We live in a country where employer perceptions of student’s skills are at an all-time low. We aren’t judged as much by our actual proficiency in any given field but by how populated our CV’s are and therefore while you may technically be an Economics graduate if you’ve managed to amass enough “Marketing or Business Management” internships then you’re actually the perfect candidate for a Human Resources position at Hamad and Sons Co. The path to a decent job therefore is through a passable internship and without at-least one on your CV you might find yourself in a hassle come senior year. The following is a somewhat comprehensive multi-step guide on how you can get an internship and more importantly survive your time there.
PHASE 1: GETTING THE INTERNSHIP
STEP 1: APPLYING FOR INTERNSHIPS
The earliest you can actually start applying to intern at decent firms is in your third year of university. There are exceptions but this is the normal route. In your spring semester of your junior year you should start searching for places to apply. Normally your university would send you emails of places you can apply but if they don’t you can safely assume that every big company in Pakistan has an internship drive so the easiest way to find desirable internships is to Google those internships away. If all goes well you should be able to find al-least 20+ internships to apply for.
Applications differ by their nature and mode. Some will just have you send an email to different people with your CV and a cover letter, some will have you fill an online application and some might have a mixture of both. The best advice I can give you is to have a generic email ready that applies to all of them and if on the other hand you feel strongly about some internship then make a new one from scratch. Also, if you use my generic email advice then be sure to change the name of the Company when applying, a piece of advice I overlooked on multiple occasions.
Don’t be super picky when choosing internships at this stage. Apply everywhere and I mean everywhere. Aim as high as you want but realize the fact that you aren’t really anything worthy of desire as of yet and that while you may want to work for PNG or Google, they have little reason to want you. Aim high but set your bar a little lower than you would otherwise want to. I applied to more than 30 internships and only got into 3 so that should tell you the kind of odds you will have to face. Another important thing is to not be picky about departments. While I can understand that you might be a marketing major and wouldn’t benefit from anything in HR but as long as you get the internship you can mold your experience into something that is all about Marketing, in short you can lie. I’ll talk more about this technique near the end of the article but the gist is keep your options open.
STEP 2: TESTS
There are very few internships that choose people based on their CV’s alone. Almost all of them have follow up tests and these form one of the two main obstacles in your path to your dream internship. These tests, while not hard, are very hard for anyone who hasn’t taken any standardized tests. An average test will ask you do 50 of the most obtuse multiple-choice questions in half an hour. Normally they consist of Math, English and Logic or some Logical Patterns.
There are three ways to pass these tests and I’ll go through them in order of the integrity one would need to pass them. The first and the hardest is to practice as much as you can a few months prior to and during your spring semester and if so the tests will be a cake walk for you. The second is to follow the A-C-D method where you do what questions you do know and choose A-C or D for the others, this method while stupid on its face is tried and tested and the best internship I got was through this method. That said, only use this when you’re certain you won’t be able to finish the questions in the remaining time.
The third and most decadent method is to cheat. It’s the easiest and gets the most results and seeing the amount of pressure on an average junior to get an internship it’s not completely unjustified either. As for how to cheat, either sit near a friend in the test and if it’s online get your cheetah friend to do it for you.
STEP 3: INTERVIEWS
If you are among the lucky few who make it to the next stage you get to the far easier, or harder depending on who you ask, of the process and it’s also normally the final one. The simplest way to do well on an interview is to sell yourself the best you can while sucking up to the person(s) interviewing you as much as possible. A few simple tips for doing well are mentioned below.
To start with, dress as best you can but also dress according to the organizations. Ideally you shouldn’t go full formal, which for guys would be wear everything but the coat. Girls can wear anything and call it formal so I’m lost for the other gender.
Go through every point in your CV and make connections with how you can connect it to your internship and desired department. If need be remove something that you feel doesn’t fit. They will normally ask you at-lest one question about what’s on your CV so it’s best you have somethings. Apart from that have some relevant background knowledge prepped about the company which includes any recent news of all kinds. Also go through relevant trends of the department you are applying for. Practice in-front of people if possible.
The following are just some general tips. When they ask you for an intro tell them more than just your name, add your goals, why you want to intern, keep it short but not too short. If you don’t know the answer to a question then don’t panic, either ask them for a moment to think or tell them that you don’t know but will look it up, or you could try making some excuse but be careful not to make one that sounds too stupid. When the interview is over ALWAYS ask them something even if it’s something you already know the answer. Apart from that you can pre-meditate some questions and think of answers to them, you’ll find many online.
That pretty much ends the first main part of the process which involves you getting an internship. The process is fairly tedious as well as just downright difficulty and many times even physically demanding. The junior year phase normally causes a lot of students to fall into despair on many occasions because of the lurking possibility that they won’t get one but you’ll find soon enough that almost everyone gets a decent internship somehow so just keep your head down and keep on applying to wherever possible. Almost everyone I know who was with me in my junior year was down in the dumps throughout most of their spring semester and now without exception everyone has a good internship. It will work out, it almost always does. The least and ironically most you can do form your side is to try.
Note: I forgot to mention that in many cases companies don’t have internship drives but instead have contests that you have to participate in and if you win they extend an offer. You can find them just the same however.
PHASE 2: SURVIVING THE INTERNSHIP
So, before I get deep into my tried and tested techniques for not getting bored to death at your new place of work it’s worth knowing that there are actually two types of internships that you could do and they will either be your own choice or will be forced upon you by your supervisor.
The first one and this is the type that is prevalent in Pakistan is the CV Population Internship (CPI) which as the name suggests will only really help you adorn your CV with a company’s name and nothing more. There is very little learning to be had at this internship and you’re basically just there to waste their internet and electricity. What’s also worth noting is that there are ways that you can also willingly mold your internship into this kind because there will be times where you’re not really interested in working but just want a certificate and if so you can strategically manipulate your environment to land an internship where you have to do next to nothing at all.
The second one is well an actual internship where there are actual but limited learning possibilities. This is the preferable kind of internship for most juniors especially if you actually want to work there. Also since this is the ideal internship I’ll go through this one first.
Before I start, it’s worth noting that an internship in Pakistan is pretty much only as good as you can make it. There is value to be gained even in the worst internship if you’re willing to take the necessary steps. Even if you get a CPI you can still ask around for work and will eventually get it and on the other hand you could have the best internship in the world but there are ways you can slow it down so in short, it’s really all on you. Keep as low expectation as possible and be prepared to have interviewed for something only to get work that hardly resembles what you interviewed for. Either way, let’s get started.
THE IDEAL INTERNSHIP:
Step 1: Analyzing the Office:
Once you get settled in take the first day to analyze the office. Find out who you can ask for work and would prefer to be seen. Find who the most senior personnel in the office are and try and talk to them so they know who you are. Check what times people come and go so you can chart out your own effective times for arrival and departure. Talk to whoever at least facially seems affable enough. Find a place to sit where you can be seen by as many important people as possible so that if they ever do need any menial task done you’re the first that comes to mind.
Step 2: Be Professional and Punctual
I don’t need to say much here. Put all those business school courses into practical applications. Dress well, be punctual, talk to people with their proper titles and speak clearly and loudly. Use your please and thank yous. Try to absorb the culture of the place you’re working and emulate it as best possible.
Step 3: Be Over Eager (Ask for More)
Take as little time to do as much work as possible and ask for more the moment you’re done. Don’t waste time if you can help it and even if you don’t have much to do at least try to either always appear busy or eager to work. If you run out of work go ask other people who work close to you for anything an intern might be able to do. Try to talk to your supervisors and the higher ups as well if not during office hours then in the morning when they arrive and in the evening when they leave. Suck up as much as you can to them without any exception. If you can plug yourself in anyway next to a supervisor or higher up then do so e.g. try and have lunch with them since that’s good face time and maybe free food too.
One tip I’ll state here is that being honest can be tricky at times. If you have work that you aren’t sure how to do then think twice before asking a superior. If your superior seems friendly enough and actually encourages questions then by all means ask him but if he’s a strict operator then Google would be a better source. This is a judgement call every time so be careful when making it.
To put it simply. During your time there you should try to make enough of an impact that they miss you when you’re gone and actually remember you for as long as possible.
THE CV POPULATION INTERNSHIP:
Now whether you get an internship like this one or if you’d prefer to make yours into one like this there are simple steps you can take. The following are just a few tips you can take.
Make a small profile of when people arrive and leave and the kind of people they are. Certain people will by nature be against interns slacking off while others will be okay with that sort of behavior so carefully monitor your environment on the first day and then work from there.
2-Take Your Time:
If given any work then ask when it’s due and hand it in not a minute lesser. When handing it in make it sound like you had to go through great depths to finish the work on time.
Even if you’re scrolling the internet or watching your favorite show if you know someone’s watching have a notepad nearby and sporadically write something on it. Also try to look around in a way that if anyone’s watching it seems like your eyes are darting from place to place. The ideal image is one in which from far you look like you have a job which while very important also requires you to do nothing which is basically what an internship is.
4-Take Frequent Breaks
After every hour go to the toilet or take a prayer break. The toilet seat will most likely have better lumbar support then your chair so it’s wise to take a break every now and then. You can also take a regular namaz break and since we’re in a liberal world now they won’t ask if you’ll actually pray. You could be an atheist but you’ll still get that break. Also, take as long a lunch break as humanly possible according to the timings exhibited by your fellow employees.
5-Make Excuses to take Days Off
Think of creative excuses that seem legitimate but also cannot be fact checked either because of it’s impossible to check them or because it would seem insensitive to do so. The simplest one is e.g. I have to get a certificate from my university for an internship I did there before this one. It would be very tedious for them to go through the effort to check the veracity of your statement so you’re sitting pretty.
6-Find the Ideal Spot
Try to find a spot where you can be seen as less people as possible. The ideal would be one where you can see everyone but they can only see you front on as opposed to from the back. If you can find such a spot then you can do whatever you want on your laptop and desk since no one can check up on you. If you can’t however find the dream spot then try to have only one tab open of your desirable procrastination material and the other of any seemingly innocuous tab. Then do the alt-tab magic to switch whenever you know someone is approaching.
THE SILENT MOUSE
Regardless of what type of internship you get and the kind of workload you’ll have you will inevitably find yourself with a fair amount of free time. The problem with doing anything on your laptop that is that your mouse is normally fairly loud and will more often than not give you away. Mouse clicking is almost synonymous with someone enjoying themselves.
On the other hand, the things I do on my laptop do require a lot of clicking and these range from gaming to editing etc. So just out of a passing fancy I Googled whether there were any Silent Mice available and well let’s just say I did my fair share of gaming over my last internship.
I’ve been using the M330 and so far, have not noticed a peep from the mouse. The only way I can actually hear the click is if I put the mouse next to my ear and then click but apart from that all I receive is tactile feedback on click but no noise. It’s also ergonomically designed making it easy to use for office work as well as for what you might otherwise use it for.
For someone who’s done a fair share of internships there is no doubt about the undeniable truth that there will always be days when you just don’t have work. However, the rule of the corporate world is that regardless of the apparent lack of workload you still have to live through the drudgery so you can finally go back home and be in the pajamas you missed all day. The main drawback to using your laptop for anything remotely enjoyable is the loud clicking noise your mouse would undoubtedly make. Now however, for a humble price of PKR 2,250 you can pick up the tool to boredom alleviation and enjoy a wireless mouse of the finest calibre (read caliber).
So, if you want to do anything that requires clicking your mouse repetitively with great force and also if you want those clicks to not infuriate your colleagues then these mice are golden for you. How you use this gift however is completely up to you.
Now with all that said and done I’ll give you my two cents on what internships really are. In all honesty, they have very limited value to offer but they do give you some experience of what life in an office is life so you have the opportunity to learn from the professional demeanor of those around you which you can later emulate in life if need be. You also get some experience of deadline driven work in the work place.
The more valuable part is the fact that you get something to talk about. Even if you have an internship in HR but want to work in Finance go ask the Finance intern or better yet his supervisor if possible of a run-down of any project that the company is doing so that if you do apply for a job there someday you have some insider knowledge. Go talk to other interns so you know the kind of work being done in any department. Very few people really know what kind of job they’ll eventually do so it’s good to have as much company knowledge as possible.
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