Education

From Working At A Law Firm To A Fishery, 6 S'pore Undergrads Share What They Learnt From Their Internships

An internship is like a sneak preview of your working life.

It’s a great time to learn skills that classrooms don’t teach, and apply the knowledge gained in classrooms in real life.

Internship season for most university students is over, so we spoke to interns who have just ended their stints to share about their experiences and takeaways.

Low Tze An (21), Law At King’s College London

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Image Credit: Low Tze An

Q1. What’s the company you’re an intern at, and what is/was your role there?

From early May to the end of August I worked in Kuala Lumpur as a legal intern at a family law practice called Tan Law Practice. I mostly job shadowed my colleagues and observed court hearings.

I also did some administrative tasks which included writing emails and proofreading documents. On top of that, I conducted some legal research for my boss.

Q2. Why did you choose to work in this company/industry?

I wanted to know what real legal practice was like and see what actually working as a lawyer is like.

Many of us entering Law school do not quite know what we are getting ourselves into and I think getting some understanding of private practice early on can be useful in figuring out what we want to do with our lives.

I undertook another internship as I wanted to make use of my free time post-ORD. As such, I applied for volunteer and internship opportunities while I was not travelling abroad.

While I consider myself a lazy person, I do find that being at home all day without much to do makes me quite unhappy and lethargic, so I really needed some form of a routine or schedule.

Q3. What were some of the challenges you faced, and how did what you learn in school help you overcome them?

I think working is a largely practical affair so the challenges you face on a daily basis are the mundane, miscellaneous ones. Logistical matters and administrative matters do sometimes take up your time.

At the law firm, when a client calls with an emergency such as one party in a divorce case is hit by the other in an argument the day before a hearing, lawyers will scramble to prepare all manner of documents, working from morning to night.

While most documents are submitted electronically nowadays, there is still the matter of consolidating and printing out physical copies.

There were a few nights I spent at work just binding and printing documents. In a way, there is some truth to law interns being printer boys/girls. I found that getting used to doing grunt work is a necessary part of life.

For all these things, I think what I learnt in school helped in giving a safe environment to make mistakes and learn from them.

Writing papers and doing projects taught me a range of skills which ended up being useful as an intern like researching and working with people. In a way, an internship is a deeper reaching extension of that safe environment.

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Tze An with his colleagues / Image Credit: Low Tze An

Q4. What new skills did you learn?

An important skill I learnt was to better work with other people.

I recall a moment when my boss came back in angrily at 9pm to rush some work. She called me into her office to tell me to print out three copies of a set of cases.

Being ‘extra’, I had anticipated that and had printed said cases out and bound them neatly into books.

I had even researched further and printed out a few extra cases that she could possibly choose to include but had not bound them together with the three books.

Unfortunately, she was in a bad mood and, upon seeing the loose copies, scolded me for not preparing the three sets properly. Before I could explain further, she cut me off and insisted I redo everything.

While I was slightly miffed at that time, it did teach me that the best intentions do not always result in a validation or a reward.

But I did not take it personally as she had been a good boss and was understandably stressed out by the workload.

Q5. What is your biggest takeaway about working life?

My experiences have taught me that people skills will always rank highly in whatever form of work you do.

Communication, presentation skills and relationship management are all things that factor into performing well at work.

Even researchers have colleagues and bosses to work with and that requires at least some basic form of working with other people for one to excel at their job.

Thankfully, this skill is highly transferable and can be honed as we gain more experiences.

Jolyn Seet (21), Business Management & Marketing

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Image Credit: Jolyn Seet

Q1. What’s the company you’re an intern at, and what is/was your role there?

I’m a Marketing intern at a company that sells sports and medical tapes.

Q2. Why did you choose to work in this company/industry?

I have always wanted to work in a consumer product company because it is interesting to see what goes behind the scenes in the marketing process of such products.

A friend learnt about the opening of this job from someone working there and encouraged me to apply since I was interested in the same role.

During that period I applied for more internships through the school portal or Internsg! But I was most interested in this role.

Q3. What were some of the challenges you faced, and how did what you learn in school help you overcome them?

I was very nervous before my first presentation at work because presenting to a large crowd is not my forte. Despite having done numerous project presentations in school, presenting in front of my superiors felt more nerve-wracking.

Even though it was only a five minutes presentation, I remember rehearsing at home and on the way to work. But I calmed down after I remembered how I did in school presentations, pretending the audience were my classmates instead.

Q4. What new skills did you learn?

I would say adaptation. Adapting to the company’s culture, your superior’s working style and even your colleagues’ working style is really important.

Q5. What is your biggest takeaway about working life?

Change is the only constant so I guess having an open mind helps. We won’t get to go to work or leave work in the best of moods every day but it is important to start each day on a fresh note!

I seldom fall sick but I did a few times during my internship, and I felt really bad because I’m sure no employer wants a staff who’s always on MC.

Remember to be considerate too! And don’t spread your sickness to others.

Hannah Wong (21), Public Policy And Global Affairs At NTU

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Image Credit: Hannah Wong

Q1. What’s the company you’re an intern at, and what is/was your role there?

I interned for the People’s Association and was assigned to Potong Pasir Community Centre.

Q2. Why did you choose to work in this company/industry?

I wanted to gain experience and insight working in the public sector and I felt I’d be able to learn a lot on-the-job.

Q3. What were some of the challenges you faced, and how did what you learn in school help you overcome them?

One of the challenges I faced was getting placed in a completely unfamiliar environment where the people weren’t my age group, and I had to deal with older folks as part of my job scope.

I think the skills learnt in school which helped me were really communication skills as well as how to deal with stress.

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Hannah (back, third from right in a blue checkered top) with her colleagues / Image Credit: Hannah Wong

Q4. What new skills did you learn?

I think my ability to converse differently with people of all age groups really improved. I also learnt how to face situations/ problems which occur unexpectedly.

Q5. What is your biggest takeaway about working life?

I think it’s really important to develop friendly relations with colleagues and also to have an inquisitive and eager to learn attitude so as to gain the most from a working experience.

Loy Sing Shun (23), Business Management At SMU

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Loy Sing Shun / Image Credit: Hai Sia Seafood

Q1. What’s the company you’re an intern at, and what is/was your role there?

Hai Sia Seafood, as a Business Operations intern.

Q2. Why did you choose to work in this company/industry?

As my parents are working as hawkers, I have been exposed to the F&B industry since young and have developed an interest in it. To deepen my understanding of the trade, I was looking for a relevant internship.

Hai Sia provided such an opportunity by allowing me to play an active role in its daily operations.

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Sing Shun leading the tour at Jurong Fishery Port / Image Credit: Hai Sia Seafood

Q3. What were some of the challenges you faced, and how did what you learn in school help you overcome them?

I remember feeling very lost when I was asked to do my first sales analysis because I had no prior experience processing large sets of data.

I managed to recall the formulas learnt in lessons from an Excel module I had in school. That gave me the confidence to conduct my analysis with Excel and to share my findings with my team.

Q4. What new skills did you learn?

Apart from strengthening my presentation and data analysis skills, my biggest lesson is better time management.

Initially, it was a struggle to balance out all the conflicting schedules and deadlines. Towards the end of the internship, I was able to plan and complete my tasks more efficiently.

Q5. What is your biggest takeaway about working life?

I learnt that even though it is important to be good at what you are doing, it is even more important to be able to work well with others in a team. Having a good team makes work more enjoyable and effective!

Charis Low (21), Business At NUS

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Charis Low / Image Credit: Hai Sia Seafood

Q1. What’s the company you’re an intern at, and what is/was your role there?

Hai Sia Seafood, as a Business Operations intern.

Q2. Why did you choose to work in this company/industry?

Firstly, I love food so I really wanted to understand more about where our food comes from, and Hai Sia was a perfect choice!

Since working in this industry is uncommon among my peers, I thought it would be a refreshing experience too.

Q3. What were some of the challenges you faced, and how did what you learn in school help you overcome them?

Communicating with people with the large age difference and a language barrier were challenging. But it got easier as I talked to them every day. 🙂

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Charis leading the tour at Jurong Fishery Port / Image Credit: Hai Sia Seafood

Q4. What new skills did you learn?

I learnt a lot about project management and effective communication skills from my mentors, which I believe are essential skills in any company!

Dealing with tight deadlines and seemingly impossible tasks have helped me work in stressful situations better. I also learnt how to recognise many different types of fish, thanks to my mentor who would test us occasionally. 😛

Q5. What is your biggest takeaway about working life?

A willing-to-learn attitude from oneself and a willing-to-teach attitude from a mentor is so important, and can really make the internship experience a very fulfilling one!

Yan Soo Peng (22), Mathematical Science At NTU

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Image Credit: Yan Soo Peng

Q1. What’s the company you’re an intern at, and what is/was your role there?

United Parcel Service (UPS), as a freight forwarding intern.

Q2. Why did you choose to work in this company/industry?

I was eager to look for an internship that I could apply my skills to and this company gave me that opportunity. Now, I feel like I’m more prepared for working life.

Q3. What were some of the challenges you faced, and how did what you learn in school help you overcome them?

As I am new to this field, there were terms that were used by seniors that I have never learned before in school and I wasn’t able to make my analysis better.

So, I had to do some research online to find out the meaning of those terms that they were using during our daily communication.

I also asked a lot of questions to clear my doubts.

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Soo Peng (right side, middle) with her colleagues / Image Credit: Yan Soo Peng

Q4. What new skills did you learn?

I had the opportunity to present in front of my whole team, and practice my public speaking skills. I brushed up on my Excel skills as well.

Effective communication as I was required to communicate with people from the US and Europe to get the data I want.

Due to the time difference, I had to state clearly data that I require so as not to waste time and be efficient.

Q5. What is your biggest takeaway about working life?

Working life is tough. But the sense of satisfaction that you get after completing an assignment is great!

Having Good Interpersonal Skills Comes Out Tops

Doing a good job at work is, of course, important.

But in reality, having a good working relationship with your colleagues is just as vital.

While it’s easy to pass off the experience as “merely an internship”, it reflects your personality and may affect how people at work interact with you.

As these young adults have shared, soft skills are necessary to navigate the working world along with a good attitude towards work.

Internships don’t last a long time so it’s best to make good use of your time there!

Featured Image Credit: Low Tze An, Jolyn Seet, Hannah Wong, Loy Sing Shun, Charis Low, Yan Soo Peng

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