Knowing what industry or type of job you wouldn’t want to work in is still a form of direction, Mr Liew Hean Wah, Senior Director at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, declares.

This, he says, is the beauty of internships – the learning goes beyond skills, portfolios and networking to allow for valuable growth and self-discovery.

To make the most of your internship, here are his biggest do’s and don’ts.

Don’t say “this is not my job”


Hean Wah notes that unrealistic expectations are the biggest obstacle to learning. Often, he says, interns are frustrated by the meaningless tasks that fall out of their job scope. Yet, these “general duties” are often “part and parcel” of working life. As an example, he recalls when a VIP visited his company – although he was an executive, he was still instructed to clean the floor.

He reassures interns that institutions have worked hard to curate a list of placements that ensure structured and meaningful learning. But it is a two-way street – interns too must realise that “although you can argue that it’s not in the job scope, as a member of the organisation, sometimes you just have to step up to help.”

Don’t say “I don’t know how”


The worst answer to give when asked to complete a task is “I don’t know how”. Instead, offer to try and proactively find out how, Hean Wah advises.

He cites an example of an intern who had been sent to Jakarta with the challenging task of expanding the company’s business into a nearby city. It was a daunting request, and there were bound to be areas the girl was unfamiliar with – she could have thrown in the towel and just said “I don’t know how”.

She didn’t. She tried and learned, emerging with new skills and an enhanced portfolio – earning the approval of her supervisors and Hean Wah in the process.

Do see the jar as half full

Imagine you are an aspiring film producer, but you are stuck in a company doing lighting work. You could see it as pointless, or you could view it as an opportunity to “talk to freelance producers, talk to production houses, see what they are doing, find out their way of doing things and network,” in sum, gaining tips for the future, Hean Wah says.

He stresses that the hard skills and portfolio are just a small segment of the internship. There are plenty of other valuable industry insights to gather, for those with open minds and discerning eyes.

Do show interest and appreciation


Besides doing your work well, you can get noticed by showing interest in the business. Find out about the other types of jobs available, request a rotation to other departments to learn more, or even ask for an opportunity for another internship at a later date, Hean Wah suggests. Also, something as simple sharing your observations and insights in a thank you note at the end of your internship can work wonders in leaving a good impression.

Ultimately, he says, you can cruise through and see your internship as just “fulfilling a graduate requirement”. But it can be so much more – why not make the most of it?

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