Internships are one of those things that you either really look forward to or completely dread. Unfortunately for me, I fall under the category of people who dread it and have so much anxiety around working as an intern.
This anxiety, at least in my case, came from internship horror stories I heard from friends and seniors and the way interns and supervisors are portrayed in movies.
But somehow, during the second year of my degree, I was looking forward to my internship rather than fearing it. I mean, doing group projects was already horrible, I felt like I could take on anything after going through that!
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a pandemic hit. All the students were supposed to go on and find an internship and act like businesses weren’t going down the drain. Why are we acting like companies would take in interns when they’re struggling to stay afloat?
It Can’t Be That Bad Right?
Even with the pandemic, I tried my best to stay optimistic about things. Telling myself that companies might need extra help now, more than ever. It only helped for a bit. But soon enough, I had to face the harsh reality that most companies really weren’t looking to hire anyone in this current state.
The fear really started kicking in when my seniors from university started telling me about their struggles. No one was getting callbacks!
To make it even worse, a lot of students who got hired before the pandemic were suddenly getting laid off. Some of these students were already halfway into their internships! Can you imagine putting in all that work and getting no outcome?
Before I knew it, I was one of those students— desperately looking for a company that would take me in. During my application process, there were over 51,000 Covid-19 positive cases in Malaysia. I was so sure that the University would do something to help out their students because let’s face it, we were basically helpless at this point.
Personally, this was terrifying, to say the least. Being a third-year student and the fear of having to go back to my country without completing my degree was the sad reality I might have to face.
The choices given by the University were that you either find a company by December at the latest or you finish your degree in 2022. I know my stance on this and I’m sure most of us would also hate the thought of dragging on our degree for another year.
Can Someone Just Respond Already?
With little hope, I started applying for any company I could find. At this point, I had given up on the idea of a “dream company” I wanted to work for. I was willing to work for anyone as long as I could complete my internship for March 2021 and all of my friends were also doing the same thing.
I remember at the very beginning, I was trying to keep an open mind. I’d apply for three companies every other day, thinking I would get a response. The severity of it really hit me when December came around and I still had no responses.
Suddenly I found myself applying to ten companies at a time, working more on my portfolio and practically not sleeping. Nothing can really prepare you for the mental toll the stress takes on you when plans A-Y don’t work.
I started questioning my abilities as a candidate. How bad was my CV for companies to not respond at all? At this point, I would have been relieved to even get a rejection letter. But companies left me hanging, ghosted me, making me wait desperately for callbacks that didn’t come.
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
After all the anxiety-inducing struggles and hard work, I finally got a callback. It really felt like a heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders and I could breathe again. Even with all the hassle of commuting to work, I know I’m one of the lucky few to even say I got an internship.
I don’t know if I can say I got the full experience. After working from the office for a week, I had to work from home. It felt like taking classes online all over again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, it’s pretty nice when you don’t have to commute to work every day.
I realised that travelling back and to work is not as euphoric and nice as anime paints it out to be. So, switching back to working from home had me welcoming it and thinking “no traffic, no tolls, no people!”
Working from home had its own struggles. I remember wanting to fall back to my bad habits of just laying in bed without doing anything. Procrastination truly took a different meaning when I did the dishes and cleaned every day just so I could kill some time before actually starting my work.
But once you get through this phase, working from home becomes so much easier. It’s a skill you have to acquire; like a morning routine. It’s easier to tackle the workload head-on and be more relaxed about it throughout the day.
While I got used to the comfort of working at home, it did not close me off to the idea of working at the office as well. After the MCO was lifted, I had to work alternately from the office and at home and having a mixture is not so bad after you get the hang of it. Working from home makes things easy as I get to work at my own pace and if I’m at the office it feels like it’s easier to ask for help from my supervisor and colleagues. I don’t know about anyone else, but to me, this really is like getting the best of both worlds.
Even after getting my internship, I can’t help but think about the students that had it much harder than me. There were students who had to push back their internship for 2022 or go back to their countries to do the internships. I really do feel for them. As a foreigner living in Malaysia, that fear strikes a chord in me.
It’s not like they’re leaving forever, which means they still have to pay their rent and bills while they’re back home. I know it might seem easy enough to say ‘just let go of the apartment’, but it does not work like that; the contracts bind you to keep paying for the apartment whether you live there or not. Moreover, students also go through a huge process and pay a lot of money to move to Malaysia in the first place.
Can you imagine paying thousands for a deposit just to let go of both the apartment and the deposit money as well? This is the worst situation to be faced with and honestly, no one should have to go through that kind of stress.
All I have to say is kudos to those who went through this struggle and made it out still positive about the future. It couldn’t have been easy but at the end of the day, we’re in this together.
Personal Tips From An Intern
Honestly, a lot of the stress I went through could have been avoided if someone had told me what I know now. It was only after I started working as an intern that I realised, half the work I put into it felt kind of pointless? So here are some tips and tricks I learnt from this experience that might save you guys from making the same mistakes:
Don’t just rely on University portals
First of all, I know all universities push the students to use portals. While it can be a helpful way to find out about more companies, applying through portals can make you go unnoticed. So make sure to mail the company a personal application even after you’ve applied through the portal.
Don’t slack, get creative!
Secondly, don’t neglect your CV and cover letter. We’re way past the days of having a plain boring CV with just writings of our academics and accomplishments. Get creative with it! I highly recommend using Canva to make it more colourful and inviting.
With that being said, don’t go overboard with it; stay within one colour palette and make it appealing to the eyes. Remember to keep it simple and include keywords from the job requirements. Since most companies use AI technology to shortlist candidates, you’ll have a higher chance of getting in if you use this tip.
Having a good portfolio is key to success
Another really important thing I recommend is to have a really good portfolio prepared beforehand. Personally, no one told me to do this, I didn’t even know what a portfolio was back then. I had to rush through this process after a company asked me to send it over. Make sure your portfolio is creative and would capture the company’s attention. Include your best works and always remember that visuals are important!
Getting ghosted? Remind them you’re still around.
Lastly, if companies don’t call you back or respond to your mail after a week or two, don’t hesitate to call them — check if they received your application. This can also work as a reminder and show companies that you really are keen on getting that position.
If the stress is taking a toll on you, remember that it’s okay to take a step back and analyse things from a different perspective. You never know what might catch your eyes. Even the smallest change to your portfolio or CV can get you that interview you’ve been manifesting.
After the hardships we’ve all been through these past months, it’s safe to say that things are looking better in the near future with the help of the vaccine. With that being said, we should all be prepared; brush up on your resume, put on your best interview outfit and stay prepared for the competitive job market!