How An Internship Can Either Make or Break You: An Intern's Story
by Christina Martin
(Bangalore, Karnataka, India)
In the Indian context, summer jobs and internships are not a very big deal as in the west. The general trend is that students only intern to earn credits or to fulfill a part of their degree. But internships can be a big deal and I only realized this during my six month stint at Thomson Reuters. Although this is a success story, I understand that there is a flip side to everything and that an internship can sometimes be an unpleasant experience because of a variety of factors. There are, however, a few essential ingredients which when blended well result in an effective internship programme, one that either makes or breaks you. Having said that, this is neither a manual for creating an ideal internship programme nor a set of instructions on how to make the most of your internship. It is only an account of how an internship can help one get a peek into the corporate world, learn a lot about oneself, make the transition from student to employee, and of course kick-start one's career on a great note.
Right from the start, I felt like I was a part of the Talent Acquisition team and a small part of Thomson Reuters as a whole because of the way they made me feel. In fact, even an email was sent out to the Human Resources team in India, introducing me to the larger team. I was also given an orientation by the Head of Talent Acquisition, India. Since I would be interacting with several job applicants in the following months, it was important for me to get clarity on the business. My manager then explained the structure of the Talent Acquisition team, a gist of what my job would involve, what I could expect during the internship, who my mentor would be and so on. If an orientation isn't done well or enough effort has not gone into teaching an intern everything they need to know about the company and their role, there would be a disconnect between the two sides. The fact that even senior leaders at the firm made time to patiently explain these details and address questions/concerns was incredible. A warm welcome and a thorough orientation instills a sense of belonging and responsibility, and motivates one to give in their best.
"You are just like any one of us"
A few weeks into the internship, two other interns and I had a video conference call with a senior manager based out of another location. He wanted us to share some feedback on our internship experience so he asked us to state one element we liked about it, one thing we did not like, and what the organization can do to make the programme better for future interns. While we were sharing, I remember him taking down notes and then sometime during the whole conversation, he said, "Please remember that you are just like any one of us. We are all employees of Thomson Reuters, the only difference is that I am in X position and I get X salary. So your feedback matters and we want to make this a nice experience for you." These words stuck with me. Though I was an intern, I was treated like one of them and that helps an intern have a true corporate experience and be prepared for work life even before their first real job. Being allowed to take part in team meetings and lunches also made me feel included. These are only highlights; there are many other instances all of which I cannot mention for want of brevity but I learnt that Thomson Reuters takes their internship programme very seriously and they go the extra mile to invest in an intern.
Mentor + Manager + Members
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” - Benjamin Franklin. Teena Savant, my mentor, did not just slide off make-work or give me a task because she already had a lot to do. She involved me in almost everything that she did. I am not sure if she has mentored anyone before but she definitely did an exceptional job with me. One of the keys to an effective internship is having a mentor, and not just on paper, but someone who lives it out, who cares enough to teach/train you and guide you throughout. Teena did not have a set time every day to meet with me and teach me recruitment. If she was going to interview candidates, or if she was working on Taleo, or if she was entering details on a report/tracker, or if she was handling a walk-in drive, she would call me and show me as she was doing it; and the next time she would make me do it by myself. If I made a blunder, she was always patient and kind to teach me all over again. She used to take me along for lunch as well and talk to me about work, and ask me if I was liking it, if recruitment was what I saw myself doing, if there was anything else I wanted to learn, etc. If there was any doubt or concern I had about work, I knew there was one person I could count on for advice. Of course, we talked about non-work related things too, and that's how one makes a friend.
I was also blessed with wonderful team members and an understanding manager. There were five of them apart from me and they handled recruitment for different businesses. I learnt a lot while I worked with each of them at different points - not just about work but even about them - to always be professional, to handle a crisis calmly, to keep trying and not give up, to make time and help a colleague in need, to always stand united as a team (even if it is a restaurant choice!) and many other valuable lessons. My manager, Jyothi Keshavan, was also instrumental in moulding me for the start of my career. During our weekly catch up sessions, she provided me with constructive feedback for my improvement. She made sure that I kept learning more and more. I remember in the first few weeks, she made it known that she was approachable by telling me several times, "Christina, please tell me if there is anything wrong or if you are not okay with something." I also liked how Jyothi involved herself in the team's interests (she used to ask me about the latest news on cricket, who was playing the next match in the World Cup, which team I thought would win), how she cared about each member's wellbeing and how well know knew each person.
The purpose of an internship is to learn and gain experience. It can be scary initially to do something new for the first time but it builds self-confidence over time which is why they say that every expert was once a beginner. And mistakes are bound to happen when you are a beginner but it is okay as long as you learn from them. This is another one from the assortment of lessons that I learnt during my internship. I am grateful for the fact that I was trusted with the same task after a blunder and as a result, this challenged me to be more responsible and careful the next time. Whether it was handling a walk-in drive on my own, or raising a requisition on Taleo or interviewing candidates or anything else, I am glad that I was given these opportunities to learn and realize that recruitment can be fun.
So an internship can help add to your experience, build your network, and help you realize if you really want to start your career in that direction. It can be more than just earning credits for your degree
This is my story. What's yours?