5 tips for first-time interns

WKWSCI – where I graduated from – has a compulsory semester that is dedicated to professional internships. I took on my first internship in comms in a PR agency that had many B2B clients. It wasn’t my first choice, there was a steep learning curve, but lao niang persevered and actually managed to get book prize for professional internship okay, don’t play play.

I must say I also learnt a lot from my first internship, kudos to my colleagues then who patiently guided me and also gave me the freedom and opportunity to pursue my interests!

So, along the way, some juniors have asked for advice (and my PI report…). Have decided to consolidate all my points into a blogpost: here are my 5 tips to students interning for the first time.

1. Ask questions

I think it might be very natural to think that no one is free to go through the nitty gritty with you, and thus avoid questions to avoid bugging people. This was my rule though – anything that cannot be Googled and grasped within 10 minutes should be asked.

Your seniors will know that you’re new, they’ll understand that you won’t get certain technical terms. For example – it took me many many questions before I understood what “cloud computing” was and how it worked. Asking and getting to the bottom of things helps you pick up concepts or skills faster as well – and that’s what you’re there for. To learn.

I think asking questions and eventually getting it right is way better than not asking, having them assume that you understand, and then disappointing them or getting the rap for turning in bad work.

2. Take initiative

Whether it’s offering to help out with someone else’s load of work, holding that door open, or buying those extra few tubs of tauhuay in the morning. It’s the little things that people appreciate, and of course, happy bosses make a happy worker.

Jump at opportunities you have to learn. It could mean picking up a few extra tasks and proving your mettle before you do. Go forth, do what you have to do to gain experience. Make it clear to your boss what you wish to learn before entering an internship; the good ones try their best to pave the way for you.

3. Don’t be afraid to be bored

I’ve come to realize that you’ll never escape from boring things, no matter how exciting your industry is. You will be asked to move the newspapers. You will be asked to make several trips to the printer. You will be asked to clean up excel sheets. There’s no use in griping about it. If you think about it, you’re on the lowest rung of the ecosystem – it’s true. Suck it up and take pride in what you do. Move those papers with some swagger. Arrange them impeccably. May you be the best newspaper-sorter the company has ever seen.

4. You’re not an intern, you’re an employee

That’s what your boss would probably tell you, and it’s true. I’d like to say that it’s perfectly fine to screw up – I mean, you’re young right? You’re new right?

Wrong. If no one in your company has the opportunity to mention you’re an intern, nobody would know. I think this is especially true in PR… you don’t pick up a phone and start a pitch with “Hi, this is ____, the intern at X agency…”, there just isn’t time for lengthy introductions. In fact, it’s probably in your best interest not to reveal you’re an intern – they might take you less seriously.

That said, work hard, give it your all. Being an intern is no excuse for half-assed work!

5. Be particular with presentation

I think this would be the best piece of advice I can give, that so many people overlook – interns and non-interns alike. Ok, how you present yourself is important, but this is about your work.

Whatever you’re submitting to anyone else, make sure it’s readable, understandable and presented the best way possible. Don’t succumb to the mindset that you can run through it and explain it better to the person after you submit it. It’s likely that he/she would read it beforehand, and if it’s something messy and crappy, there goes that all-important first impression.

Take the time to re-read your work before you send it off – are there sentences you can shorten? Paragraphs you can create? Does it help to bold, underline or italicize certain words? Add some colour? Would it be better to have graphic aids? This could mean putting the added effort to reformat information into tables, include a graph, lay it out in PowerPoint or even include sketches. Trust me, this would save everyone a lot of time.

Your superiors might not know what you’re doing right, but at least you’re not doing it wrong.


All the best if you’re interning somewhere and it’s your first time interning! Have fun, I’m excited for you heheehe.

2 thoughts on “5 tips for first-time interns

  1. Great tips and I totally agree with you on all points 😀
    rounding up my internship now and I’m enjoying it so much!

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