In the last of my #summerseries, I talk about internships. Those of you who are keen on interning would have probably already got one/started applying as you would know the process can be rather tedious. This post on Digital Senior on finding internship is a good guide and how you can go about sourcing for companies in line with your interest, as well as the application process. So do be sure to check that out first before reading on.
In this post, I talk about three key points.
How you conduct yourself at as Intern is Crucial
Now that you’ve already secured an internship, the battle is not over yet. Conducting yourself at an internship plays a big part in how you fare in the eyes of your employer. One lesson I learnt was to manage expectations. You may be a straight A student, or heck even Valedictorian, but you’re not going to start your first day of work pitching to clients/cross-examining witnesses/auditing balance sheets/designing buildings. Instead, expect photocopying, fetching coffee, downloading images and filing. Employers observe how you handle such seemingly “small tasks” before they start to trust you with more responsibilities.
Remember, whatever “small” task you lament doing, would have also been done by your superiors when they were your age, so your attitude is key. When I interned for a High Fashion magazine in Singapore, a fellow intern was taken aback that her duties were travelling to boutiques to pick up items for photoshoots, as well as returning these items. She insisted that she should only be assigned fashion styling, given her “vast experience” in styling. It came as no surprise that she was relieved two days later. Conversely, her peer who had stayed on was already working on styling at photoshoots two weeks later. Employers who hire interns are not looking for professional photocopiers or permanent coffee fetchers, they are looking for people with good attitudes that they can later train to take on important duties integral to the company.
You may not cover everything at the first go, but make that work to your advantage
Your main motivations for an internship would usually be to gain exposure into area of your interest. However, the depth and breadth you gain from each internship would vary. It’s important to do each task to the best to your ability, but also note where you’re getting sufficient, or insufficient exposure. If you feel you’re rather experienced in Area A but would like to take on duties in Area B, do approach your supervisor to ask if he/she has duties in Area B for you to work on. Do be sure to check his rationale for first, it may be that Area A is truly short-handed and that he needs all hands on deck for Area A. Nonetheless, the gesture of offering to take on more, and more varied responsibilities will put you in good stead. However, becoming well versed in Area A will also help in updating your resume. For example, if you gained solid experience in social media management, listing the relevant projects on your resume will put you on the radar for future employers who would need help in social media management, making your future job searches more focused.
Stand up for Yourself
I mentioned in my first point to expect seemingly “menial” tasks. Having said that, you still have the right to speak up if certain tasks and/or people make you feel uncomfortable. When I was working for a High Fashion magazine in Singapore, I had raked up quite a hefty taxi bill a particular week, so when another editor approached me with a similar errand, I asked if she could, like the other writers, provide me with petty cash first. She remarked that with my “University education”, I should have been prepared with personal bank accounts and personal cash to relieve writers of the administrative inconvenience of passing petty cash to interns. I simply replied “ Regardless of a University degree or a doctorate, employees are still responsible for interns and should therefore take the responsibility of providing already unpaid interns with petty cash for taxi bills. “
You must speak up when you feel that your welfare and well-being is being ignored, because as the above incident shows, some employers can unfortunately be entitled, and therefore think that the interns (and their personal finances) are at their beck and call. The overall Office Logistics and HR Manager apologized to me for the incident, and shortly after, all editors and writers adopted the practice of passing petty cash to interns first. When you speak up in an attempt to correct/improve something, what little you do will go a long way in improving the remainder of your time with the company
The above list of lessons are just a drop in the ocean of what I learnt, and the same would apply to you. You will learn your own lessons and make your own mistakes. Remember to keep an open mind in order to learn and absorb as much as you can.