Things They Don't Tell You About Internships

Starting your very first internship soon? Need some tips? gradmalaysia is here to give you a word of advice before you embark on your internship journey.
Jasmine Mun

There’s so much more than what meets the eye when it comes to being an intern.

In every new opportunity, there’s bound to be unexpected and unprepared situations that you have to face. Knowing the reality of the situation you have yet to face will gear you up for anything. "If only I'd known then what I know now...” situations can be avoided, so let’s dive into some hidden gems and ugly truths of internships. 

Ask If You’re In Doubt

Despite starting at the bottom of the office hierarchy, you’re still an important entity of the team. With that, you should not be afraid to ask anyone – especially your supervisor – about anything you are unclear 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.

Remember! You’re in the driver’s seat; that means you’re solely responsible for your own internship experience and need to learn to voice out your questions and opinions. As the saying goes, “he who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” 

Full-Time Employee Benefits Doesn’t Apply To You

As an intern with limited work experience, you are a temporary worker whose aim is to have on-the-job training and exposure as opposed to being paid for your skills. With this in mind, you are therefore not entitled to the benefits offered to a full-time employee, such as annual leaves and overtime pay. 

If you’re anxious about whether you’re getting paid or not, don’t worry! Most employers will grant a monthly or weekly pay throughout your work duration if it’s a paid internship that you signed up for. Make sure to do your research on your internship and request the details to be stated in your offer letter. This encourages transparency and prevents misunderstandings between you and the employer. 

You’ll Learn More Than You Expect

Interns being little more than errand runners is a popular cliché portrayed to us in the media. In reality, while you sometimes need to perform menial labour, such as fetching coffee, cleaning offices and running personal errands, it’s not all that you should be doing! 

A good company will balance your workload with real responsibilities that’ll train you to be a competent worker with the right skills and knowledge and put you out of your comfort zone to grow and adapt. Occasionally, you might even pick up skills that are not directly related to your job. Accept it; there is no such thing as a useless skill. 

“All I Do Is Twiddle My Thumbs At Work…”

On one hand, we have interns that have too much on their plate, on the other, we have interns that practically have little to nothing to do. Twiddling your thumbs at your desk all day may seem like a good problem to have on the surface, but it can be detrimental in the long run. After all, the goal of your internship is so you can learn and gain work experience. 

As you ease into work life as an intern, your workload should start light but will increase over time. If you realized work tasks are not assigned to you, take the initiative to ask for extra work rather than being passive and expecting work to come to you. You could also volunteer to help your colleagues or supervisor with any ongoing projects.  

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, jump at 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 and supervisors on different levels. 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. Who knows? You might find another job well-suited for you through one of your ex-colleague’s recommendations, anything is possible. 

Professional Communication Is A Must

If there’s one skill that tops the list for workplace success, it would be communicating professionally. As a young professional, you will most certainly develop this skill during your internship as you’ll need to liaise with your teammates, supervisors and other employees within the company. 

To communicate professionally doesn’t mean talking in a formal tone; it’s an effective form of communication in terms of relaying as well as digesting information. To be professional is to be articulate, civil, honest, and willing to listen. The use of e-mails to communicate with your colleagues is one of the channels used in being professional. 

Trust me, you will be using e-mails a lot.


Your university course may have prepared you with knowledge about your field, but an internship will prepare you even more by equipping you with soft skills and training to secure a job. We hope with this newfound knowledge about internships, that you’ll be more aware and set for a fulfilling internship journey. Good luck!