It’s the season of internships again — at least to those students working towards earning their degree. It’s been a long time since I had my internship and truth be told, my experience wasn’t as helpful as I want it to be.
For instance, learning the ropes without any idea what those ropes perhaps was my biggest mistake. I joined a national TV company with eyes mesmerised more than putting on the critical goggles.
Working in the corporate world for several years, I heard a lot of interns complaining they have not learned a lot from their programmes. In Oman, an internship is even more difficult since many companies look at interns as more of an annoyance than actual help.
Even in Oman Daily Observer, interns come and go. One of my questions to them is that: what is it you’re hoping to learn exactly?
Not surprisingly, the interns remind me of my wide-eyed mesmerised self back in the day just waiting for the learnings to come. But times have changed and with these changes, competition has become even stiffer.
Can you imagine taking an accounting course and the only internship task you’ve done for a month is serving coffee? This is the greatest disservice you could do to yourself and your future and you should never allow yourself to be treated this way.
In reality, being an intern means hard work. But for most companies in Oman, things will not be handed to you on a silver platter. On the contrary, you will most likely be treated as a seat warmer unless you do something about it. While it’s true that you came to the company to learn something, it is important to communicate to your supervising agent what you want to develop.
In a perfect world, people around the office should give you different tasks that should help you grow but many of us who have gone through internships know that interns are given the most menial of jobs, sometimes nothing at all. Most companies don’t care whether you learn or not and the saddest part, they won’t invest in your potential. Lucky are those who found good mentors but the majority will not have the same experience.
To turn this around, start with a clear conversation with yourself. Begin with the most essential question, “What is it that I want as a job?”
To break this down, say you have a degree in Communication, would you like to take the PR route, the film production route or the print route?
Once you have it figured out, have a conversation with your teacher before selecting a company. Ask them specifically what they think you needed to enhance and learn from the real world. Once you have a rough road map, target departments where you can learn the required skills for the said job.
While sometimes you don’t have control over who you landed with as a mentor, make sure to be observant inside the office. As much as possible, shadow somebody who does the task you want to do.
Talking about something within the sphere of my work, I usually appreciate when interns come to me and tell me that they wanted to learn how to write with a measurable and specific goal of being able to write a good, decent article of 500 words. With that initial understanding, I can craft a programme that will allow them to learn the ropes step by step and by the end of the internship, we can revisit what they’ve learned and be able to measure the progress because the goal was measurable and specific.
With that said, Oman is not a perfect world and not every mentor will be as open or even have a solid internship programe. By shadowing what everyone does in the office, you will eventually find somebody perfect for your learning.
Again, an internship prepares you for actual work. While we all wish we can land a job where we just have to sit and go home, this is counterproductive for you and your future. Prepare for what you want to be and with that in mind, build the foundation and this all start with that trial at work. If you can’t even find a good mentor while doing your internship, how will you navigate the more politically charged actual office environment? It’s a dog eat dog world and it helps to learn that sooner rather than later.