How has the internship experience helped you in terms of the way you look at school, life, or anything in general?
[2019 Update: This was originally written in March 2016. At the time, I had just finished doing 3 internships. As I edit this today, it is July 2019 and I finished 6 internships in total. And I just celebrated 18 months of working at my first job. Present day me will interject once in a while versus past me to provide the benefit of hindsight.]
I can summarize all the changes that happened to me into 4 points:
- Couldn’t stand wasting my time
- Understood better why and what I was studying in college
- Understood what fields I specifically didn’t ever want to go into aka helped narrow down what is it that I want to do in life
- Appreciated the path of hard work that comes with being connection-less
Couldn’t Stand Wasting My Time
I don’t know if it’s the actual internship experience per se that changed me or the learnings and self-reflection from my internship experiences, but now I can’t stand to be idle. That’s why I continue with the blog, just to give me something else to do this semester. School work also became magically manageable now after juggling classes and an internship for a semester.
Now, I only take projects I’m passionate about. There’s a beautiful balance when you’re doing something you’re good at, something you love, and something that brings purpose to your life. (The official term for it is ikigai.) I’m still learning, but I’m getting better at finding that balance, never feeling like I’m sacrificing my time and energy because I love what I do (be it a project, internship, or consulting) has become a part of my criteria in taking on additional work.
Interlude: Let’s talk about what counts as a passion project and what counts as you soldiering on with something past you committed to but present you no longer feels the same.
Why? Because I’ve been there with the blog. So I know all about deciding if something’s worth the effort you’re pouring in.
Before TBC, I used to take on projects just because I knew it would look good on my resume. But I was getting burnt out and frustrated because my heart wasn’t really in it. These projects didn’t feel like me. But I kept doing it even if it didn’t interest me anymore simply because I committed.
Once I started the blog though, I realized that work didn’t have to feel like something to drag yourself to do but instead could be something fulfilling and fun. Yes, running this is a lot of work. But I enjoy the work. In a way, I enjoy writing this all down in the hopes of helping others. I hope you too find a passion project that makes you feel the same. It makes dedicating yourself to work much easier.
[2019: To this day, I agree with this sentiment. I hate spending my time mindlessly, and thanks to interning early on I’ve been actively avoiding it. If I want to have a lazy, Netflix all day kind of day, I rearrange my schedule so that I can do that guiltlessly. It’s been more of understanding my energy levels and not trying to push myself when I’m not feeling it.
Nowadays, I try to always arrange my time to be ~productive~. Meaning not necessarily working, but it’s always got some clear benefit to me. Like making sure I have no pending deadlines so I can go ATV driving all day guiltlessly while spending the following day in bed because I overexerted myself on the trails. Or spending a weekday afternoon reading comics even if I’m at work.
Re: the blog being a passion project. What I didn’t know in March 2016 aka 3 months into doing the blog was that this would burn me out as well. I ended up taking a 9 month hiatus from the blog. And only updating it sporadically for another year or so because I still felt the effects of that burnout.
But as time went by, a lot of learning + reflection happened to help me realize that I had to put up healthy boundaries around me and the blog before I took it back on. Which I eventually did because I deeply love this stupid passion project of mine. Even if it caused so many headaches as well. Lesson learned, don’t let anything consume all your waking moments.]
Understood Better Why and What I Was Studying in College
There was a time after my first internships I thought of shifting out from BS Communication Technology Management. But to where, I had no idea. So I decided instead to view my classes and what I was learning there with greater appreciation. And the lens of working in the outside world.
It’s made me both appreciate and despise school more, honestly. I am happy with school as I write this, knowing in a way why I’m studying what SOM tells us to study now. That’s easily the best takeaway of interning. 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.
(Story Time: I didn’t enlist for class or turn in a letter explaining where I was or what I was doing. During the 1st week of intercession, I sent in an email saying I’m not coming in because I already signed a contract and I will not be reneging 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.)
Now I understand why they teach us these foundation learnings. They’re the building blocks of that field once we get outside. But the lack of any operational learning or application is what gets me angry.
We’re taught theory all the time, and rarely are we asked to test it out. Our end projects, those research papers and defenses we do, are still theoretically based at the end. It’s really up to us to go and test out what we know and if what we know is enough presently. Someday I’ll continue this rant, but for the purpose of keeping this article going, hard stop here. 😒
It helps that ComTech isn’t really time consuming to me so I have the head space to intern again and again while exploring what I really want to do with my life. It’s gotten to the point though that interviewers don’t even ask me to explain what my course is or even ask for my GPA – because my internships are the main experiences they want to discuss.
When we do talk about my course and grades, I frankly share to my interviewers that the primary reason I’m still in ComTech is to make it to the May 2017 graduation. This discussion usually moves to us 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 smart, guys, they were former college student after all. They know that it’s easier for students to go after the easy A profs, thanks to social media. The DL is slowly losing its prestigious weight.
Story Time: 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. Having a curriculum with too few technical experience givers doesn’t make graduates as competitive anymore. Being well-rounded is good, but being a specialized generalist is better.
It’s safe to say that interning was my way of specializing and picking up skills relevant to the workplace, in my efforts to differentiate from the rest of my Ateneo batchmates. And it was highly effective because I can clearly say that we’re all so safely ensconced in the Ateneo bubble that we don’t think of trying to reach outside of it.
We are entitled. I can hear it in the way we talk out loud about what we want the moment we graduate. Who are we to think so highly of ourselves such that we’ll have amazing, high-flying jobs right out of college? We’ve done literally nothing but leap through hoops for Ateneo. Which is cushy compared to the outside world. Again, someday I’ll continue this rant, but for the purpose of keeping this article going, hard stop here. 😒
[2019: Wow. I forgot I had a lot of anger at Ateneo’s theoretical based curriculum in 2016. But reading this today, it’s well-founded up to a point. Hard skills isn’t something you go to university for, soft skills are. Critical thinking, learning quickly, synthesizing what you just picked up and applying it to a different situation; that’s what university education’s about.
So yes, university doesn’t really prepare you for the working world. You have to prepare yourself. That’s why I keep TBC going. So that you have some kind of map to help you out because really, we need to ease that transition from school to work better.
Also, in sadder news, I didn’t make it to May 2017 graduation. I was delayed from deferring my summer classes lol. Graduated in December 2017 after an 18 unit semester. Can you imagine that was how delayed I was lol no regrets I had a great time in my last 3 semesters.
PS, I still agree that we Ateneans are entitled little brats but my love for Ateneo and being an Atenean compels me to not expound on this further. If you ever want to get my view, feel free to ask it from me in person but do check if I’m in a chatty mood first. I have a lot to say.]
Understood What Fields I Didn’t Ever Want to Go into aka Helped Narrow Down What Is It That I Want to Do in Life
I figured out that Marketing the way big brands do it is not something I want to do. Which is hard to explain to HR recruiters sometimes. “I study Marketing but I have no interest in pursuing a future career in it.”
Don’t get me wrong, Marketing is something I’m good at and really enjoy. But mainly in the context of a small/niche business or a freelancer. Coming from my internships, Marketing at a big company is not something I’m passionate about. There’s a big gap between what I imagined the job would be like and what it actually entailed.
I also figured out conservative fields like manufacturing or finance weren’t somewhere I’d be happy in. My free spirit and far-too-forward nature would get me into constant trouble in a place that valued strictly following rules and order. Flexibility is key to my long-term happiness and the sooner I embrace that, the better my life will be.
Right now I’m thinking about moving into supply chain or sales. Though I still don’t know what I want to dedicate myself to, at least at 20, I have a better understanding of the fields and departments in a multinational, thanks to my different internships.
[2019: I greatly underestimated how difficult supply chain is and overestimated how detail oriented I am. I am far too scatter-brained for a job that requires high-precision 24/7. Lesson here is be realistically self-aware of your limits.
Everything else holds up, I still think the same way. But I’m laughing at me thinking I’d go into supply chain. Good joke, 2016 me.]
Appreciated the path of hard work that comes with being connection-less
There was a noticeable difference in some friends after I started interning and started detailing those internships in the blog. There was also a noticeable uptick in people who were messaging me, relying on our “friendship” for me to answer all sorts of questions directly for them. In the beginning of this all, it was insanely annoying.
Why? Well, it felt like they were trying to leapfrog over me using my hard work. They were being users and it got on my nerves. Because I worked insanely hard to reach this point. I poured in a ton of time, research, and work with no one to guide me. Why couldn’t they do the same? We all started from the same boat after all.
Like I didn’t intern for a family business; I was directly applying to established companies and asking them to consider me for a slot. My parents weren’t pulling any strings for me to get in anywhere. Even they were surprised at the amount of effort I was pouring into this. (They also asked where was this energy when it came to my studies lol sorry, beloved parents.)
Everything I achieved was of my own doing, with excellent background support from my parents. Luck definitely had a huge factor in my timing, and I’m sure some ancestor was looking out for me during that 1st internship search. But everything after that 1st internship came from my continuous iterative efforts to get to this point.
So when I see people do the same, work the same, I feel a strong sense of kinship to them. And I can’t help but look down on people trying to cheat their way through the hard work phase.
I always try to show people that I’m not simply lucky when good things happen to me in a row. I try. Very hard. Getting to this point was a combination of happenstances I was ready to face because success only happens when luck meets preparation.
Saying ‘I’m just lucky’ after accomplishing something diminishes all the preparation poured in and invalidates the success. It’s also painting an unrealistic picture for younger people.
I think it’s important to be honest and say ‘It took a few sleepless nights and a lot of effort and a few sacrifices and a handful 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 younger people to look at me and think that achieving anything is supposed to be effortless, easy, and totally reliant on luck. Because it’s not. It’s reliant on how much work they put in as well.
So people taking shortcuts, especially if that shortcut involves me, used to irk me to no end. I dislike being used. But recently, I’ve had a change of mindset. They need my help precisely because they’re aware they can’t do it on their own. I might as well make it worth my while as well.
Besides, being connection-less means that my methods work for everyone since I understand the regular person’s problems better. Making the things I share even more valuable. So I guess it all works out if I think about it differently.
[2019: I have a lot of points to go over from what I wrote.
1. I hate when people think “Wham, bam, slam, I got this super prestigious internship that just happens to be my dream job as well!” Because that’s not how life works. Getting your dream internship is like training for a marathon. You have to first know what marathon you’re training for.
Then you do a little bit of training everyday. A bit more tomorrow compared to 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 don’t want to do it anymore. Not can’t, won’t.
And that training montage is partly why I started TBC. I wanted to make it easier for everyone who come after me. Especially for those not academically oriented like me. Interning’s a completely different ball game. It 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.
2. It sounds like I was swimming in opportunities. And to some maybe I was. But know that then and now, I’ve been rejected countless times. Hundreds of times honestly. Some with flat out rejection letters, some with deafening silence. I just don’t let any of that keep me from moving forward. Life doesn’t stop for anyone after all.
I’ve learned that some things don’t work out no matter how hard you try. And that’s fine because they give way to new opportunities. I used to get really bitter about every internship, every job, every opportunity that I didn’t get, but now I’ve come to accept that everything happens for a reason.
If I didn’t get that particular opportunity, then something better might be right around the corner. I just have to trust that everything will work out. And more importantly, trust in myself. I wouldn’t let bad things happen to me.
Maybe someday I’ll reflect on it all in a post if ya’ll think it important to see.
3. I used to be really crabby about sharing opportunities to others. I didn’t like the idea of others using my hard work to get ahead of me. Nowadays, I don’t care.
Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours shine brighter. There are plenty of internships and jobs to go around. When there are opportunities I can’t take, I’ve decided to share it around to my network because what’s the harm in sharing? It’s inconsequential to me but could mean the world to somebody else.
Reading this, I can tell I’ve mellowed out the last 3 years. I don’t care about as many little things as I used to. Which is great for my emotional well-being. Being that tightly wound up about everything would have been whack for my mental health. Highly recommend you care a lot less about inconsequential things. Very freeing.
In case you have no idea where you are, welcome to The Border Collective, where any question you’ve got on internships, resumes, or careers in the PH can and will be answered. I’m Justine, founder and writer of all things here.
Internship FAQ is a slot for me to share things I’ve learned over the course of my internships (and probably early work years), so that you guys don’t have to trial and error this stuff like I did.
It’s my way of giving back because I wish that when I was a freshman, a resource like TBC existed to help guide not to waste my time on things that don’t work here in the Philippines. I sincerely hope that what I write helps you reach your dreams a little faster.
If there’s something you want to ask but never knew where to send them to, drop them in The Border Collective’s Google Form or ask.fm. Being a kid myself, I’ve probably gone through the same situations. And at the very least, I can tell you what NOT to do.
Content Partnerships, Plugs, or Business Deals? firstname.lastname@example.org
Email your proposal and a summary of why that’s relevant for TBC’s audience. Don’t worry, we don’t charge money if you’re student-run, just social media x-deals, just like we did in our features for MSE Summit or the APEX Challenge.
Support TBC? facebook.com/TheBorderCollective
If you want to publicly support us + get brownie points from us, like The Border Collective’s Facebook page!
Hope you read something useful, til the next time I write something, bye~
Join TBC’s private email list to know the best resources for
- Figuring out what your dream job is
- Making the right connections without coming off as a user, an idiot, or a soulless drone
- Acing every interview, getting an interview anywhere, & then some
- Reading and applying Western business and management books here in S.E. Asia
- Knowing which podcasts are worth your time, and which are just filled with fluff
- And much more
Most of my advice is very different from other career “experts”, since I actually tried and tested it myself. And because, you know, I’m a Chinese girl in the Philippines who tried out for almost every multinational here, while building contacts up in the startup world.
So, expect it to be very contextualized for Asians, women, and // or millennials // Gen Z-ers.
PS, do not sign up if you’re lazy, a whiner, or an entitled brat. There’s nothing useful in here for you.