|From my final internship with my awesome intern friend. We were working at a factory and this was our last day so we thought we’d immortalize our experience with a picture in front of the forklift|
This whole week is ‘5 Days Of Career’ on the blog where I’m sharing profiles of super relatable and confident working women, tips from HR pros, workwear inspiration and a whole lot more.
When I announced ‘5 Days of Career’ on the blog, I got a bunch of emails from young girls asking about internships and picking college degrees and just getting started on this working thing. I teamed up with Atiya (she interned with me just a few weeks ago, remember?) to share all her wisdom on internships. Atiya got a Fulbright scholarship solely on the basis of her multiple internship experience so she’s the perfect person to talk this with. She created this detailed Q&A to discuss all her advice and tips with us, so lezzz go.
Why intern now when I will get a job later?Hold up – during your undergraduate career, you will get numerous summer and winter breaks. If you are in a private university in Pakistan, an internship will probably be a part of your curriculum. Make use of those breaks. When I was 17, I did an internship at a popular young woman’s magazine in Karachi. The summer was long, there was usually no electricity at the office but for seven weeks that summer I was happy. My friends were all going through some drama that I was blissfully unaware of because I was making new friends and doing what I loved: writing. What is the point of this story? I realized I wanted a career in journalism. I ended up deciding the course of my bachelors during that one summer. Being self motivated then helped me decide my path for later. When you are young, you have time to dabble. Most employers look for people who have had some interning experience so they know what skill set you are bringing as an employee.
Check with your school’s career counselling office. If not, there are internships always open in media houses, you can apply for reporting, designing, editing, taking photos. In fact, newspapers and magazine offices are the best places to learn because they actually do not send you for coffee runs, but make you do a variety of tasks. Other than that, there are digital advertising agencies, law firms and then multinationals, like Unilever and Lakson, that take on interns. Other fabulous places to intern are startups. You can check with Plan X and Plan 9 in Lahore and The Nest and Carbonated TV in Karachi and you will learn behind the scenes of how startups are funded, what are the technicalities behind running them, how many sleep-less nights are involved. I am mostly kidding about the last one but for places which have young, dynamic entrepreneurs, startups are the way to go.
Every internship has something to offer. I once interned in an advertising activation agency and I thought it had nothing to do with mass communication (which is what I did my bachelors in). I ended up writing their brand awards publication and found out how data is analysed and organized in Excel sheets. Overall, the experience was a good two months of writing and managing the project and I enjoyed it very much. So even if you are in a work environment that is different from your expectations, make the most of it.
No! Regarding the internship I did at 17, I started calling in May and did not hear from them. I kept at it until someone picked up and agreed to an interview. And this was 2007. People are much better at responding to emails and phone calls now so you have no excuse to not keep trying.
I got the internship! Now what?
Congratulations! Now get up in the morning, dress like you would in a professional work environment and show up on time. I know this sounds like basic advice but it bears repeating. The more you treat it like a real-life job, the more you will let your employers see you as a potential employee. And besides a good work attitude will take you a long way so work on that desk manner.
In the first few days, it may seem that you are not getting to do much. That is because your employers are also figuring out tasks for you to do as you become used to the work environment. You can start by getting to know everyone’s names and what they do. Something I have learned is that it is best to participate in conversations if the place is an open place work space. I used to keep quiet because I did not want to intrude. Now, I wish I had been more forthcoming, it would have at least let the team know what I was capable of.
Internships are the best way to dip your toes in different fields. You may decide you want to pick one of these fields to work in or you may find that you do not want to do a particular thing at all. Either way, four to six weeks is not a long time commitment and you emerge learning something. So make the most of your internship and good luck!
Some other stuff that we should talk about:
1. How does someone, whose parents aren’t so focused on girls education, convince and get support to go abroad for a degree?
Keep at it. In most cases, once your family will see that you are very serious about your academic goals, they will eventually come around to your way of thinking. Get all the help you can get. Join Facebook groups that talk about standardized tests, funding and how to write a killer personal statement. Make nice with your professors and employers so you have excellent letters of recommendation. Do whatever it takes to convince them and for that, you need to show that you are motivated and dedicated to your academic and personal growth.
|Right after getting my first job after my final internship. This was a fake photoshoot at work, lulz.|
Shehzeen: Even if you end up picking a degree you find yourself unexcited with (because let’s face it, most of us are pretty stupid at that age), don’t let that stop you from going after the job you think you could like. Do an internship, get a small job there to get your foot in – if you didn’t pick the right degree, don’t let it dictate all your future activity.
3. What are the important things that I should do if I want to be picked for a degree outside of Pakistan?
The main thing you will have to focus on is your ability to read and comprehend English. Standardised tests like the IELTS, TOEFL, SAT and GRE mostly focus on language and mathematics. It is an unfortunate thing that these are the only areas all humans who ever apply are tested on because these aren’t the only things one is intelligent in. That said, your ability to communicate in English and branching from that, your ability to think and write analytically are the core areas you should focus on when wanting to pick a degree outside Pakistan. To do that read extensively and a wide variety and take liberal arts courses like sociology, literature and world history to develop your skills in forming an argument and defending it. Experiences like internships and passion projects like a blog or a student film or a starting a business; these are things that will make your application stand out so always have hobbies and interests that are outside of school and related extracurricular activities.
Shehzeen: If you can’t do proper courses, read interesting books. Watch the right TV shows. Invest in yourself. Half the battle is lost when you allow yourself to whine that I didn’t have enough opportunities or someone stopped me.
– Partner up with a friend during college to get internships together. This doesn’t mean that you go to the same organization but that you would attempt the process together. Having your friend doing the same thing as you keeps you motivated. Its hard to commit to applying to different places if your friends are out watching movies (which should also be done, of course). Company matters.
– If you can’t find an official internship, find someone who has their own setup and ask them to let you observe and do off jobs. Someone has a small shoe business, go learn how it’s done. Someone has a small home décor store, go ask to be the store help. Ask your parent’s friend’s chacha’s son’s sister’s small business to incorporate you somewhere. If you want it, you’ll find it. The point is to learn, understand the value of creating finances (even if it’s unpaid) and to refine yourself for a future job interview and/or life.