To some, they might be a necessary rite of passage to fill up their resumes for better job prospects.
To others, they are a good way to gain some valuable working experience in their ideal industries.
But not all internships are made equal.
It can range from being dreadful (see: photocopying documents, making coffee), to meaningful (see: leading projects, learning skills), and somewhere in between.
This can also be illustrated by the Internship Experience Spectrum:
Today, I will be providing glimpses of my first internship experience.
While doing so, I will share some of my personal takeaways from it. Hope this inspires some good old memories of your first internship as well!
Some background information: I did my first internship when I was about 22 years old, in a small events management firm. My main responsibilities were to assist with event planning and execution.
1. Importance of Training and Development
When I first joined the company, I expected to immediately start getting down to work and learning on the job.
Instead, we had the whole of our first week dedicated to learning events-related skills and information, such as the process of planning and executing an event, the people and logistics needed etc.
We were also given novel quizzes to complete. We had to find the answers by consulting with different staff members from various teams of the company.
This training equipped us with relevant and necessary knowledge needed to better perform in our internships.
This also helped us to better understand the company and the industry, and more importantly, helped us break the ice with our fellow colleagues as well.
As a first-time intern, this emphasis on training and development was much needed. I also appreciated being given opportunities to learn from the start, and not being thrown into the fire right away.
2. Strong Team and Organisational Culture
On my first day of work, I dressed in my best office working attire, trying to leave a good impression on my colleagues.
Little did I expect my outfit to make me feel out of place.
Everyone in the office dressed casually: some in T-shirts and jeans, while others had their outfits matching their own personal sense of style.
This was perhaps a reflection of the company culture.
The company had a very casual and easy-going kind of culture. Many of us interns sought to learn and grow, while the colleagues were very willing to impart their knowledge.
There was little sense of hierarchy, with everyone sitting around each other in one big office space.
I found that this was absolutely essential, especially in a company doing events management. Colleagues often had to work together to ensure smooth running of events.
A strong team culture can only help to make things easier for everyone.
3. Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone
Throughout the internship, I was getting my hands dirty and was involved knee-deep in many of the events we organised.
Some of the most memorable ones include:
- Leading team-building activities to participants at least 10 years older than me
- Climbing on tall ladders to tie banners to tentages
- Sleeping over at an event site to safeguard the event logistics
These were things that I would have never even dreamt of doing before this internship.
Aside from the above, the internship also granted me with great autonomy in the planning of many events.
I was also involved in pitching ideas, giving briefings, as well as planning and executing critical processes for different event.
These additional responsibilities, big and small, definitely helped me step out of my comfort zone and made me more confident in my own abilities.
4. Giving Your All In Everything You Do
One of the biggest revelations from my first internship was this:
In school, what’s the worst that could happen when you screw up a class?
You would do badly and maybe fail the test, but life goes on, no big deal. You know that the difference between a pass and a fail is maybe some scolding and nagging from your parents, and perhaps just some extra classes.
But in my first internship, what’s the worst that could happen if you screw up an event?
Consider this: Tens of thousands of the clients’ money is at stake. The participation of the many different stakeholders at the event is at stake. The company’s hard-earned brand image and reputation is at stake.
So, REALLY BAD things could happen.
It was truly Do or Die.
The stakes were high. I truly had to give it my all and make the events successful, no matter what.
Be it running errands late at night, working overtime or long hours, these were all necessary to ensure that all events ran smoothly and successfully.
Giving my 100% was no longer an option, but a necessity.
This attitude I learned also had a positive impact on me in my other endeavors after the internship.
As you might have realized, the lessons I’ve gained in my first internship were in the most intangible form: organizational culture, self-development and more.
Yet these intangible lessons learnt tend to also turn out to be the most valuable lessons in life.
The internship equipped me with valuable experiences, to become a better leader and a stronger person.
Hopefully this blogpost has inspired you to reflect on your past internship(s) and work experience(s) as well.
You too can discover your own learning points and takeaways!
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(Hint: Next topic will be on the LinkedIn platform!)