There is a common fallacy many undergraduates have: to attempt an internship just before they graduate. The reason being that many feel that by this stage of their university lives, they should know what they want to do in the future.
Let me raise this analogy: When do you start searching for someone who you think you would be living with for the rest of your life? Would it be just before the wedding?
Likewise, an internship is the next journey you embark on and we all need time to build and develop. Thus, I would recommend starting to search for an internship early.
Then the next question comes. How will I know if it’s a perfect fit for me? Having been a President in charge of bridging the gap between companies and students, I would love to share a few points to increase your chances of securing an internship you love, based on what companies have voiced.
Go to career fairs
If the institution you currently study at organises career fairs, go down for a visit! Even if you are uncertain of what you want to do, keep an open mind as you walk through the different booths. Listen to what employees of these companies have to say, and ask just about anything! These potential employers are there to talent scout at the same time, so dress up for the occasion. Be smart, in appearance and in mind. First impressions count.
One good tip is to look beyond the current industry you’re “attached” to. For instance, I am an Accounting and Finance student, but I would cast my net beyond the Big 4 firms and banks. This is because there is no certainty you would love what you thought, and having an alternative is an advantage. Times change, global landscapes change, and job industries may change as well. Have you heard that some jobs are threatened by artificial intelligence, for instance?
Amazingly, I managed to clinch an internship position offer right during the Career Fair. Due to previous experiences of having interned before, being a keen listener and asking constructive questions, the lady from Technode asked me if I would be keen to join their team. I was so ecstatic, I could not believe I would be joining a company I had been dreaming of!
What if your institution does not hold career fairs? Well, another way is to go online! If you find an internship position that you love, talk to friends in the industry, and ask yourself: Is this how I wish to grow? Is it something I will be keen to try? Remember, an internship is like a commitment, you must at the bare minimum, love what you do.
Embark on company visits
What excites you better than seeing your potential working space? It’s very interesting as you can get tours and experience the company culture first hand! Additionally, such trips are usually organised for a smaller group of students, which means you can make friends too!
In 2018, I went to Jakarta, and it was eye-opening to visit hyped firms like Gojek, which officially launched in my home country months later. The highlight was experiencing the UOB Skills Assessment Center, and understanding how it handpicks its outstanding employees. This is a hard-to-come-by opportunity, as many may not even make it to the final stage during the selection process.
Also, I had the chance of visiting Google’s new Asia-Pacific Headquarters. I was in awe of how Google was not just about YouTube and the search engine, but also the AI projects they were working on.
Every company visit was unique and exciting. However, some companies refuse to accept CVs on the spot, so as to promote fairness in its selection, so that’s something to note.
Be up to date
Be it big names like UOB, Google, and Ernst & Young, SMEs or startups, do some research on the organisation. This is very important especially when preparing for the interview. Based on my teacher’s experience as an HR Manager of a renowned hotel, knowing the company well will gain you an edge over your competitors. No company would wish to hire someone who doesn’t know what they do.
If this is the first internship you are embarking on, SMEs are recommended because larger corporations will tend to have higher expectations. Startups, as much as they are enticing, are super rigorous. SMEs fit snugly in between, so I feel starting from there is a better option. However, the most important thing is to choose something you are passionate about.
Essentially, choosing an internship is similar to choosing your next commitment. It may not be perfect, but you can gain so much in a relatively short period of time.
Esther is studying the BSc in Accounting and Finance in Singapore