Things They Don't Tell You About Internships

Psst, hey you! Before you start your first day as an intern, let Shiffa Aziz give you a word of advice about the internship experience.
Shiffa Aziz
Writer, gradmalaysia.com

So, you think you know everything there is to internships? Think again, you naïve, soon-to-be intern. In every new opportunity there’s bound to be some things that will happen which you did not anticipate. Knowing the reality of the situation you have yet to face will gear you up for anything. You know what they say, expect the unexpected. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.

You’re allowed to ask if you don’t know

 ‘He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever’. The origins of the saying quoted above does not have a clear source, but its words still hold true. You should not be afraid to ask anyone – your supervisor included – about anything you are unsure about regarding your work tasks. If you are tongue-tied in the presence of your co-workers or boss, you are never going to learn anything new, nor will you excel in your work.

You may not receive the same benefits as full-time employees

As an intern, you might not necessarily be entitled to all the benefits the company has to offer, such as annual leaves. Some organisations have a strict company policy in these matters, so be sure to do your research before you agree to join the company as an intern. However, in the case of salary, that is something you are entitled to receive in a paid internship. The best solution is to have everything written in black and white, so there will be no misunderstandings.

You are going to gain more skills and experiences than expected

An internship gives you a taste of what the working world is going to be like. No, it’s not going to involve fetching coffee for your boss or photocopying documents all day. You will be exposed and placed in situations which will force you to get out of your comfort zone and learn new skills to adapt to the circumstances. Sometimes, it might even be skills that are not directly related to your job. Accept it; there is no such thing as a useless skill.

You will either be busy as a bee or free as a bird

There is no in-between. On one hand, interns would be flooded with tasks to do for almost every waking minute, especially if the organisation is under-staffed or if it is during their peak period. On the other, interns would not be trusted with handling too many tasks, seeing as they’ve just joined the company and have yet to learn the ropes of the in-house procedures. Either way, be prepared for both situations. A useful tip would be to keep up good rapport with your supervisor, so you may talk to them if your workload is too much (or too little).

The importance of networking

Networking helps you expand your list of contacts and to maintain a variety of connections across different organisations. If you have the opportunity to leave your desk for more hands-on activities, do it! The more active you are in company events; the more people you’ll meet. If you are confined to the office, there’s no one stopping you from networking with your co-workers.  Even if you do not plan on returning to the same company for a full-time position, these contacts will remain useful for future references.

Professional communication is a must 

Communicating professionally is a skill, one that you will most certainly develop during your time as an intern. It is important to practice this skill, as it is an effective form of communication in terms of relaying as well as digesting information, be it with your colleagues or your superiors. To be professional is to be articulate, civil, honest, and willing to listen. The use of e-mails to communicate with your office mates is one of the channels used in being professional. Trust me, you will be using e-mails a lot.