What do we generally need to know about internships?
Think of internships as Career 101: Intro to Your Future Work Life. It’s important that you learn as much as you can as fast as humanly possible, because that sets up your foundation for all your upper-level classes aka Real Work. If you can’t get past your initial struggle here as an intern, you’ll definitely struggle in your succeeding classes. Believe me. I know firsthand.
Since it’s a basic class, your prof (or in this case your boss) expects that you start knowing nothing. So, be prepared as you already know the learning curve will be steep. Expect hardships and bumps; the worst times are directly ahead.
A good internship stretches you, a great internship almost breaks you.
But once you pass the class aka finish the internship, you’ll have all the basics down. You can tackle more challenging tasks and responsibilities, with a better mental mindset. You don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. There’s a noticeable difference in how you handle things, especially when you get back to school. Above all, you’re ready to take on the next class.
If you approach internships from this perspective, you’ll understand both yourself and your possible future paths better. And you’ll be far more prepared for what’s coming next than everyone else.
I also want to point out that sometimes you’ll take a 101 class for a subject that you thought was your dream major, but turns out, you hate it. For whatever reason – be it bad prof (bad boss), bad classroom (bad location), or you realize belatedly that it wasn’t anything like what you thought it would be – changing your mind is completely okay! You have every right to change your dream at any moment. It’s your life after all. Nobody else can live it but you.
Before you give up on the dream because of either a bad boss or a bad location though, I suggest you try interning somewhere a bit more amenable. Sometimes it’s just the specific circumstances, not the path itself that make us want to give up on that career path.
After trying again differently, and finding out that it really isn’t a good fit, that this truly isn’t your dream, then you can rest easy. You did your best. At least you figured out where your heart wasn’t at early, so you won’t waste any more time on a career path you don’t love.
Related: Why Intern Now?
Another way to think of the internship journey is like your journey in Pokemon, only instead of trying to be the very best, you’re on a quest to find a job you love.
Sometimes you love the job at hand, but getting to that job is a pain. You have to take a lot of detours and fight constant battles to get there.
Sometimes you love the work, but the current boss is a pain. You have to train and come back and fail, then repeat all over again until you can get past this boss and move on to the fun stuff.
Sometimes the whole damn thing is a pain, and you’re considering quitting the game. That’s ok too. You’ve saved yourself what could have been years of frustration by condensing down the hassle to < 3 months. Plus you’re giving yourself closure on this chapter of your life. Congrats!
Why do I think of internships like this?
Well, every internship you take adds experience to your life. Good or bad, whatever your experience was, you should’ve gained new perspectives and skills that’ll help you along the way. (If you didn’t gain any, then you wasted your time with that internship.)
Those experiences are what you’ll take with you in finding the next step that brings you closer to your true calling. I firmly believe that you get a better picture of yourself, not just from introspection, but from action. (My life’s guiding principle.)
You can’t just think up stuff about yourself and take those thoughts as facts. It’s like how you know what your favorite things to eat are from actually tasting it, instead of imagining that you love it.
Trial and error, experimentation and documentation. Same principle applies to knowing yourself.
I get to know myself like I would a stranger. Slowly poking around and figuring out what I can and can’t talk about. What makes me stronger and what’re my clear weaknesses. What makes me happy, angry, demotivated, and scared.
Interning has been a gateway for my self-exploration of who I am as an adult. It’s also helped me come to terms with closing and fully enjoying my college life, since it reminded me of how short this time is.
Interning as a sophomore opened doors to parts of me I hadn’t met yet. My work ethic, commitment levels, principles and ideals; these are all facets of me that interning forced me to examine and evaluate. I hope the same goes for you. Don’t just think of the work and what you did; think of how you felt about the work while you were doing it and when you finished it.
Story time: I thought I was destined for a career in marketing, because it’s my major, and it’s a cool and sexy field, and it’s aligned with what my ideal future then looked like. But I never did a marketing internship.
Instead I was assigned to different departments, where I had some exposure to the marketing department and their plans, and I observed them all quietly from afar. That’s how I realized that I like the idea of marketing. I really truly do. But I’m not sold on the reality of marketing. Especially for giant companies.
I like streamlining processes and ideating with people. I like solving clear problems, improving the lives of others, and then moving on. Marketing as I see it isn’t a place for me to grow. I don’t get to do anything I like there, I’ll just get to take pretty pictures. Which I can do with any other job too.
(This is my self-assessment about my contributions and future in marketing, don’t let this sway your view in any way. I’m obviously biased to what’ll be fun for me.)
I’m grateful I saw all this early on in my life, because it guided me to where I am today. I wouldn’t be working towards my new dream as quickly or as easily as I am right now, if I didn’t know early on that marketing isn’t for me. A lot of time could’ve been wasted, coupled with an exponential increase in headache, if I didn’t intern early. So, thanks past Justine.
But this all just proves my point.
No matter what, you’ll always be able to take something away at the end of your internship. If you’re only going to remember one thing from this post, which I hope not, then it’s that sentence.
Sometimes that takeaway is an insight, sometimes it’s a friend, sometimes it’s a deep-seated, never ending hatred for macros in Excel 2010. Usually whatever it is comes from the most stressful moment of your internship. Especially if you’re juggling interning with acads or if you’re an overthinker.
If you were to take another thing away from this post, it’s that internships help you understand why we learn what we learn at school. I came back with a renewed sense of purpose to study because I understood what Ateneo is trying to imbue us with before we go out there. This kind of perspective is important, especially if you’re a questioning kind of person (like me).
I had a better appreciation for my Ateneo classes, because I saw their effects on the real world first hand.
If you were looking for a practical answer to this question, this is it.
- It’s nothing like real work at all, usually internships are either just project-based or just day-to-day work. Suggest you try to balance a project-based one with the day-to-day of acads to get an idea of the discipline and rigor needed for real work.
- Not all internships are created equally. Some are infinitely better than others. Usually depends on your boss, work, and program. Good luck with the draw, may the odds ever be in your favor.
- Prestige is important, not just because of the name on your resume but because of the networking opportunity it brings.
- A lot of startups in the PH will take advantage of you and the free labor you’re offering, you need to read up on your rights and you need to set boundaries too. Especially if you’re working for no pay at all. Don’t be afraid to negotiate for other things, like introductions or mentorship for your own startup idea.
- This is valid work experience. None of your org work can be under work experience. That’s all co-curriculars, which ranks lower than work.
- Don’t do the same kind, be it same industry, same department, or same kind of company, again and again. You’re not going to grow. Pivot every single time to something new.
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.
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Hope you read something useful, til the next time I write something, bye~
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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.
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