Internships Part 1: What to Expect?

By Kavya Aggarwal

Internships may not be a necessity per se but they are opportunities to gain valuable industrial experience. You can also upskill in interest areas while familiarising yourself with the working world! However, internships can be daunting. It is not easy navigating job portals, preparing for interviews and handling rejections – all away from the familiar comforts of university life.

Recently, U-Insight sat down with two engineering undergraduates who have successfully completed their semester-long professional internships. We posed questions on the process of landing an internship, their experiences as well as advice they would give to fellow undergraduates. Read on to learn more about the tips and tricks of interning straight from them! 

How does a self-starter land one’s dream internship? What are some tips?

Anshul Gupta, a Year Three Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering (MAE) student, talks about his brief stint at HP as a data analyst.

Q: What was it like sourcing for internships? Could you take us through the process? 

A: I’ll describe myself as an early bird.  I started looking for job listings in February 2020, a month before InPlace (NTU CAO’s internship portal) opened. Initially, I faced a string of rejections. However, the key was to keep trying.

I chose not to rely entirely on InPlace and took the initiative to source for suitable job roles myself by networking and emailing HR with my resume and cover letter. I even used CAO (Career Attachment Office) resources to my benefit. All this took time and patience but they were worth the effort. 

Q: You mentioned using CAO resources. Could you elaborate on that? 

A: Sure! Before applying, I booked an appointment with the Career Coach for MAE which proved to be quite helpful. We covered important aspects of writing resumes and cover letters, and went through interview tips. As many organisations have sorting algorithms, my coach advised me to use keywords strategically – a few words can make a significant difference and help you stand out!
  

Q: Let’s discuss your internship experience. Did COVID-19 regulations make a significant difference? 

A: I first joined as a summer intern as a Data Analyst. My initial briefings and onboarding happened in-person. There was a week-long training that I attended at my office. However, everything was shifted online once COVID-19 struck. The switch was immediate and I needed some time initially to get used to working online, adhering to the timeline and deliverables. Fortunately, around November, with the relaxation of certain measures, I was one of the few interns chosen to be allowed on-site. Since then, I worked two or three days from home, the rest in office.  

Q: Did you prefer working from home or reporting to the office? 

A: I liked working in office better. Some aspects of the job were better done in person such as participating in important decision-making meetings, observing negotiations and public relations. That being said, I would not mind a hybrid arrangement too. There were certain benefits to working from home. For example, it taught me how to deal with international clients and having team members who operated from different time zones. 

Q: What are your takeaways from the internship experience? 

A: I realised that certain skills were more relevant in my chosen industry, such as Internet of Things (IoTs) and data analytics. Life skills such as discipline, diligence, time management and consistency are important. Lastly, my internship helped me develop new soft skills. These include working in a diverse team, negotiation tactics, conflict resolution and cooperation with peers. 

Q. Any tips or tricks for the benefit of juniors? 

  • Identify your interests and know your direction. Use that to guide your job search. 
  • Start early – the earlier the better.
  • Self-source!
  • Once you have identified your direction, research in-demand skills and work on them to land a desirable job role.

With applications to multiple industries, refining job search is complicated for any Material Science Engineering student. Here, Shannon Lee explains how she went about doing it… 

Shannon Lee, a Year Three Material Science Engineering (MSE) student, recounts her internship with Beyonics International Private Ltd under the Material Procurement Department.

Q: Could you take us through the process of procuring your internship? 

A: Although I initially checked InPlace, the options available were limited due to COVID-19. Hence, I kept track of emails from my school. These email blasts advertised job openings in my field of study. I read these emails, found one that I liked and signed up. I submitted the necessary documents and was then invited for an interview via Zoom during which I was tested on technical knowledge. Soon afterwards, I heard from them.

Q: What were your responsibilities at Beyonics? 

A: I interned under the Material Procurement Department. Along with another intern, I was attached to one supervisor. Our main responsibilities included studying the plastics used in the company, analysing their work properties and sourcing for potential substitutes. Besides these, I occasionally worked on manufacturing-related activities and quality control. 

Q: How did COVID regulations impact your internship? 

A: Not much. As Beyonics provided medical supplies, it was deemed as an essential service so in-person operations were allowed to continue. Only meetings with suppliers were shifted online and all hands-on stuff was on-site, so I went back to the office almost every day. It was only towards the end when more permanent staff members were reporting to the office that we (interns) were given one WFH day every week.  

Q: What are your takeaways from the internship experience? 

A: Firstly, this internship has helped me envision more clearly the real-world applications of what I am studying in the classroom. It helped me to apply theoretical knowledge from university to practical, hands-on project work. 

I believe I also gained valuable experience in the plastic industry. I met with suppliers and well-known international companies in this field. 

Lastly, though I cannot divulge the specifics of this classified information, I learnt more about this industry, specifically on material characterisation and plastic properties. Basically, there are certain things you can only learn when working and I believe this experience will help me build my portfolio for my next job. 

Q: Any words of wisdom for students on internship hunts? 

A: It will be good if you explore all options before deciding on a role. In MSE, there are opportunities in semiconductor, plastics, automobiles – it is a very diverse field. If you don’t really have anything specific in mind, it will be good to study these potential industries and find the best fit. 

Also, it is good to keep an open mind. Sometimes, your work may not match your expectations. Still, you should learn, do your best and take constructive criticism positively. Those are tips from more experienced people for you to improve.

As seen from Anshul and Shannon, internships are a great way for you to build your confidence and portfolio in your desired industry. They are excellent learning opportunities that allow you to discover more about yourself, as well as what you like (or dislike!) in a job. Why not set aside some time today and check out the resources they have recommended?

Useful links:

NTU Career and Attachment Office:
https://www.ntu.edu.sg/cao/Pages/index.aspx

This is Part 1 of a series of articles featuring internship experiences. Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!