Wednesday, September 11, 2013

THE INTERNSHIP


No, I am not talking about the recent movie The Internship, but the rite of passage for many Year Three students in any polytechnic in Singapore.

I am amazed that we are introduced to the working world at some point during our studies, which we are supposed to make sense of and get graded for while learning on the job.

Don’t know how to work a Xerox machine? Neither a guide nor manual is readily available to explain the mechanics. Meanwhile, your supervisor might be wondering what’s taking you so long to print 10 sets of double sided documents.

During my six month internship, I got to do things like writing press releases, organising book launches and logistics, coming up with creatives like posters and invites, and sending email blasts and publishing Facebook updates. It was truly educational and listed here are several tips you might want to pay close attention to if you want to shine in your internship:

1) Do read extensively about the company and its products. Knowing about your company’s products will definitely help you do your work better. Of course, knowing your subject matter is crucial.

2) Always communicate with the different departments. Knowing how everyone plays a part in the company will ensure that your contributions will complement everyone else’s.

3) Being nice goes a long way. When you are required to make calls or request for help, your attitude will really make a difference.

4) ALWAYS keep yourself busy. Although you are an intern and your workload is just a mere fraction of what the permanent staff do, always find something relevant to do, and ask your colleagues if they need help. Keep on learning.

On a lighter note, you might also like to consider the following:

5) Always arrive before your supervisor does, and greet him/her with a good morning even if you have had a bad start to the day

6) Ask your supervisor five minutes before your lunch break about their lunch plans and if he/she needs anything

7) Occasionally, surprise your colleagues by doing something sweet. I once bought soya bean curd for my colleagues during lunch. Let’s just say things were definitely much, MUCH sweeter after that.

An internship is nothing like school or the temporary job you took last vacation. You are scrutinized round the clock by the entire department throughout your day and if you are caught idling your time away while everyone else is busy, don’t bother asking why you scored a D for your final grade.

You are THE INTERN. You have to show that you’re good to work with. It’s not easy in the beginning, but if you put in effort, things will turn out alright.

Here’s my story:
Coming from a mass media management course, we were entitled to choose from a spectrum of media fields we were interested in, for example: print, radio, production, events management, etc. We were supposed to rank our choices from 1 to 4, 1 being the field we most likely prefer and 4 being the field we wouldn’t mind being in. I was rejected from all the four choices I applied to with reasons such as I failed the test or there were no available vacancies for an intern at the moment. For a 19-year-old girl waiting for her breakthrough moment, this was devastating.

Thus, I was placed in a company selected by my school. I was posted to the marketing department of a publishing company. The only terrible thing about this was the journey. It took me an hour and a half to get to work and work started at 8.15 AM.

At first, I was grumpy and upset. My supervisor, who was 6 months pregnant, wasn’t in one of her best moods either. Our conversations hovered from “You are taking too long to complete that” to “complete this by today.”

I had to do things like submit more than 10 poster drafts and getting rejected for each of them because they weren’t appealing enough. It was quite demoralising. I broke down a number  of times because I didn’t want to mess up my future. But, after some  reflection, I realised that she was practising “tough love”, a method quite unfamiliar to my generation.

When she went on maternity leave, I had quite a bit of spare time so I took the initiative to get to know my other colleagues. I slowly got closer to everyone and time is indeed the best way to tell you how much and how far you have grown.

My last day of work was certainly memorable.

You know that things somehow went right when the general manager arrives late on your last day of work because she went to  buy a chocolate cake for you.

My last day at work was the best last day of work in the history of last days at work. It was a typical workday, I had reports to clear and the entire office was in an editorial meeting. As I was furiously typing away on my keyboard, my colleagues came out of the conference room and told me to come over. It was time for my farewell party!

There were paper napkins, forks and spoons, drinks, chocolate cake and strudels all laid out. The general manager and my supervisor gave a speech and it was time to dig in! After 15 minutes of fun, the office went back to their meeting and I was left to submit the last of my workload. I arrived back at my desk only to find a pile of presents. I received a book titled “Success 365” and the book had chapters like “Show your authentic self” or “Be a problem solver”. My colleagues chose a title that aptly described me and wrote messages for me on it. Talk about sweet!

Another important lesson I have learnt from my internship -  having friends is important and no man is an island. The thing with internships is learning to relate with colleagues who are much older and wiser than you. I was the youngest in the office and the second youngest was 30 years old. But I found a friend. And this friend gave me the best present on my last day of work. She is 35, single, goes for Zumba dance classes every Sunday. We have gotten so close that I walked to her desk every hour just to talk to her or paste post-its under her desk when she was not around.

She gave me a huge box on my last day and in it were Styrofoam fillers and a Cotton On gift card worth $100! That was not all, she also gave me a paper bag and in it was a really pretty box. Attached to the box was a tag that said “AMIRA’S TRAVEL ESSENTIALS”. The box contained all the essentials I needed for a flight! There were facemasks, lip balm, glow-in-the-dark-socks and she pasted notes on each item. For example, the note on the facemask said, ‘Wear me if you feel like the cabin air is too dry for your face. You’ll smell like lemons!’ If you’ve watched the movie The Vow, this is exactly like it, only 1000 times sweeter.

Internship will never be easy. It will be the most challenging experience you’ve ever felt in your three years of poly. There were so many times I told myself that I wanted to give up. You will also need to earn the respect of your colleagues. But once you’ve earned it, you will sail through your internship and your colleagues will remember you.

So here’s to me for moving mountains and here’s to my internship company. I credit you for being the catalyst of my transformation. And here’s good luck to all the future interns!

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By Amira Komari, Year 3, Diploma in Mass Media Management

An avid reader, Amira enjoys her own space and can spend hours in a coffee house with a good book. She thrives upon solitude and nature. She is also obsessed about ice cream and anything colorful, you can almost always find her at a nearby bookstore with her dip dyed Chuck Taylor shoes.

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