A nightmare for interns

It’s that time of the year. All over the country, students in their final year in the university are sent out to different organisations for their internship or on-the-job training. Just like the two previous years, a couple of students made the mistake of being assigned under my mentorship and although most companies don’t have a structured training programme in Oman for interns, I developed one — at least to those assigned to our organisation and to me personally.
Rarely had I been disappointed with the new breed of Omani students. Those who come into the office, students trying to complete their degrees in Journalism or Marketing, have several common traits — they are ambitious and they have a clear direction of where they wanted to be and for young people with so much passion and zest in life, I know how it feels not to gain the knowledge one hopes to learn in such a setting.
The training isn’t simple. The first four weeks are dedicated to refining their storytelling abilities. Most of them learned the basic of writing from their university but just because someone knows how to write doesn’t mean they will immediately land a job especially in media.
Job hunting these days, after all, is a competition. For those who’d like to pursue a career in what they’ve studied for, for one vacancy, there are 10 or more other people who want to land the job and my goal is to give my mentee a good fighting chance to get them.
Refining their storytelling abilities means opening their eyes to the reality. They are told that they have to up the ante — that writing something basic doesn’t get something printed on the newspaper. They are trained to be hypercritical, to have multiple-stories all at once told in different perspective. They are taught on how to develop a story, reminded of the importance of not copying someone else’s work, of the importance of talking to multiple sources and they are taught the beauty of how it is to be creative. Above all, they are told to find their voice — their own personal style and flair in writing. All of these may sound easy but they are real challenges, a nightmare even especially if you don’t know what you are doing, and this year, the two under my tutelage are doing a great job.
I made my interns work harder than they ever did compare with when they were in the university. The school system has four years; I only have 8 weeks.
And story after story, they delivered. Some got printed and some were rejected. Some returned to be rewritten. Some pushed to be developed. But there is no such thing as giving up. Together, we were building their portfolio and I keep telling them, the hardship now would only mean that if something like this is thrown their way in the future, they will know how to manage it.
They were taught where to find stories — make them realise that there will be slow days but it doesn’t mean there is no story to tell. They were taught how to harness the power of the social media and how they can use it to their advantage.
We are now in the third week. The next four weeks will be critical. The media landscape has been evolving. So I have to teach them the tools of the trade as well as make them realise that their future is not just limited to print media. I have to bring to their attention that somewhere in the world today, digital platforms and news agencies exist. So if they are not hired in one particular industry, they can always branch out.
So they will be taught how to produce content for social media — on how to develop stories for the ever-changing landscape of the digital world. There are multiple ways on how to skin a cat and learning all of them is just preparing for the worst.
In one of our weekly meetings, both of the students pointed out that only in doing this internship did they realise that there is a gap between what is taught in the university and the reality of the workplace. I have to learn this fact the hard way when I actually was looking for my first job and I was glad they were able to see it early on in the programme.
Both students inquired why we don’t conduct lectures as they think many students in Oman need a good dose of reality and preparing them for what’s waiting for them after getting their degree will be a great help so they don’t get culture shock.
I agree with their suggestion. But that is for a different time and requires a different preparation.
After the remaining four weeks is over, there is one more advise I will give them— something they can use when they do go and look for a job. I’d tell them not to choose a company but rather choose a good boss — a boss who will give them the support, encouragement and the time to make mistakes. A boss who will look at them as humans with so much potential rather than a number or a machine.
They may not pay attention to this advise or may not know its importance but in time, I know they will realise what I meant and why I said it.