Getting the most out of Internship attachment

By Iylia Marsya Iskandar

“Oftentimes, when students ponder on the successes of Steve Jobs or even Khairul Aming, they will feel it is not within arm’s reach. However, if you have the right pathway and you are driven, and very much looking to challenge yourself out of your comfort zone, then you can be like any one of them.”

These are the words of the lead consultant, Talent Engagement of KPMG, Mr. Anil Nair cited during a career exposure webinar on “Intern 101: Business Etiquette and Professional Grooming” conducted by Communication Internship Class on 26 October recently. 

In IIUM, it is compulsory for all Communication students to undergo Practical Training or Internship attachment during short or normal semester to give them the practical exposure before they go out into the real working life. It is in fact a module to put theories into practice. 

“Do not take your internship placement as a module just for the sake of graduating, rather you should look at it from a point where you can explore something that could prepare you for your future career,” Anil Nair said. 

Internship experience differs from one person to the other. It is an endless anticipation of what to expect and what to prepare.

IIUMToday recently interviewed the Head of Department of Communication, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zeti Azreen Ahmad and Internship Coordinator, Asst. Prof. Dr. Nur Shakira Mohd Nasir to seek their views which somewhat match with the insights shared by Mr. Anil. 

According to Dr. Zeti, preparations for internship actually start from day one when students joined the university.  She shared: “Students should continue to expand their knowledge and polish up their communication and soft-skills.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Shakira said that “Internship is not a simple business”. Therefore, she advised the students to read and find out the background of the company that they seek to be attached for Internship.

Shakira told the students: “Look for the company profile. It’s very important for interns to read the newspapers or any advertisements to make sure they know the criteria and skills that the company is looking for.

They should know what it takes or required of an intern at the company so that they know what to expect when they begin their internship.”

According to longitudinal research conducted by Dr. Zeti and Dr. Shakira on Communication internship students, many interns faced problem in adjusting with their working environment. The difficulty to adjust seems more apparent among interns who did remote internship.  

Key findings of the research indicate:

  1. Students must learn how to cope with different personalities in work place setting since they do not know how authoritative and difficult their boss and supervisors can be.
  2. Accept that you will make mistakes, learn from the mistakes, and ask for feedback. It is not that making mistakes is acceptable but when that happened, do not react negatively but accept criticism constructively.
  3. Embrace and enjoy the moment because that is how you learn to network and get your fullest from your internship and build good rapport. 

“These three points are important so that you can bring something back because internship is about applying the theories that you have learned.

Internship is also the place where you enhance your professional and personal growth when you participate in the working environment,” Dr. Shakira said. 

According to the three experts, there are three tips for students to be able to persevere through challenges during their internship that Dr. Shakira refers to as the “AWA” formula. 

  1. Adaptability – If students are able to adapt with the work culture of the company, they will be able to enjoy their internship. They should have the same sense of accountability and responsibility to work towards a common goal.
  2. Work ethics – Every employer wants interns with strong willpower. Interns should be responsible. For example, they should observe time management. In universities or at schools, if students fail to submit their assignments on-time, only their marks will be affected but in the working environment, if you are late, you might lose millions or you lose a client. 
  3. Attitude – A positive attitude will lead you to be motivated and committed. Your strong commitment to work and willingness to learn new things would bring you a long way. Be part of the team and demonstrate how your role could contribute towards the Department that you are attached with.

Dr. Shakira added that internship is about dealing with other people’s emotions alongside other challenges. Thus, students should expose themselves to deal with multiple personalities by meeting new people as the skills need to be developed. 

“How to develop this? By joining student societies,” Shakira said. 

Dr. Zeti concurred with Dr. Shakira saying: “Involvement in campus activities will help equip students with knowhow skills or practical skills on top of what they have learned in the class.”

Interestingly, the research by Dr. Zeti and Dr. Shakira indicated that a high CGPA does not equate good internship experience and a low CGPA does not result in bad internship experience but good social skills such as interpersonal skills and a pleasant attitude will ease students’ internship that could lead to fruitful experience.  

An internship might sound daunting especially when students have little to no experience in their field. However, Rome was not built in a day, fairy godmothers do not exist and Steve Jobs was rejected by all 30 companies that he applied to join.

Students therefore need to undergo their internship with the right mindset to learn and do the necessary legwork to elevate themselves. The journey of a thousand successes begins on the first day of their internship.***

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