Friday, July 4, 2014

How Important Is It to Have Interned? (Translated from

Internships have become a common element of the conventional college experience. A pessimistic job market, following the 2008 financial crash, have lead towards mounting pressure to intern. However, how important is is to join an internship program? How do you find an internship? What is the use of an internship? In May, I provided some answers to these questions at Yet, due to a shift in readership, I wrote the post in Bahasa Indonesia and English.

Ultimately, the issue of interning is universal, especially in a globalized world. Hence, I proceeded to translate it to English. Enjoy!

Internship for the Future

"Do we really need internship experience?" the question comes to my mind as I stood a few steps away from the tent where the annual Job and Internship Fair was held. Like many other students, my days were packed with classes, club activities and school work. Finding the time to meet friends or explore New York City has been a constant challenge, let alone participating in an internship program. Slowly I browse various booths assigned to various companies and organizations, including NBC, a well-established television company in the United States; Penguin Group, a major international book publisher, in addition to several non-profit foundations. Although I have a background in writing, global health, psychology, and theatre, I did not have clear professional goals. The word 'internship' already felt so awkward that I could not even utter the word 'job'. In less than an hour, I left the tent with some brochures and pack of business cards.

A few weeks later I decided to apply to Michael Kors, a fashion design house in Manhattan. Communication issues resulted in a fruitless pursuit. More importantly, I lacked the passion to “lean in”. The next year I applied at (RED), a nonprofit organization supported by musician, Bono, and large technology companies, such as Apple. Again the proposal was rejected due to scheduling difficulties. Without a clear direction and a back-up plan, I struggled to keep the paranoia at bay and avoid concerns related to the consequences of my limited experience on my professional future.  

Essentially, an internship experience may add some weight to one’s job application or graduate school application. Elevated global competition has resulted in increasingly strict job and graduate school entry requirements. Most companies and schools look for students who already have some work experiences. Apprenticeships are often held during the midyear vacation. Many Indonesian students abroad who return to Indonesia will try to gain some experience in urban cities such as Jakarta.

In the summertime, I spent a few weeks in the classroom, taking summer classes. More than a year ago, I studied at New York University, where I met my first internship boss. Although she was not looking for an internship at the time, I took the initiative to ask a couple of weeks before the program ended. Fortunately, based on the performance I showed, the professor accepted my application. Soon, I joined her research team at the NYU Child Study Center. In September 2013, I began my unpaid internship, since my visa did not allow me to work. However, I successfully negotiated to become the last author of any papers or presentations I was to be involved in.

Although I had to budget daily round trips from Bronxville to New York City and missed my lunches on campus, I have garnered some experience and distinctions that have proven useful when applying for graduate school and participating in research. A few strategies to consider during an internship are to demonstrate negotiating skills and enthusiasm for learning. Being a team member who is consistently on deck and performing well helped me acquire more responsibility to process data, write articles and putting together presentations for academic conferences.

Internships usually require a lot of time and commitment. Look for an exciting and challenging job is salient as its purpose is to learn obtain new skills and explore a certain field or profession. An internship could be a stepping stone to your bigger goal, remain open to new tasks and do not hesitate to speak with a supervisor or mentor about your professional goals.

Here are some pointers:
1. Always have your resume/CV up to date, neat and attractive.
2. Often, universities will prepare students with workshops or job/internship fair. There are some schools that have a network of alumna and organizations to connect students with internship and job opportunities.
3. Research the job and company that you are applying to. Find out the qualities sought by the company by looking at the staff’s profile.
4. After sending the application, often the organization will contact the applicant within a few weeks.
5. You may receive rejection letters, so do not be discourage. You may also receive a job offer directly or invited for interview. Practice with a friend, teacher or career advisor at your school to prepare. Try to think of questions to ask and answer. Do your best during the interview and after that, it's good to send a thank you and follow-up email.

Internship is not a mandatory activity, but with increasingly intense competition, it's good to prepare for the future by undergoing internship. Based on my experience, interning has provided an opportunity to learn and achieve several aspirations that have helped me to continue to graduate school. Hopefully the tips are useful for you! Good luck!

*All of the images were supplied by the author

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