3 Answers to Is Interning Worth It?

Betina: Hi readers! We’re back to our regular programming and continuing our FAQs! Between rounds of internship interviews and career fairs, it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and we’ve still got one very long week to go until midterm break, but we had time to answer just a few questions for you 🙂

Justine: So, to recap my past week at least, I went to UP Career Fair almost everyday to support the INKOMPASS signups there and also to go check out the candidates for this year’s batch of INKOMPASS interns. I also went to drop off 8 people’s resumes, which was intense because there were over 100 booths there. I ended up getting calling cards to send my resume to since I didn’t bring a hard copy. What do you guys think about us writing a how-to guide to career fairs since Ateneo’s is fast approaching?

For those just joining us now, this is a weekly thing. We’re on Part 9 of the Internship FAQ’s! You ask, we answer all your questions on interning here in the Philippines’ setting. I suggest you start reading from Part 1 though. We also run a separate series on the blog called Intern-view where we invite other college kids’ who’ve interned somewhere we haven’t to write about their experiences. We’ve had someone from a digital marketing agency, BPI, and Globe write already! In the happenstance, we also interject with other posts like Youthhack on Betina’s part and INKOMPASS on my part! Use the category hashtags or peruse through the site to find those gems. 😀

Credentials time! You may be wondering, “why should I listen to these 2 girls?” Well, let me copy paste our intro from Part 8!

Betina Ong has worked for Rogue magazine as a marketing intern, Petron as a corporate affairs intern, and at both ZMG Ward-Howell (a headhunting firm) and Coca-Cola (during the entire 1st semester of 3rd year) as an HR intern. All since January 2015. She’s currently balancing being core team of Youthhack Manila and CAMP Philippines in her spare time, while shuttling back and forth between Katip and Laguna. She’s also the nice one, the one with more internships, the one with the recruiter perspective, the Third Culture Kid, and the conscientious McCoy to my impetuous Kirk.

I, aka Justine Lara T. Chua, am the mean one. I am the first sophomore to ever intern for Citibank Philippines, and I’m part of the first batch of INKOMPASS interns here in the Philippines. I worked for Blogapalooza during first sem, and decided to renew my contract with them because I love Blogapalooza so much! I’m a founding EB member of both Barefoot Philippines and Microsoft Student Community. Plus, I am the older sister to a 10 year old little boy who I constantly tutor and pick up from after school.

So yea, that’s us and this is The Border Collective. Welcome and thanks for reading!!

B: We noticed that a lot of the questions we get sent have generally the same themes, and we need a break from answering all the interview and resume based questions (there’s only so many ways of giving the same advice), so we decided to tackle the questions that have to do with what we took away from our internships.

We’ve also gotten the feedback that some readers appreciate our specific stories the most, so for this post, we’re getting a little bit more personal. Think of this as what you’d overhear if you happened to eavesdrop on us talking in a coffeeshop.

J: I am a terribly good storyteller after all. 😛 Here we write, the 3 Answers to Is Interning Really Worth It? Thanks for reading and hope we answered something useful for you!


 

How has the internship experience helped you in terms of the way you look at school, life or anything in general?

 

Betina: I don’t know if it’s the internship experience per se that changed me or what I reaped from my internship experiences. I can’t stand to be idle – I even made up a whole project from scratch just to give me something to do this semester – and school work is suddenly super manageable now after juggling school and internships for a year.

J: Same. This is why I picked up being part of 2 orgs right after getting back into Ateneo.

B: I figured out that Marketing is not in fact what I was born to do, but HR is where my natural strengths align, and I would not have known that at 20 if I had not tried out a lot of different functions at different internships. Marketing is something I’m good at and really enjoy, but it’s not something I’m passionate about and there’s a big gap between what I imagined a marketing job would be like and what it actually entails. Ultimately I don’t think I would have been as happy in a field that is so intensely competitive and takes far less creativity than I imagined.

J: Again, super same. Do not be fooled by the glitzy glamour of marketing. Get an internship in it and see if you will actually enjoy doing it day in and day out. I personally find it tedious though, so I decided to move into supply chain or sales. Which is hard to explain to HR recruiters. “I study marketing but I have no interest in pursuing a future career in it.”

B: I only take on passion projects now. There’s a beautiful balance between doing something that you’re good at, something you love, and something that brings purpose to your life. It took me a while, but I’m getting better at finding that balance. I never feel like I’m sacrificing my time and energy because I truly love what I do (be it project, internship, or org work).

J: I feel like this is something we need to talk about as well: what counts as a passion project and what counts as you soldiering on with something your heart is not 100% fully in. Because it’s hard to step away from something, especially if you loved it intensely before. That’s why so many people stay in bad relationships, and why so many people stay in orgs they’ve dedicated so much of their time in already. It’s the sunk cost fallacy. But that’s a post for another day.

B: I’ll clarify that^ I used to take on projects just because I knew it would look good on my resume, but I was getting burned out and frustrated because my heart wasn’t really in it. Once I found orgs that had real meaning for me, with goals I strongly believed in, then org ‘work’ stopped feeling like work and started being fulfilling and fun.

J: Guess we don’t need to make it into a post anymore since she got the crux of it down hahaha.

B: Shifting from BS Communication Technology Management to Interdisciplinary Studies was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but I’m glad I did it because it gave me the free time to intern and explore what I really want to do with my life and the freedom to take a lot of electives that I’m genuinely interested in and enjoy taking. Plus I get to take an individual thesis combining my tracks -Management and Psychology- so I’ll probably get to spend a year working on an HR thesis. Which is great because that’s a field I am genuinely interested in and that thesis brings value to my future career. But I never would have made the leap to a less safe course if I didn’t have 3 internships behind me by the time I shifted. It’s gotten to the point that recruiters don’t always ask me to explain my course anymore or even ask for my GPA – because my internships are the main experiences that recruiters want to discuss.

J: I think that in turn, the fact that I stayed in ComTech even after realizing that I’m not pursuing its core subjects as a career is also a testament to the power of interning. I tell recruiters frankly that the only reason I’m still in ComTech is to make it to the May 2017 graduation. This discussion usually devolves into the interviewer and I talking about how college is slowly becoming obsolete and how interning is the new hot resume commodity instead of being a Dean’s Lister. Recruiters are getting smarter; they know that it’s easier for students to go after the easy A profs using social media. The DL is slowly losing its weight.

B: Preach! I had an interview the other day where the manager basically said that our degrees are becoming irrelevant because they’re too theoretical and not at all practical. The world is becoming a more specialized place that having a curriculum with too few majors doesn’t make our graduates competitive anymore. I guess you can say that interning was our way of specializing and picking up skills that are relevant to the workplace and differentiate us from the rest of Ateneo.

J: We’re all so safely ensconced in the Ateneo bubble that we don’t think of trying to reach outside of it, and I hate that huhuhu. Who are we to think so highly of ourselves such that we’ll have amazing, high-flying jobs right out of college?

B: I’ve noticed that a lot of my Filipino friends tend to question themselves and what they are capable of by asking ‘Who am I to dream big? Who am I to think I can accomplish all of these great things?’ Honestly, who are you not to dream big? There is nothing wrong with aiming ridiculously high if you’re willing to put in the hard work to make it happen. Adults will call you entitled and some friends might feel alienated by your ambition. Don’t let them get to you. Nobody who ever did anything great started by dreaming small.

J: For a sobering look at the whole alienating everyone who loves you in the pursuit of a dream greater than yourself, read Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance. It helped me come to terms with the fact that some friendships will never get over the whole “interned a lot” thing.

B: I’d consider that book an extreme example, but alas, crab mentality is very real. Probably the most frustrating thing I had to deal with after transferring from an international school to a local school is that people here are very jealous and unsupportive of each other. Why? Someone else’s success does not detract from your own so there is no reason for petty jealousy. There are plenty of internships and jobs to go around.  

Speaking of jealousy, (and I’m about to get a little preachy and feminist here,) but I think for girls in particular, there’s this image we’re supposed to maintain of being ‘effortless’ and ‘having it all’.

J: Fuck this kind of thinking. We are not Beyonce, who has a team of people ensured to make her life flow smoothly so that she can ascend to the higher plains of success. Never forget that most celebrities, even the Instagram ones, have people working for them.

B: I’m sure some people are able to do that, (The Beyonces and Shakiras and Blair Waldorfs of the world,) but I’m not one of them and I always try to show my friends that I’m not simply lucky when good things happen to me. I try. Very hard. Success happens when luck meets preparation and whenever somebody says ‘I am just so lucky’ after they accomplish anything, they diminish all their preparation and invalidate their own success. I think it’s important to say ‘It took a few sleepless nights and a lot of effort and a few sacrifices and a tiny bit of luck, but dammit, I worked hard for this moment and I don’t have to be fake humble about it’ because I don’t want the freshmen to look up at me and think that achieving anything is supposed to be effortless and easy. It’s not.

J: This is so important for the freshman and sophomore girls who are messaging us on how Betina and I got this far. And then get disheartened when we tell them how much work is involved. Here’s the generic message I send all of them:

“We worked. We did our time, our research, and our work. We didn’t go and intern for our family businesses; we cold called established companies and asked them for a slot. This wasn’t our parents pulling strings for us to get these internships. This was all our own doing, with excellent support from them. Luck had a factor in timing, most definitely, and I’m sure we were lucky that the internship gods were looking down kindly on us during that first internship scramble. But everything after that came from our continuous efforts to get to this place.

This isn’t a wham, bam, slam, I got this super prestigious internship! This is more akin to training for a marathon. You do a little bit everyday, then a bit more tomorrow than today, and before you’re super sure that you’re ready, you go and run. You test the waters by running and seeing what else needs work. Then you train your weaknesses, and go at it again. And again. And again. And oh yea, again. It’s a never ending training that ends only when you say you can’t do it anymore.

 

And this is why I started this blog in the first place.

I wanted to make it easier for the girls who come after me. Those who feel a little alienated standing next to all the other girls, those who want to make more of their time, those who feel like we live in a sheltered bubble and want out. None of this should be as hard as it was when I was starting out. Interning shouldn’t be something reserved for certain courses who have it in their curriculum or something scary or something reserved for the ultra-magis. Interning is for everybody, who is ambitious enough to try.

Ok, end rant.

B: Lastly, I’ve learned that some things don’t work out because they give way to new opportunities. I used to get really bitter about every internship that I didn’t get, but now I’m better at accepting that everything happens for a reason. If I didn’t get that particular opportunity, then something better might be right around the corner. 🙂 I’m still a bit of a control freak, but if I put in the hard work and keep striving to be better, then I have to trust that the rest will take care of itself.

Justine: My turn to share my insights hahaha.

I know why I’m studying what SOM tells us to study now. That’s easily the best takeaway. It’s nice to know what you’re spending 90k a sem on, and it took me stepping away from Ateneo for 4 months to figure that out. Although I do not advocate anyone else to step away from Ateneo like I did. (I didn’t enlist for class or turn in a letter explaining where I was or what I was doing. During the first week of intercession, I sent in an email saying I’m not coming in because I signed a contract with a company equal to P&G because they had never heard of INKOMPASS prior to me emailing about it. They advised me that it’s not too late to come in for summer sem. The last email I got said that I needed to come in to explain myself but no one ever set a meeting lol.)

I know now that it’s only because of my strong (aka “intense”) personality and bullheadedness that I managed to get away from the Ateneo bubble and make something out of myself that most people never thought I could. It’s an excellent feeling to know that I’m not as useless as I felt in freshman year, especially compared to my blockmates. They are the embodiment of Ateneo magis when it comes to acads and org work and I will never match up to them on their playing fields. That’s why I left to start playing on a different field.

I know what everyone says behind my back and I am delighted that you have the free time to talk about me. I don’t have the leisure anymore to talk about other people and what they’re doing because I’m so busy nowadays but when I do talk to my friends, they have a tendency to tell me the things you all said in passing about me to them. I know that most of you are confused because you don’t think I deserve half of what I’ve received by the grace of the internship gods. I know that a lot of you say that you think someone else took the INKOMPASS math test for me because “[I’m] such an airhead, how did [I] pass it?”

B: For the record, if you think she’s an airhead, I dare you to go head to head with her in a debate about literally anything because she can get terrifying when she’s riled up.

J: The best part of all the talk is that you don’t realize that you use dismissive language when talking about me. Those little micro-aggressions we use when we undermine while talking about other people’s success, yea, I’ve heard them all in the last 6 months. Especially from boys who think they’re smarter than me. My favorite people to talk to lol. I’ve grown even thicker skin and I like to think I’ve become even more honest in the last few months since I literally have no time for niceties for annoying people.

I know I don’t fit in with the stereotype of the girl who has it all. I never will. And that’s perfectly fine with me. I’ve come to terms with that fact through interning. But in turn, this insight leaves all of you with some cognitive dissonance. So let me lay it out for you. You need to change your perspective about what it means to intern. ASAP. Then your life will change inexorably. Like mine did. 😀

I know I can do more with my 24 hours, and I actually decided to make the most out of them so that when I’m a graduating senior, I can take it easy. I don’t have to take on work I don’t like, since I already have leverage. No scrambling or scrounging or stressing for me.

The dream is to have a job lined up before I even graduate hahaha.

Betina: This is easily the biggest takeaway we both got from interning so early. The whole point was to get ahead of the pack. I don’t think that even we realized how competitive our profiles would get after just a year of interning, but it’s awesome to know that we’re competing for some of the best companies in the country against some of our scariest (aka most smart and amazing) friends. We don’t always get the internships, but we almost always get an interview. I don’t think that would have happened without all the interning we did last year.

I wrote down on my planner that I want to ink a contract before graduation. HAHAHA (aim high right?)

Justine: Yes, 100% yes to that^. I always get into the first interview based on my resume; how much further I get is up to how I perform in that interview though. Also, never in my wildest dreams from last year around this time did I think that my reality now would be better than my dreams. All I thought was “I can brag about Citibank during intercession sem.” I didn’t think I’d be figuring out how to get even more people to sign up for INKOMPASS or how to promote March 18’s party at Palace Pool Club. I never thought I’d even see the inside of Pool Club. But life has a funny way of working things out.

I am in slightly less awe of magis people because I get how it’s do-able, if you have a solid foundation already. (B:This is so true.) You just have to make tradeoffs. Like how some people trade sleep for schoolwork because they have drivers, so they know they’ll have a minimum 20 minute nap before the school day starts. Work with what you’ve got.

I try to never speak ill of other girls now. It’s a hard world out there, especially for us girls. It’s better to be uplifting of your fellow women, because a great support system is so hard to come by. I’m not competing with my fellow girls. I’m competing against who I was last week. Who I was at my peak. Who I was at my worst. My greatest competition is 24/7 myself now.

And lastly, I’m biased because I think this is so important, if you have a significant other while you’re busy juggling everything in your day, s/he must be supportive. If s/he still isn’t, even after you explained why this is important to you, DUMP THEM. Immediately. We have such a finite amount of time in this world, and if you want to spend it with a controlling fool who isn’t your parents, then we’re done talking. Like I said though, I’m super biased. For April – May, my SO took an internship in Makati shortly after I did so that he could drive me to and fro my house and the office. And he picked me up after school during intercession sem so that I wouldn’t have to commute home in the rain. I lucked out in finding such a supportive SO, who also happened to go with me everyday to UP Career Fair this past week.

 

Is interning hard?

 

B: No. I didn’t find interning hard. What I did find difficult was having to juggle internships with org work and academics. That’s the real hard part. It takes some sacrifice and depending on your priorities, you’ll probably have to give at least one thing up. In my case it was social life. The real question is “Was it worth it?” Any my answer is: YES. For many reasons most of which we’ve already covered in our past posts, so let me give yet another reason why interning now is so important.

Everything you do in college has a compounding effect. College is what you make of it, so if you choose to intern every summer of college at companies that are progressively more prestigious, by the time you graduate you’ve a lot of solid experience from three internships to talk about in interviews and a resume that gets you in the pile more often than not. Regardless of your course, you’ll be viewed as competitive and if you think that it’s not worth giving up your summers for, then consider that the quality and quantity of job offers you’ll get after college with a standout resume will make every single college party that you missed worth it.

I also think that we’re getting to the point where internships are no longer optional, they are necessary to be a competitive applicant to the top companies. Having high grades isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get in the pile. Having just org work isn’t a sure thing either. But we’re proof that having solid internship experience means having a shot, regardless of course or grades, even at the most competitive companies.  

Justine: It’s definitely hard, but when you think about it, everything worthwhile in life is hard to get.

I don’t advocate interning for weak people, especially those who easily balk at the thought of hard work ahead of them. You’re going to go crazy. Don’t attempt unless you’re ready to figure out uncomfortable stuff about yourself and your current life.

Betina covered most points, but I want to highlight the difference between structured internship programs vs unstructured free form ones. My whole background is in structured, hers is all in free form. Mentorship is a solid part of interning that helps you out when times get rough, because undoubtedly things will get rough. You’re going to be dealing with something you’ve never done before. You’re out of your comfort zone. You have no one immediate to turn to (unless you want to come to us, but be warned, I’m not nice).

When times get tough, turn to your superiors in the organization for support. Usually, they’ll be more than happy to dish out advice to us younglings. And if you’re super lucky, you can find a sympathetic mentor when you’re on the brink of a nervous breakdown. That’s what happened to me, at least hahaha.

Betina: On the other hand, unstructured internships gave me a closer look at what ‘the real world’ looks like. Structured programs with projects are closer to what the management trainee programs will have you do. I’ve also worked alongside a lot of entry-level people so I have an idea of what I’m in for when I graduate next year. I guess part of the reason that I’m so driven is because I’ve experienced entry-level kind of work and I know it can be exhausting. So it forces me to strive for the extremely competitive, but very rewarding, management trainee positions.

Justine: That’s also a problem I face hahaha my idea of entry-level work is very different from Betina’s since I got large projects wherever I went. She’s more relatable for the fresh grads quite honestly. I don’t know how to do the nitpicky little things at work because I never had to. And I think that’ll pose a problem if I do end up at a super entry-level position somewhere.

Which I highly doubt because my parents have implied that I need to keep achieving things so that they have ammo for the “my kid is better than your kid” conversations at their social events lined up for the year. #ChineseKidProblems

Betina: Re: mentors. I had a wonderful professor last year who I consult every time I’m worried about an interview or need advice about which companies to apply to.

I guess I’m also lucky (in the truest sense of the word) that my dad is my best mentor. He is career goals (P&G, MBA, Unilever, Shell,++) and constantly advises me on what companies I should apply for that will align with the future job I want, how I should answer difficult interview questions, how to handle certain projects, etc. There’s also the built in advantage that he 100% supports me and wants me to succeed.

I honestly don’t think I would be half as motivated if I hadn’t grown up as an expat kid in Europe while my dad was doing global marketing strategy for ice cream in Unilever (as a six year old that mostly meant that my came home every day with a pint of Ben&Jerry’s and got to travel the world!) But I saw his office and his frequent flier lifestyle and when I saw how great and fun a corporate career can be, it’s hard to not strive to someday reach that too.

Sorry, I digressed. HAHA my point is that my dad is my greatest mentor and watching him is what makes me so driven to achieve.

 

Will interning really prepare me for life?

 

Justine: It depends where you go, what’s your mindset going in, and what you decide to learn. College is supposed to prepare us for real life, and look how that’s turning out.

Betina: I learn 1000x more from my internships than I do from school. College is what you make of it and since for me college was always just a means to an end, then interning was my biggest and most important preparation for post-undergrad life (aka achieving my career goals)!

 


 

Betina: I think we’ve covered everything!

Justine: And there we have it! The 3 Answers to Is Interning Really Worth It? If you’ve got any questions we haven’t covered here or in the previous FAQ’s, feel free to drop it in our Google Form here.

In the next few days, I’ll be doing a solo post on the March 18 Palace Pool Club absolutely free party INKOMPASS is throwing to celebrate opening their doors for this year’s interns. So, watch out for that!

If you have anything you want to say to us, email us at either justine@thebordercollective.com or betina@thebordercollective.com! For partnerships and business deals, email us at admin@thebordercollective.com! Don’t forget to keep updated by following us on The Border Collective’s FB page here! You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram as well @ChaiXingJun to ask my any questions you’ve got!

Thanks for reading and hope we answered something useful for you!

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