Presently caught up in the relentless exam process, the full-time working life can only exist as a future concept to you; although, you may be starting to bear doubts and concerns over its imminent approach.
While the first step into the job market can be a steep learning curve, experiences gained through mini real-world job stints can help you gear up for student-to-working-life transition. Whether you already have a clear plan ahead or are still figuring it out, internships are a must-have to launch your career successfully.
What is an Internship
Internships are professional short term on-the-job learning experiences offered by corporates or government agencies. The placement can be local or overseas, full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid, specialisation related or unrelated, and credit or non-credit bearing. It can last from one month to a year. You can either be resourceful and hunt one down yourself or source it through a school’s career services office.
Why Seize/Seek Intership Opportunities?
Whether internships are optional or compulsory in your graduate program, a piece of advice to all undergraduates and graduates is to seize or otherwise seek them! You’ll will never know how yours can nudge you in the right direction or potentially turn out to be your big break.
Take Mary Barra for example. The CEO and chairman of General Motors began her journey as an 18-year-old intern, earning her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Kettering University, formerly known as General Motors Institute. She then spent the next 30 years at the company, rising through the ranks of a male-dominated corporate ladder – all the way to the top.
Even Steve Jobs was an intern. In a 1994 interview with the Apple founder, he revealed how he cold-called Hewlett-Packard founder, Bill Hewlett, asking for leftover electronic parts, who subsequently offered a thrilled Jobs an internship to be part of the assembly line. It takes baby steps to turn into giant leaps. Sometimes it can begin with something as simple as picking up the phone to ask. The good news is our local educational institutions see immense value in preparing undergraduates for the rigours of the working world. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) recently joined the Singapore Management University (SMU) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in making internships compulsory for all undergraduates starting this new academic year in August 2021.
No More the Era of “The Devil Wears Prada”
Do you remember “The Devil Wears Prada” – that timeless movie that depicted the inner workings of a well-known fashion publication? It notoriously portrayed interns as poor souls who sit right at the bottom of the pile, often bullied into performing nothing more than menial and ungratifying tasks, such as fetching coffee and taking telephone messages.
Gone are the “Devil Wears Prada” days. Employers today value interns for their fresh perspectives, motivations, and energetic personalities, recognising how they can offer an extra set of hands to help accomplish projects. In a highly competitive internship market, companies are dedicating resources to formulate attractive internship programs, creating pipelines for high-calibre hires, and ensuring that their interns are engaged in real and meaningful work.
Is My Career Choice Right for Me?
Internships can help you assess your preliminary career choice, explore different career paths, and shape your goals, ensuring that you step into the working world confident and informed.
In a recent Straits Times interview, Pek Jia Wei, an NTU accountancy graduate, reveals how she has been tasked to conceptualise and bring to market a promotional pack for Maggi’s cup pasta product during her three-month internship with Nestle. Her experience is a far cry from running errands, and she had the opportunity to explore new areas of passion beyond her accountancy specialisation, which turned out to be marketing.
Gain Experience to Gain Experience
Let’s be honest. Nothing is more frustrating than applying for entry-level jobs that require experience. Here’s where your internship can count as your much-needed experience to include in your CV.
Elevate your marketability by showcasing your internship learnings and accomplishments in the CV. Even better, if you have recommendation letters that can vouch for your skills and positive work attitudes. Given the resources that companies have invested in training and mentoring interns, there is also a chance for employers to give return offers, especially to those who are graduating soon.
Even if the internship is not relevant to your applied job, you would have cultivated desirable soft skills such as communication, time management, and collaboration in your work stint, hence adding value to your job application. Grades are not a benchmark of work ethics, and employers know that understanding the workplace culture can only be achieved first-hand.
Your professional network will grow once you start interning. Get connected on LinkedIn, and build meaningful relationships with co-workers, clients, and industry partners. Invest in networking. The more people you know, the more doors will open for you.
Take your Intership Experiences Seriously
Finally, there will be many candidates out there hungry for internship experiences. Embark on an early start by practising how to pitch a strong CV and learn how to ace internship interviews. This will be good training in preparation for the real deal when it comes.
So, take your internship experiences seriously. They may turn out to be your first job or a ticket to your dream one.