Intern Stories: Reflection of the Past

“Time spent in self-reflection is never wasted – it is an intimate date with yourself.” – Dr Paul TP Wong
We often find ourselves reflecting on the past often, be it about our choices or about different incidents that have made us who we are today. We reflect on the past to create a better future and progress in life. In this article, we have interviewed some people to reflect on their own internship journey.
The Journey

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

1. Rae-Nyse, Founder of MatcHub

I am a graduating NUS student, studying Business and Economics. Due to my chosen courses, most people think that I would be pursuing a career in the banking and finance industry. I wasn’t sure if I could do something different from what I studied even though I did not like staring at numbers. I kept an open mind and jumped at any opportunity. I had the chance to do a marketing internship at a small local firm. But after that, I realised that marketing was too deskbound and mundane for me. Interning at Unilever HR department provided me with more human interactions – something I really value! However, I felt that HR is more of a ‘support function’ and I wanted to be on the front line of the business. I then did account management at an Advertising Firm which I thought would allow me to gain the necessary skill sets I need to do what I want – relationship building and being on the front end of the business. However, it was another misfit. I thought that account management was a front-facing role and the bulk of my job would be liaising with various stakeholders, communicating with clients, performing follow-up actions, etc – something I want to explore and be an expert at. As an intern, I also hope to shadow my bosses and learn how they convince clients and manage customer relations. While there were very limited liaising tasks involved, the bulk of my work was to conduct research – something that was not my strength and not what I want to do. While I could improve my weakness and build up my research skills, it was not something aligned to my interests, career goal, or life purpose. I wanted to pursue a career related to relationship building (CRM, BD, etc). I thought that the consulting industry was not suitable for me, because I am not the most analytical person who enjoys conducting research analysis. But I ended up in such a role when I thought that the advertising industry was one that requires more creativity and communication skills that I possessed, but I was wrong. My supervisor was unpleased with my work too and I felt very lousy at that point in time. As one who always copes well with school and exams or even past internships, it was a period of my life where I thought I was worthless/useless and had lousy skills. I questioned myself if I was a deserving NUS undergraduate. I felt hopeless and thought I couldn’t do anything right/well. Eventually, I found my way to a Business Development role which I enjoyed so much and did well in, given my outgoing and extroverted personality. I now want to pursue a full-time career in Business Development; however, I lack the relevant experience or skillsets in this field. Instead, many jobs that appear on my profiles on job platforms are related to marketing or HR.  

2. Hector, CTO of MatcHub

In year 1, during my summer break, I was trying to find an internship to experience what is it like to work in a software company. I didn’t know much about what I wanted to do at that time and just wanted to land an internship. In the end, I managed to find an internship at an engineering company that deals with radiofrequency. I thought I would still have the chance to learn about software in the company however my role was very engineering-related and dealt mainly with product testing and nothing software related. I also realised that it was not possible for me to help out with the software aspect as the programmers in the company were system engineers and I had no skills in that aspect. Thus, the internship was quite different from what I hoped for and didn’t really value add in the computing aspect. Hence I find it important that interns are able to find internships that are closely related to their course. Interns themselves should also have some relevant skills required to able to value add to the company.  

3. Noel, Co-Founder of MatcHub

I’m a final year Political Science student. Throughout my university life, I never knew what I really wanted. I knew that I liked studying the world but I’m not sure where I was going to end up with a degree in Political Science. To try and figure myself out, I went on NOC*, hoping that it was the missing piece to the puzzle I’ve been trying to solve. To no avail, my first internship was not a good fit. I realised that it did not push me out of my comfort zone and I found my character not suited to a more traditional setting. Till now, I’m not 100% sure where my next destination is. Living in a world full of choices and opportunities has left me paralysed thinking about where to go next. *NOC, or NUS Overseas College, is a prestigious Year-long Overseas Internship and Entrepreneurship Programme  

4. Morris, Year 3 Chemical Engineering Student

I honestly thought I was able to go through 4 years of Chemical Engineering in NUS easily but I couldn’t. Although  I do not really know what exactly do I want, I know that I would not want a boring engineering job in the future. You see, if you don’t like something, no matter how many times you tell yourself it’s gonna get better, it’s not going to get better. The problem here is passion. In order to find out what I love, I am exploring by vlogging & researching on other ideas. When you do something you hate, you will start dreaming of doing what you love.  

5. Mary, Year 4 Engineering Student

When I was in year 2 looking for an internship compulsory as per school’s graduation requirement, I was met with an unfortunate incident. Well, you see I’m a female in engineering and sometimes things can get hard because it is indeed a male-dominated field. So I went for one of my interviews (all the way at woodlands) only for them to realise that I was a female and without interviewing me, they told me that they are looking for male candidates. Nowhere in their application did they write this nor they had the courtesy to explain to me why I might not be able to carry out this job better than a male. I was devastated. Even though I know that equality is something that is highly emphasised in the job scene, I was taken aback by the lack of equality in this company (and others as I have heard similar stories). (Name has been changed to protect her and the company’s identity)  

6. Hansol, Year 4 Mechanical Engineering Student

Sometimes finding internships can be time-consuming because you read through the job description, really interested in taking it up only to find out in the end that you don’t match what they are looking for under their requirements. This can get REALLY frustrating!! When you are not sure what you actually want to do or what you can possibly excel in, probably when you are looking for your first internship, it would be really useful if someone can help you source the ideal opportunities that can maximise your talents. There are so many types of different jobs out there and sometimes they don’t carry the meaning of the exact scope of work. We might not even know what to type in that search box because we simply do not know the exact words in the endless lists of job titles in the world. When companies list their requirements, it can sometimes be unclear how much they are willing to negotiate. For example, I often come across phrases such as “experience in sth” while also writing “fresh graduates are welcome”. If not, there are times where they write “relevant fields of study”. I really do wish someone can help you increase the number of opportunities for you by matching you to those that you will qualify for instead of sitting there wondering if you should give it a try. This will also help save some time for companies as they will receive a better batch of applicants that truly match their requirements. You’ll never have to feel that you under- or even over- qualify for a job.  

7. Robert, Year 4 Business Student

Entering university, many of us are unsure of where our passion lies as the real-world exposure provided by the school’s curriculum is often limited. As such, we often end up getting lost in the rat race, chasing the most “lucrative” job prospects without properly understanding if it is something we truly want. Everyone has a unique personality, skillset, and inclination towards different job functions, but it takes several internships to understand these things about ourselves – time we might not have. Personally, I’ve had bad experiences in roles that were not enjoyable or were limited for my growth and learning. This was due to my lack of self-awareness and visibility of the company culture and role. Hence, I believe that Matchup’s value proposition of matching students (especially Y1s and Y2s) to their best-suited internship is a huge first step in solving such a pain point. Personally, working in a company that is aligned with my mindset and allows me to value-add is the most important. With Matchup’s matching algorithms, understanding of my profile, and huge company database, I believe that it can help students like myself find the most suitable internship right from the get-go. (Name has been changed to protect his and the company’s identity)  

8. Christy, Year 4 Accountancy Student

I’ve always been interested in economics and hence took an economics degree in university, on top of an accounting degree. Yet when it came to applying for internships, I wasn’t very sure how to integrate what I’ve gleaned from economics to my accountancy degree and to achieve synergy in adding value based on these two areas. Especially considering at a junior level, internships I had access to were either economics or accountancy oriented. With the lack of experience and clarity, I regrettably had to drop my economics degree to make room for other opportunities that came along. With infinite opportunities and possibilities to make out of our university education today, I believe that we can find our ideal career if we focus on the right internships, based on our major, interests, and experience. (Name has been changed to protect her identity)  
It is essential that we understand ourselves at a deeper level. These people learnt about themselves, whether it be about what they do like or what they do not, it made them more self-aware and navigate through their daily lives much easier. In summary, their self-discovery has led us to understand a few main points:
  1. You do not have to force yourself into a career that aligns with your course of study. If what you are studying aligns with what you are looking for in a career, good for you! If it doesn’t, don’t beat yourself up. Continue finding for your true passion that will motivate you to wake up to hustle for the next few decades of your life.
  2. Always look for something that value-adds. Don’t waste your own time nor the company’s by entering a role that does not benefit either party. That being said, if you only discover that you nor the company does not value-add to either party after entering the company, try to think of the glass half-full! Find something that is valuable to you – networking, soft-skills, etc. Do not waste your own time!
  3. The world is unfair. Equality is something that is highly emphasised in today’s world. However, you might still be met with incidents that make you question equality. That does not stop from stepping out of the world; be brave and step out into this unfair world to carve your justice for yourself.
  Make mistakes and learn from them. During your internship journey, MatcHub will be here to help you through every step! Talk to us if you feel like you need some help in understanding your own passions and your career path (promise no judging!)   “Don’t take yourself, your decisions, your outcomes or even your mistakes so damn seriously. There’s nowhere special to get to and no special accomplishment to check off the list. The moment is now; the place is here; the person is you. Make choices that make you feel alive. But here’s my advice about my advice — I couldn’t have possibly done this myself when I was a new college graduate because I was Wrapped. Way. Too. Tightly. This would have sounded like loosey-goosey hokum to me, and I’d have rolled my eyes and gone back to alphabetizing my soup shelf. Truly, what I wish I’d done differently during the past 20 years is enjoyed the ride and engaged in less hand-wringing over my decisions. I wish I’d trusted myself more, trusted the universe more, trusted the love and support of family and friends more, and realized this: ‘I’m enough, and it’s all going to be great.’ Because it has been marvelous.” — Casey Brown (TED Talk: Know your worth, and then ask for it)

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