Internships in Singapore: Why they're important, how they work, and what college students should look out for
Learning from the best
Internships can be a mixed bag; you never really know what you're getting yourself into until you're in the thick of it. However, early on in my second year of my undergraduate studies in communications, I was still unsure of how my career would pan out — even after a marketing internship under my belt. When I heard about an editorial placement at Buro Singapore from a friend, I realised that it would be a perfect opportunity to discover the inscrutable world of media (Devil Wears Prada, anyone?) while sharpening my written skills. Here's what happened during my 10-week stint.
Having a finger on the pulse
University life can be a bubble, sometimes. A stream of lectures, quizzes, and projects that often have little consequence besides a pretty grade at the end of it if you're lucky. One week into my internship, I quickly realised that beyond grades, it was important to be well-rounded and confident enough to communicate clearly.
In this instance, everyone I worked with was incredibly 'woke'. Lunchtime was always a daily highlight as there was always something to be discussed, from the latest Netflix series to the hottest happenings in pop culture. Naturally, these lively discussions sparked editorial ideas that I developed further. What's more, expressing myself allowed me to grow as a writer and take pride in my work.
Put to the test
In school, we are often coddled as students. However, during my internship, I was pushed outside of my comfort zone and in doing so, I discovered a sense of independence. I had to manage tight deadlines, organise my work, and leave ample time for review and feedback with minimal supervision.
Working in media also meant that I had to attend press events as well. Being at these fancy sessions was intimidating at first, but I learnt how to be comfortable negotiating a complicated social setting. Thankfully, everyone was open and friendly!
The toughest period of my internship was during Singapore Art Week in January. I had to attend S.E.A. Focus, an art fair where I had to conduct several interviews with art world insiders. To coordinate such a complex task on my own, I worked closely with the fair's public relations team. It was nerve-wracking to approach and speak to these experts at first, but I felt a sense of accomplishment after I overcame my initial insecurities.
Finding my voice
If you're wondering, not once did I have to fetch coffee for my bosses. Instead, I was lucky enough to have the chance to propose ideas on a weekly basis. Sure, my ideas would be rejected more often than not — Buro's culture editor is hard to impress — it helped me develop a critical mindset and a sense of originality that is hard to come by in Singapore's media landscape.
Not only did I have to be up to date with the latest news, I was also encouraged to explore my own interests and express my distinct voice. I eventually managed to get a story on the relevance of award shows approved.
Internships are a rare opportunity to figure out the career path that you wish to embark on. Be curious, proactive, and understand how the company functions. Even if you eventually realise that a career in the particular industry doesn't fit well with your aspirations, continue to learn and make full use of the environment and people around you. Don't expect to be babied, though. Leave behind your insecurities and be prepared to handle challenges in a mature and professional manner. Most importantly, find a way to have fun at work. Take your work seriously, but not yourself.