basically being the line of communication between them and the company.

Of course, I have also helped handle some full-timer roles, and I must admit I was very slow when I first began. There is a specific format to the emails and communication with the candidates, and since I was new to talent acquisition, it took me a while to acclimate. However, I surprisingly enjoyed my work more than I thought, and was able to take up even more projects as time went on.

Why did I choose Talent Acquisition?

Apart from the reasons I shared earlier, another reason is because I love communicating with others. Whenever I attend an interview, I always get asked: “How does this job relate to Philosophy?” and you would probably think that this is a killer question since most people think Philosophy is about figuring out the meaning of life. Well, there is more to Philosophy than just theories, there is a lot of practicality in the subject that I could apply to daily life, and because it is so broad, I am able to connect the study to anything.

I remember answering something along the lines of how ethics comes into play with ethics that I studied.

A very broad understanding of ethics includes the theory of utilitarianism, which entails that a choice is to be made that benefits the majority. When it comes to recruiting, there’s this responsibility of scouting for the candidate that will benefit the company the most. While the eventual choice is not ours to make, we are the ones screening who the hiring managers see. Furthermore, it also helps me practice critical thinking and reasoning, when deciding which candidates are a good fit or if there are any subtle ‘red flags’ to look out for.

However, I also chose to do TA because I love to interact with people. While I consider myself an introvert, I find this fun. I believe that TA helped me expose myself to people of different ranks within the company and develop my communication skills based on who I talk to. Other than that, I also find it quite fruitful since I am essentially helping them find someone they need. It’s like a metaphorical version of corporate matchmaking where I see who the best fit for the role is and the team and try to match them together.

My Experience:

I find that company culture really impacts your experience working an internship. If you’re in a stressful environment, you may be motivated to work harder, but over time it takes a toll, and you might burn out. I am not saying that we did not have any busy moments, but it’s the company you keep around you during such moments that make it more bearable. My previous internship was kind of a high-stress environment to which I did not cope well in, and that’s okay because there are people who thrive in that environment, and some that don’t.

Fortunately, I had a very good team to accompany me throughout. There were two other interns in my department, and we all grew close with the rest of the team. When I first arrived, the previous intern guided me through the different processes of what we needed to do, how emails should be formatted and just taught me the guidelines we needed to adhere to.

I was fortunate that one of my co-workers had also recommended me to the TA Lead in Netherlands to support in possible projects alongside her which were a bonus from my original job scope. Moreover, I was also trusted by the HR Lead in Singapore for a secondary project. I had so many opportunities in developing my skills for TA, and was fortunate enough to be handed different projects, which I believed strengthened my appreciation for HR.

However, not everything was smooth sailing. There were times where I had encountered the occasional bump in the road, such as struggling to find suitable candidates for the different roles available, as well as the rare instances of miscommunication between me and some of the stakeholders. For example, there was an instance where I struggled and felt guilty because I was having trouble finding a suitable candidate for a specific role, and mishaps including those that were scheduled to be interviewed kept happening – such as, having no-shows for interviews or last-minute rescheduling.

I guess in a way, it also taught me how tough the job can be despite only being an intern. I would say that my experience was just a tiny crack allowing me to peek into the world of HR. For example, my knowledge of HR was quite basic, thinking that it was essentially like the team that handled all internal affairs, such as employee welfare, payroll, etc. While that is a part of HR, I was able to understand more of TA, and how TA is more of the external affairs related to HR.

It helped me gain more respect for the work done by both the people in my team, and others working the same discipline.

Furthermore, since I was involved in other projects, I was also able to tap into my creativity and develop my marketing skills with some of the tasks assigned to me. Of course, there was a lot of trial and error done since it was something new for me to try. Other than that, I also felt some pressure being assigned these tasks with thoughts of “I’m just an intern, why was I assigned to do this? Or to be the lead in this?” because I was overwhelmed. However, just because I had these thoughts does not mean I wasn’t grateful. I was able to develop my own proposals and plans for the different projects, and gain feedback.

Hence, I believe that this internship taught me more than what I had expected to learn. I came in thinking I would do ‘saikang’ work only related to TA, but what I was able to participate in, and achieve were so much more than that.

Conclusion:

To end this, I would like to thank my team once again for being so kind and supportive towards me throughout this 6-month internship. Furthermore, I am so grateful to have stumbled into this opportunity, and I would recommend those studying HR or TA to apply for that internship because you don’t know how much opportunities to explore would fall into your life. For those considering HR, I would also recommend you try it out, possibly through an internship or asking people you know around you what it is like because it could be completely different from what you expect.

Good luck to everyone doing their summer/semester internships during the upcoming months! Have fun and take the time to enjoy and learn as much as you can during that time.

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