Is there such a thing as too many internships? Explained by a Y3 University Student

Recently, news articles have commented on the necessity of multiple internships during a student’s time in University. But how true is this discussion that internships are pivotal to securing a job upon graduation?

As a Year 3 English Literature student in Nanyang Technological University, I admit that I felt the pressure of taking up internships during my semester breaks or part-time internships during my free time. Everyone was talking about how studies alone are not enough to apply for a job, and that employers value skills over academic performance. While their statements may vary according to different employers and their requirements, here are four things to note about university internships:

1.    Quality Over Quantity

Internships are meant to be opportunities to expand your skill sets and experience to make the transition to a specific industry much smoother. If you undertake internships irrelevant to your degree or repeat internships with the same position, you would be unnecessarily wasting your precious time. Rather than having 10 internships on your LinkedIn profile that do not align with your degree, undertaking 1-3 solid internships that give you the relevant skill sets and an edge against your peers is more than sufficient to boost your qualifications upon graduation.

2.    Startups VS MNCs

Interning at a big corporate organization, also known as MultiNational Corporations (MNCs), definitely brings in several benefits. Other than the prestigious reputation tied to the organization, you would get a sense of the working structure and the complexity of tasks. However, working at startups is not to be undermined as smaller sized companies allow you to gain skills that may be out of your intended job scope. It is said that startups are known for their heavy workload as they are usually short on manpower. However, depending on the goal of your internship, you should decide wisely on the type of organization structure you prefer.

My personal experience:

Since I started year 1 in university, I have taken a total of four internships till now.  However, I felt that only two of them actually helped to boost my skill sets and gave me valuable insights into the literary and communications industry.

Being an English major, I undertook these internships in hopes of equipping me with skills:

  • – Public Relations Intern at a startup organization
  • – Editorial Internship
  • – Video transcriber internship
  • – Novel editor internship

Looking back, I genuinely felt that the transcribing and novel editor internships were unnecessary and didn’t equip me with much skills. Most of them didn’t really pay me well but had long working hours, since they were startups or global internships. The peer pressure of signing up for multiple internships got to me and relaxing during my semester breaks made me feel guilty.

Tips to takeaway:

Don’t fall into the trap of hustle culture unless it is what you really want. Take your time to research more about an organization and the roles before you decide to apply. Also don’t forget to check the company’s Glassdoor reviews; often there are ex-staffs or even interns giving you insights about the company.

3.    Access to mentors you can learn from

For most students the goal of internships is to get working experience. However, your supervisors and managers are actually the most valuable aspect of every internship. When undertaking an internship, ensure that you are under a manager or a supervisor. They can give you feedback on your progress and are able to establish a clear line of communication on the expectations of your internship. Most students overlook the skills that they can learn from their managers, and it’s crucial to ask your manager to onboard you into all team meetings and email correspondence. At the end of internships, most students request for a testimonial and recommendation letter from their supervisors and you don’t hear from them again. However, it’s really a missed opportunity to not connect with them via LinkedIn and request them to be your mentor in the industry. There will be so many opportunities for networking with people in the industry, get insights into the field that you are interested in and have guidance during the early years of your career.

4.    Take internships that align with your personal values and goals

A company’s work culture is important to succeeding well in your internship. Rather than only taking on internships which you think would boost your resume, research about the company’s work culture and see if they align with your values. If you are an independent worker, you would not likely thrive in an internship that prides on co-dependent working styles with a micromanaging manager. If you are someone who likes to work on projects and events, applying to a business internship would not benefit you as much as an events internship would.

In a nutshell, there definitely is a limit to the number of internships you can take on within your academic journey. However, it is up to you to choose them wisely and make sure they are adding on beneficial experience to boost your skill sets. There is only so much that internships can offer us if we know how to use them to our advantage.


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