#AskASenior: When should I plan to do an internship?

By Cai Foong, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business

I personally believe that you should start to do an internship as early as possible, e.g. Year 1 summer holidays, and also try to do as many internships as possible.

In the summer of my freshman year, I had the opportunity to intern at American Express in the Global Merchant Services business unit. My project involved market research, corporate strategy and business analysis. My most recent internship this summer was at Nestle Treasury Centre Asia-Pacific, where I was involved in cash management, foreign exchange hedging strategies and risk management.

Doing an internship in your first year will give you a competitive edge over your peers when looking for internships in Year 2. From your first internship, you would have picked up some relevant and invaluable industry experience, learnt how to adapt to a new work environment, and also gained insights into how to interact with co-workers from different backgrounds.

Perhaps you’re worried that, as a freshman, you may not have sufficient technical knowledge yet or be able add value to the organisations where you’re interning. However, most employers nowadays place greater emphasis on candidates’ attitude and aptitude, as well as fit within the organisation. This means that, if you possess the right attitude and drive to succeed, technical knowledge and skills can be easily picked up on the job as you go along.

Another reason to do as many internships as possible in these four years in SMU, is because internships are the perfect opportunity for you to gain exposure, explore and discover what you like or are good at, as well as what you don’t like. Personally, I find that having interned in two large multinational companies has allowed me to experience working with people from different cultures and backgrounds, working on cross-border deals and most importantly, to gain a better understanding of the particular industry and company.

Internships allow you to make the necessary missteps and mistakes now, and to learn from them while you’re still an undergraduate. You won’t have the luxury of time and choice to do so after you graduate and enter the workforce full-time.

Cai is a Career Champion at SMU’s Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre.  Visit their website to find out more about the career services available to you!