Written by Tan Jie Ling
It took me 5 months to land my first internship.
Looking back, my journey was the same as my peers, searching through different platforms and applying to companies that I was passionate about. I could still recall the exciting moments researching about a company and admiring their cause, while imagining myself working for them. Everything seemed attainable, as I believed that passion was key to a fulfilling career.
However, my dreams were soon shattered, not because of the challenging interviews or my university background. Instead, to my dismay, I did not possess the skill sets required by different organisations.
The challenge didn’t stop there. The same scenario kept repeating itself as other hiring managers pointed out my lack of experience to be an intern. Regardless of how passionate I was with the company culture or role I applied for, my self-confidence waned as I received rejection after rejection.
Below were some of the requirements that I came across during my internship search:
After sending out more than 20 applications, I received 3 interview invitations. I didn’t manage to secure an offer for the first two companies due to my lack of experience or skills compared to other candidates. What surprised me was the fact that “fresh graduates” were also applying for those internship positions. The third company to interview me was ServisHero – which is where I am interning right now. In case you are wondering, these were the requirements outlined by ServisHero.
During my on-site interview, I admitted that I did not have any prior internship experience. For other companies, this answer would probably put me at a disadvantage compared to other more experienced candidates. To my surprise, my hiring manager told me that it’s okay not to have any experience, because ServisHero can be my first company. That one-liner was such a confidence booster.
Throughout my internship search, I realized that there was a huge gulf between how universities were preparing their students and the expectations set by the employers. On the other hand, companies should offer more realistic job requirements for interns. According to Dictionary.com, internship is defined as:
“Any period of time during which a beginner acquires experience in an occupation, profession, or pursuit.”
In other words, an internship is meant for students to learn in the industrial settings, thus gaining experience for better career prospects in the future. In exchange, students are willing to accept a lower salary or even unpaid work. Imposing the requirements for prior experience on an intern threatens the purpose of internship in the first place.
I am very grateful and lucky for being able to be offered a position in a company that offers learning opportunities to students from different majors regardless of their experience. Nevertheless, I hope that universities and businesses can bridge this gap by making internship opportunities more accessible for students. Universities should also re-evaluate their curriculum to ensure that graduates are more readily prepared for the modern day workplace.
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