Getting an internship during your summer breaks is no longer a novelty anymore. Millennials today recognize the importance of gaining relevant work experience and finding out where their respective individual niches lie, before beginning their careers upon graduation. Delving into the unpredictable working world may seem daunting at the onset but with the internship experiences secured, one will be better prepared on what to expect on the job.
University, to many, is a transitionary period of crossroads. Understanding the importance of securing internships is only the first step, but many of us struggle with identifying what are the industries and types of firms we intend to be a part of that would form the trajectories of our future careers. The question of “what are you thinking of doing next time” is often posed by everyone imaginable in one’s life circle – loved ones, educators, mentors, even strangers.
In this “Choosing the Right Internship” series, we break down the various considerations in your decisions to take on meaningful internships that would productively contribute to your professional growth. In the first part of this series, we elaborate on some of the generic expectations of internships offered by big institutions.
Big Institutions – Finance, Accounting, Management Consulting, Pharmaceutical, Internet Software / Services, etc.
- Having an established industrial leader in your experience bag does open doors when looking for the next internship or a full-time job in your desired industry. These big brand names can be resume boosters, especially if you intend to chart a career path in industries that require specific skillsets and working stints such as investment banking and accounting.
- Big institutions usually have clear, designated roles, projects or assignments for their interns that would fit appropriately within the internship duration. These assignments or projects are more often than not contained within the work scope of the department one is assigned to. This being the case, you are less likely to be given unfamiliar work under the purview of other department of teams. You will be able to gain much depth in that one particular area and hopefully have substantial work in that area done that you may be able to demonstrate and talk about in the future.
- In big corporations, there are numerous networking opportunities for interns. Company lunches, townhalls, executive speaking series, mingling events – you name it. You may just meet the right people who will expose you to further opportunities that may be helpful to you as you work to chart a fulfilling career path for yourself. And of course, ‘freebies’ and fancy meals always seals the deal.
- Recruitment processes and internship structures are usually well-organized by the Human Resource department. Many big corporations have recurring internship programs that are designed by the firm with the objective of having prospective interns obtain specific learnings and takeaways. Given that well-developed internship programs are one of the means to which big institutions build up their talent pipeline, interns come in batches. Interns will have fellow work buddies that they can share a good conversation or two over meals. You can’t deny that it’s definitely nice to have someone of a similar age range as you to discuss future career plans, without having to put on the ‘airs’ as with conversing with a corporate.
- While smaller-sized firms do accept interns in batches as well, big institutions are more likely to be able to provide more resources for interns to learn from one another.
- There is also a higher possibility of being mentored by industrial thought leaders who are well acquainted with other important personnel in the industry. Being able to receive a guidance and advice from someone industrially well-versed is certainly a privilege, and many would jump at the chance to be coached by the best. It should be noted though, that this aspect remains a privilege and should not be duly expected at every big corporation.
- The first-hand exposure to the hierarchical bureaucracy in big corporations may be a downer to some. It should not come as a surprise that simple tasks such as sending out invitations to events may require several levels of management approval before they can be completed. Because of the extent of bureaucracy at some big institutions, an intern many not feel like he or she is not contributing to the company substantially. Thus, there may be some feelings of one not having maximized an opportunity to grow professionally.
- As mentioned previously, interns are more often than not given specific team assignments or projects to work on over stipulated periods of time. While such specificity of job scopes can give interns in-depth exposure to specific aspects of a job role, interns may forego the opportunity to gain insights, learn a variety of skillsets or experience other job roles. Breadth is thus compromised at the expense of depth. This may not be ideal for those who are still figuring out what kind of job roles they may be good at.
- Adding on to the previous downside, with an intern’s job scope confined within specific teams and departments, you may not glean meaningful insights on how organizations operate from a macro perspective. This may be a cause for concern even for those who aspire to contribute to top firms in their respective desired industries. It is always good to understand and be aware of the perspectives employees from other departments or teams harbor – cross-functional projects are a given in any career.
- The day-to-day working experience may be a challenge for interns especially when it comes to finding the right person to direct the relevant queries to. Due to organizational complexity with its many levels of employees, even your boss who heads the account team you are a part of may not know the exact finance person to seek out if your client is requesting a partial refund for a part of the project that did not meet expectations satisfactorily. One can only suck it up and be persistent in getting the finding the relevant answers in such situations.
Article contributed by Lok SiYing