Do regular employees look down on interns?

Do regular peeps look down on you?


*This question was sent in eons ago in January 2016, when the blog was just starting out and was only about internships. I’ve expanded it out of its original article and added in some 2019 thoughts to it. Enjoy~

I’m going to make the assumption that this question means “did regular employees look down on you, Justine, for being just an intern?” And the quick answer is, no.

Sometimes, they wouldn’t take my opinions as seriously as I would have liked. But I think that has more to do with age than it does with my being an intern.

30 year olds generally don’t like hearing improvement suggestions from 20 year olds. Especially if it isn’t research-based. (Note: 2 of my internships were literally to give improvement suggestions from the perspective of an outsider. So I had to learn quickly how to make the existing teams want to hear it. A useful skill to develop tbh.)

Some places pick you precisely because you’re young and different though. At Blogapalooza, my boss, Ace Gapuz, specifically chose college students to work with because we’re so flexible and idealistic and still able to think outside of the box. Structured corporations tend to be the opposite of those traits.

So though no one ever looked down on me personally across all my internships, I felt my naivete and idealism draw attention whenever I shared how I’d solve problems in my projects. Which was a given because I was naive and idealistic.


What about outside the teams I directly worked with?

Quick answer is again, no. But I was in structured corporate internship programs so they really made room for us to enter their workplace.

HR assured us interns from the start that the teams were oriented already about how different the interns would be from them and how to better communicate, especially when in comes to our differing perspectives. Things like managerial training for handling young millennials and Gen Z-ers were deployed before we arrived. Which in hindsight was a very cool thing for those companies to do.

In general, I don’t think people are naturally rude here in Manila, especially if they know they’ll see you everyday for 2 months. It’s Filipino culture to be hospitable after all. Maybe they’ll make off-color comments from time to time. (I frequently heard jokes or pointed comments about my being Chinese, Atenean, tiny, and having a really high voice, speaking poor Tagalog, and coming from a private all-girls Catholic high school, etc.) But it never felt overtly negative. Just general Filipino teasing. You know how it is.

Related: Intern-view: Nikki Lucenario on BPI

If anything, I think management trainees feel more hostility than interns. Because with an intern, the full-time employees know they’re here for a short period of time and that they are students. You are generally not supposed to be mean to kids.

With an MT, they’re permanent hires. Adults are fair game, especially if they’re younger than you. And when you’re an MT, you usually join the team for a few months before rotating on to your next role within the company. So you’ll always be the new guy around.

I think what makes things harder for an MT is that being one means they were singled out because they have “high potential”. Not really a mood booster for those who’ve been part of the company for quite a while and maybe haven’t had the career success they were hoping for. But that’s a conversation for another article.


Ok, so what do I talk about with them as the intern/newbie in the group?

Nothing special really, just be yourself.

I’m kidding. That’s never the best advice when it comes to your professional life. Always be the best version of yourself, dear readers.

Main advice, I suggest you build rapport. Make small talk, but also steer the conversations towards more important things. Like what kind of careers have people had at the company, what’s been their paths so far, and best of all, is this something you should be pursuing full-time too?

I am giving you this advice as what I wish I had done more proactively. Personally, throughout all my internships, I was very silent around my teams. I let them do most of the talking. Why? My real self, the “be yourself” Justine is a loud, potty-mouthed, nonstop talking machine. So much so that my former IG handle was @talkslikeamachinegun and nobody batted an eyelid.

I would shoot myself in the foot more often than I already do, if I opened my mouth to talk casually in a professional setting. My casual topics are weird. I overshare sometimes. I also lack a filter. So to avoid problems, I just don’t speak.

Related: Where to Find Jobs in Manila?

Looking back because of this question, I noticed a trend. My bosses across all my internships made small talk by asking me questions, not only about my job, but about being a college kid nowadays. And their questions went pretty deep.

What was the kind of pressure we’re under? Especially when it comes to succeeding? How different is it now from their own experiences back then? What do I wish my parents did more of? Less of? What advice can I give to them as young or incoming parents?

They were either late 20s, early 30s semi-new managers who had a lot on their plate. Almost all were either single or in semi-long term relationships. None married *yet*. Marriage and family were probably on their minds too.

The teams they managed/I was a part of ranged from early 20s to early 30s, so when talking to them, I tended to follow their topics of pop culture and weekend plans. On the rare occasions that it wasn’t small talk, I’d usually ask questions about their jobs, their careers, and what did they like or dislike about it all.

Related: Help, my org work doesn’t match up against my batchmates – #DearTBC

Looking back again, I wasn’t actively thinking about what to talk about with them. I was just making small talk that meant something to me. It felt like being a reporter. Always on the lookout for a new scoop. Wanting to get some insider info for myself. Wanting to get ahead somehow.

The rare times I lead the conversation, it was always directed at their careers. I needed to know if this was something I wanted to keep doing after college, if this was a place I wanted to be in, or if I should be searching for something else. And conversations with people 1, 3, 5, 10 years into their careers at these particular companies gave me the clarity I needed.

So maybe they weren’t looking down on me at all. And maybe I wasn’t being proactive about my future or about building rapport or even about what I’d do after that internship. But across all my internship interactions, I may have thought I was just being in the moment but looking back, I was subconsciously looking at my future through them.

Because I ended up not working anywhere I interned for.

Related: Work With Me – Resume Consultation


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.

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About Justine

And if you want to know more about me, or about TBC, read my bio! You can also reach me at justine@thebordercollective.com Or connect with me over Twitter, IG, and LinkedIn, @justineltchua there.

Hope you read something useful, til the next time I write something, bye~


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