Interns Are Not Slaves

Aren’t they? Here’s why you should do an internship.

Dramatization of how you’ll be treated as an intern. Just kidding.

It’s the ultimate young professionals’ paradox. You can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience without a job. With this in mind, fresh graduates are left with the option of unemployment or an internship. To add insult to injury, they will have to work for free.

Though I’m grateful that my days of fetching coffee and dredge work are *mostly* over, I am equally grateful for the opportunity of an internship. No high-achieving academic or social butterfly will be able to fully prepare for the demands of a corporate job. An internship is a good place to start.

Chances are, you’ll go unpaid…but it’s not all bad. You should do an internship if…
1. You’ve never done an internship before
Depending on your university course, you may never be required to partake in summer internship programmes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as summers are arguably better spent off lying on a beach. However, CVs without work experience are as good as a blank slate. It gives the interviewer no picture of any practical skill, leaving them to judge purely on academic background and in an interview, this can only carry you so far. Past internships give you an outlet to demonstrate your skills, and use real-life examples to showcase how you can add value to an organisation.

 

2. You can afford to be unpaid
A lucky few will be able to land a paid internship, but in a competitive market, these offers are few and far between. An internship will require you to show up for 5 full days of work days a week, and doing so without any form of remuneration is undesirable. Before taking on an internship, work out on whether you can financially afford to be unpaid over this contracted length of time (as opposed to taking a paid part-time job). If possible, speak frankly about this to your parents or guardian, and find out if they can afford to support you. There is no shame in being upfront to your employer about your financial situation before taking on an unpaid internship. Though companies might not be able to give you a full-salary, they can provide you with a travel and food allowance as a small stipend.

 

3. Your heart is not set on your vocation
It’s okay to complete your course and have second doubts. A study showed that only 27% of U.S. graduates end up working in a job related to their studies. Internships are a fantastic way to find out if a career is for you. Textbooks don’t contain industry politics, and there are no manuals for day-to-day tasks. There is no harm doing an internship completely unrelated to your studies; it could help you discover that your passions lie somewhere else. This even works the other way around. As a law graduate, doing a legal internship was what made me realise that becoming a lawyer wasn’t as fun as it seemed!

 

4. You are committed to sticking it out
There is a level of time and resources that goes into interviewing and selecting an intern, and respect must be paid to that. If the role specifically states ‘3 month internship’, you are being relied on as a resource for that period of time. Be candid about arrangements you may have made beforehand. Ending your internship two weeks’ earlier to attend your sister’s wedding is acceptable. Deciding to cut it short because you’re sick of waking up at 7am is not. Bear in mind that you won’t be an intern forever, and you don’t want to leave a bad impression on your potential future colleagues or work contacts.

 

5. You have nothing better to do
One thing I miss most about being a student is the amount of free-time I had. Lolling around for weeks on end is a luxury, which I regret not taking advantage of. You probably won’t get this privilege once you start working. (The statutory average of minimum vacation days in Asia is 10.) If you are fortunate enough to not need to take on a part-time job to support yourself, and your parents are letting you live rent-free, an internship is an invaluable, productive experience. After all, a three-month gap spent interning between graduation and your next job interview reads a whole lot better than you playing video games.

 

Hooray for interns!

It’s surreal how quickly one transitions from being an intern, to interviewing one. Revel in this journey, and see where it takes you. I promise you it’ll take you further than you think.

Looking for an internship? Why not intern with us? Create a profile on GetLinks and be part of Asia’s leading tech talent network.

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