Fresh out of school and with little work experience to speak of, students often have two big questions. The first, “How do I make myself employable?” and the second, “What if I don’t know what I want to work as?”
These sentiments are perfectly normal, 20-year-old Chen Siyi shares. The third-year GBBA student at ESSEC, who is currently on her third internship and counting, believes that this is the benefit of internships: it gives students the time to explore at a time when there is little to lose.
Finding a Good Company Fit
What is more important is to understand the job scope, Siyi says. She looks at the skills employers require and considers if she can fulfill their needs. She also asks herself if the potential role will teach her anything new.
For example: “If I’ve done a marketing internship before, I might look at the tasks for the new one. If the job scope overlaps, then to learn more, I might find another one with a different scope.”
She also recommends being open to smaller companies. In her experience at start-ups, the limited resources will allow interns to take ownership and experience work in different departments.
20-year-old Alexandre Loo, a French national who lives in Singapore, shares a similar experience. Working at a boutique consulting firm gave him plenty of hands-on experience in reading contracts and conducting negotiations with clients.
Having interned in more prominent companies, the main difference is that in small ones, “You have more responsibilities. It’s a whole new learning experience and you’ll also be able to do work that is quite important for them.”
For real-world experience and lessons outside of the classroom, one advice is to take on at least three internships to develop your competitive edge.
Take the Initiative to Learn
To stand out at companies, you have to show initiative and determination, as Siyi did by embracing on-the-job learning and owning the work given to her. When she began interning at the IT department of BOSCH Singapore, she had to get herself up to speed by reading up on meeting minutes and looking through all the documents she had access to as a form of “self-study.”
She believes taking ownership means finding out the “why” behind each task. No matter what task is given, she says, “ask yourself why they want you to do that, and how they are going to use this information,” as this will help you see the overall picture and contribute the most.
Don’t Rush the Process
As for how to become more employable, one of Alexandre’s key factors lies in building a solid LinkedIn profile. A strong profile will attract recruiters, so take the time and effort to do it properly, he recommends.
Likewise, efforts are needed on the networking front — fourth-year Indian student Simran Hathiramani adds. With six internships under her belt, she attests that maintaining these relationships shows initiative and that you’re not just “job-hungry.” Her effort led to a company remembering her and approaching her once a vacancy freed up.
Ultimately, the 21-year-old recommends “keeping an open mind.” After all, three years ago, when she left Kolkata, India, to study in Singapore, she had no idea she would be pursuing a career in the finance sector. Today, her certainty is owed to the time she took to explore diverse roles and industries, which gave her a solid basis for comparison.
As Siyi says: “Just go for it, you have nothing to lose but everything to gain.”