Young, raw and raring to go

Young, raw and raring to go

If you think that college students are just going to be chilling out this summer, you’re wrong. Many students are using their precious vacation time to get work experience that will add value to their CV, and take them a few steps closer to their dream job. 

It’s not just those students for whom internships are a compulsory course requirement; many are voluntarily opting to intern during their vacations to get some exposure, add a few months’ work experience, and even decide whether they fit into the industries they want to enter.

Students say that the best aspect of doing an internship is that they get to implement the theory they have been taught at college. Aniketh B P, a fourth- year student of Christ University’s School of Law, says: “Practical knowledge is crucial for someone who wants to practice law. You need some amount of practical experience to complement what you have studied in college. At the end of the day, what any prospective employer wants to know is how well you will be able to perform in your job.” It’s this factor that made him pursue several internships over the last three years.

Taste of things to come
Most students see an internship as the best and most effective method of “improving” their CV. Sneha Menon, a student of IIJNM, decided after the first year of her undergraduate studies that she wanted to find out, first hand, what it would be like to work as a TV journalist.  “Many people told me the stress of working in 24-hour news at such a young age would put me off the thought of taking it up as a job. But when I worked there I realised I was cut out for  broadcast journalism. This really helped me get a clear picture of what I wanted and made me decide to pursue a master’s degree in TV journalism.”

Sneha, who interned in the Bangalore bureau of a national news channel, says that interning in a small set-up worked to her advantage. “Before I began my internship, I expected my boss to ask me to serve coffee and tea, and just tag along with my colleagues when they went on shoots. But I started working right from the first day. And because I worked in the bureau, I got to do a lot of work.”

She believes that her voluntary internship convinces employers that she is serious about her field. “I went for a job interview last week. The interviewer looked my CV and said: ‘Oh, you interned there? Great!’ I was thrilled,” she recalls.

Upgrade your CV
Sheena Chaturvedi, an undergraduate student from the International School for Business and Media, is spending her summer in Bangalore working on shows produced by Miditech. “I am interning here for three months. I think it will add value to my CV if I can say I worked with Miditech, rather than merely state that I have attended classes and completed my course,” she says. She is now assisting with the creative aspects of a reality show that the production house works on. “I will be helping with pre-production and production, while contributing towards conceptualisation also. This will help me learn a lot,” she says.

Irena Chatterjee, her college mate and co-intern, feels that working at the production house will provide an opportunity to hone her communication skills. “I want to work in event management, and that involves a lot of communication. Here, I will interact with the production team and the audience. That will help me improve my communication skills for the field I plan to enter eventually.”

For the ‘hatke’ experience
Like Irena, many students feel that working in a “different” organisation works in two ways: First, it helps them learn certain skills that can be put to use later; second, it makes their resume stand out. Which is why, while his peers are busy working at newspaper and magazine offices, media student Nachiketh will intern at Kootu-k-Ural, an organisation that spreads awareness through street theatre, and provides basic computer skills and English training to underprivileged children in Pondicherry. “When you do interesting internships, it builds your CV. Most people intern with similar companies, so I think this internship will give me a different experience and more weightage,” he says.

Aniketh, a law student, feels the same way.  “I’ve interned in a newspaper because I wanted to improve my writing. The internship helped me learn how to present a lot of information in as few words as possible, which I think is important for a lawyer. I’ve also interned with an NGO, done some work at the High Court, and at an adoption agency. I’ve concentrated not just on my chosen field, but also on related fields, which will give me useful skills when I enter the profession.”

Economics graduate Varsha Venkatramani sees her internship as an opportunity to acquire some skills that will help her professionally.  “Event management is seen as a training ground for some very basic skills required in professional life such as dealing with stress, being a team player and thinking out of the box.”

An internship also gives students their first taste of professional life. For undergraduate and post-graduate students who have no work experience, this is a good way to find out what the working atmosphere is like. “I was a BBM student who switched to Communications. Interning at a radio station was a new experience. The people there are very creative and chilled out, but they work very hard. As a student, you have the luxury of changing your mind if you find out that you don’t enjoy something,” says Nachiketh. For others who have switched fields, an internship introduces them to their new line of work.

This is what you must do...
* Before getting into an internship, speak to someone in the organisation to get some clarity about what you will be doing there. Find out how it will help you learn, or what value it will add to your resume.
* Go in with an open mind. Grab all opportunities to work and prove yourself.
* Be professional. Behave and work the way you would if you were an employee of the company.
* If you have not been assigned any work, don’t take it easy. Speak to your superiors/ mentors, and ask them to give you something to do. The company doesn’t stand to lose much if you don’t work, but you do!
* Look around and try to find out what the others in the office do. You may find out that your real interest lies not in the internship you’re doing right now, but in something different.
* Whenever you have a doubt about anything, ask questions.  Interns are not expected to know everything about the profession. Asking will clarify your doubts and help you be better equipped for full-time work.
* Maintain a good rapport with the employees and your mentor/ boss. It will come in handy if you want to apply there for a job later. Don’t restrict yourself to interacting with one person. Talk to those around you. But don’t flatter them, it comes across as extremely unprofessional.
* Don’t get carried away by job offers at the end of your internship. If you need to finish studying, focus on that first. You can always get back to the organisation and apply for a job when you have finished your course.
* At the end of your internship, make sure you get a letter from the organisation stating that you interned there, and detailing the kind of work you did.

Ramya Gopalan, who has just finished her Master’s and is going to begin her internship at IBM Labs, says: “For me this internship has come at a time when I have decided to take up research as a career. I am expecting it to help me gain new insights and perspectives.”

Problem of choice
Looking for an internship is not very different from looking for a job. A few years ago, you could get into a firm and work there on the basis of recommendations alone. Today, the process is more rigorous. Some management and engineering institutions arrange for a ‘placement’ procedure in which firms interview and pick interns. In some cases, candidates get in touch with companies three months before the internship is scheduled to begin, so that they stand a better chance of getting through. Several job sites even have a separate section for those seeking summer internships.
There are plenty of options — portals like internzoo.com and Hellointern.com help interns get in touch with prospective employers, not just in India, but across the world.
 Some companies hold written entrance tests, personal interviews and group discussions before picking interns. Others screen CVs to assess whether a candidate is suitable. Companies are being more selective when it comes to admitting interns, since they would like a candidate who can be hired once he/she graduates.

Survival of the fittest
At Citrix India — which has an intensive intern programme — all prospective interns have to go through a rigorous placement procedure.  “We treat all interns as prospective employees,” says Ratnesh Sharma, Director, Product Marketing and Product Management. “We hire only the best. We want the smartest, most motivated candidates. This young, raw talent is channelised into something that the company can put to use immediately,” he adds.
In keeping with this policy, interns are not restricted to only the least important tasks. Sharma speaks of how an intern worked on identifying the accounts the company could go after in all the prominent cities of Asia and Europe. “The quality of work she did was so good, we had her present it to the CEO. She told me that so many people go through their entire careers without meeting the CEOs of their companies, but she got such a chance so early,” Sharma says.
Several companies have a mentoring system; each intern is assigned a ‘buddy’ or ‘mentor’, who helps them learn more about the profession, the company and its policies. Smaller organisations ensure that the interns constantly interact with seniors. “Our interns are often directly involved in day-to-day work. They do interact on a daily basis with the Associate Business Head and their seniors from the production team,” says Lata Pant, Senior HR Executive, Miditech.
At Miditech, a database of all interns is maintained, and previous interns are the first to be contacted when there is an opening. At firms like Citrix, interns are hired immediately after their internship is their performance is satisfactory.

Win-win situation
Internships turn out to be mutually beneficial for both the student and the organisation. The organisation gets a few more hands pitching in during that period, and a fresh perspective. V Ravi, Senior Vice-President of Travel & Shop, which hires many non-Indian interns, says, “Our interns come from a different environment. They bring different experiences and ideas. They come with a fresh perspective, and make several valuable suggestions based on their own experiences. That is very helpful for us.”
Ratnesh Sharma has a piece of advice, “As an intern, you have to be the driver. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to go back to the company, but what you learn there during your internship will be helpful. Be focused and have a goal. For employers, I’d say that you can always make your interns do menial jobs like copying paper and fetching tea. But if you treat the intern as a professional, you will be amazed at what he/ she can help you achieve.”

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