Sep 24, 2013

    Interns, get involved and be independent

    The Star/Asia News Network

    THESE days, due to increased competition among fresh graduates, the semestral holidays seem to be the perfect time to complete an internship. In fact, some universities make it a course requirement.

    But why the fuss over an internship? Internships have plenty of implicit and explicit benefits that can help you develop not just as a future employee, but also as a person. Here are some tips for a fruitful internship.


    Internships are not a chance for you to hone your photocopying skills - they should honestly reflect the pains and gains of your industry or, at least, expose you to office culture.

    Ideally, you should be given multiple responsibilities that are related to your future industry. Get involved with actual projects and let your supervisor know if there's a task that you want to try out.

    Talk to your seniors who have undergone internships for their opinions, and clarify your job scope during the interview.


    A survey by the South Carolina State University Career Center showed that 90 per cent of employers rehire their interns for long-term employment upon graduation.

    This reduces the opportunity cost of assimilation and training as firms can be assured of the intern's fit and capacity to perform.

    Look for a company that openly hires fresh graduates and has various entry-level positions. Gather information about your tasks as an intern by asking the right questions at the interview.

    Should these tasks seem misaligned with your career goals, then you ought to re-evaluate the suitability of the internship.


    Internships are especially vital in fields such as medicine, but regardless of your industry of choice, make sure your job scope adds value to you and your CV.

    The tasks given to you should help prepare you for your future career, but don't disregard the importance of developing intrinsic skills such as report-writing, understanding office bureaucracy and maintaining professionalism under duress.


    Clarify the job scope before deciding on your internship. If possible, check if you are able to speak to the head of department or the supervisor you will be reporting to.

    Volunteer to join meetings or brainstorming sessions; do all you can to be included in all types of tasks that a full-time employee would typically have to execute.


    Most employers look for independent workers, but also desire a measure of accountability.

    As the newbie, constantly run through your ideas and tasks with your supervisor and ask them for constructive criticism. If possible, look for a chance to shadow someone. Your mentor's expansive knowledge will enrich your internship experience.


    One final thing to consider: An internship in an established firm or a start-up?

    Well-known firms will add credibility and prestige to your CV. They may also be better equipped to provide a more established internship.

    But don't underestimate the value of working at a start-up.

    In small firms, you would have a chance to wear more hats and explore different departments, given the smaller number of employees. Re-employment and promotion opportunities are also greater.

    Nevertheless, ensure that your internship provides you with an all-round and educational experience that will help boost your career.

    The writer is from Leaderonomics, a social enterprise passionate about transformation through leadership development. This article appeared in The Star/Asia News Network on Sept 14.