Hey guys, just a little tip from someone who suffered from a bad internship last summer. We tend to think that we should be satisfied with any internship that we get because we are merely students, but it’s not true. You get to choose an internship too. And believe me, there are bad internships. And especially if you are aiming to work at a smaller company as an intern, remember to scrutinise the people working there and whether they have a system or not. Strange, huh?

But some companies really don’t have any system. I took up an internship in a quite rushed timeline because I couldn’t make it for an overseas internship last minute. So I didn’t have time to look carefully into the company’s structure and thus I had a horrible experience. My fault completely. The company had no structure, communication was nearly impossible, and I didn’t have any seniors in my area of work so I had to explain every area-specific details to my boss who didn’t have any of that knowledge. Basically, I had to deliver some product in a short span of time, with no guidance, no training, and no project management. I had to do all three for myself.

You might think that internships are for you to learn. They are. But you should have SOME sort of guidance on what you are supposed to learn, and how you are supposed to learn them. You shouldn’t be treated like a cheap (and underskilled) agency, doing ALL the work for them and learning everything on your own (if you’re at that level already, you should become a freelancer!). An internship is an opportunity to learn people skills, other soft skills, and how experts in your area do/learn stuff.

My internship was not much different from taking up a big self project with the internet being my only help. This can work for your personal projects, but it will not work for big products that are meant to be used by many clients. Your personal projects are very different from projects for companies (different requirements etc). If you have to take up a work like that as an intern, you are at a bad internship.

I still see my company trying to get interns to do everything for them – well, just watch out. I can’t mention the company’s name, but I am sure that my juniors are smarter than me to watch out. There are many many companies like this. There is a reason why bigger companies with good internship programmes make interns do small but meaningful work at a time. Of course, there are smaller companies with good structure too. You just need to talk to the people a lot and choose the right internship for you.

This post first appeared on NUS Whispers.

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