The alleged abuse of an intern has been in the news over the past week. Our young writers, BN’s Junior Chefs, penned these letters to employers on what they expect from an internship – if they get one, that is.
Dear Prospective Employer,
You are probably reading through yet another highly-polished résumé and letter beseeching you, the honourable employer, to employ a humble intern.
For three months, or six months only, you would expect me to jump ship just because I am not going to be a permanent employee. Bear with me as I give you another perspective to the story.
I will be suitably grateful for the employment. Thereafter, it will be my life’s mission to prove my worth. However, consigning me somewhere in a dark alley of your company, or doing tasks that I probably would be doing at home anyway, such as making tea and coffee, or “assisting” in trivial tasks will do nothing beneficial for your company. I am here to learn, and also apply what I have learnt for your benefit. Allow me to explore, and spark new ideas which may provide a new direction or opportunity for your company. We interns might just be sojourners, but we are fresher than many of your permanent staff that might have be so bored doing their jobs that they could be less creative, less inspiring or less productive than many of us interns. We, the said interns, are dying to give our best shot in this limited time window.
Here is a potential window of opportunity where, if you place your trust in us, you will find repaid plentiful with intangible benefits that money simply cannot buy.
Have I offered an offer you cannot refuse?
One Who Makes a Difference
Dear Prospective Employer,
I am a professional student, currently in my second year of undergraduate study at the National University of Singapore. I would like to apply for the position of Intern at Your Company.
After 14 years of experience in the school industry, I have a wide array of skills that will prove useful to Your Company.
These are my terms and conditions for some of the relevant services I offer:
Package A* – $0/ month
Printing and Photocopying
Buying Coffee and Tea
Package B* – $500/ month
Making Presentation Slides
Package C** – Valuable Insight and Experience (negotiable)/ month
*For a limited time only, I offer complimentary Boredom and Slacking services for Packages A and B. Blindly Following Instructions Though Sometimes Ignoring It is also available upon request.
**Please note also that some monetary remuneration is expected for Package C, though the rate is negotiable. The market rate of $0/ month may be accepted, though there will be an additional charge of Less Respect for Not Being a Half-Decent Employer.
Quality of services provided (Package C) is directly proportional to Valuable Insight and Experience paid.
At higher rates of Valuable Insight and Experience, you may also be eligible for Appreciation, Sense of Loyalty, as well as access to services in Package A and B – with no additional cost.
For further enquires, please contact me at 9xxx – xxxx or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Prospective Employer,
You have probably shuffled through many internship cover letters, all proclaiming how working in your company would be a “tremendous (or once-in-a-lifetime) opportunity”. These cover letters will be accompanied by impressive résumés clad in professional templates, proclaiming how the applicants have involved themselves in a multitude of activities. And maybe you will receive calls from the Career Services department of the universities, inquiring whether you will be interested in opening up more positions for the undergraduates.
Despite the anecdotal incidents of abuse, many still flock to these openings. Why?
The remuneration is often a non-issue. Most applicants are cognisant that their lack of qualifications depresses their allowances, and that they will not enjoy the same benefits as their full-time colleagues who have graduated from school. Those who are in serious need of cash will avoid internship offers. Abuse cases are far and few between, and most do their tasks well. At the end of the day, the schools have repeatedly emphasised that internships are opportunities for students to gain work experience (in other words, I should be thankful that you are gracious enough to provide work openings for us in the summer). And as a desperate young Singaporean deeply immersed in the rat race, these stints are extremely valuable.
Yet, your internship should not feature simplistically on my curriculum vitae (where I detail my supposedly magnificent contributions to the company, and how I have made a difference). Bollocks. Is it possible for me to be an “asset” if the three months were but a breeze?
Put me out of my comfort zones. Do not group us – the young interns – conveniently together, but allow us to interact with colleagues who have been involved in this line of work for some time. Hear me out, and understand my strengths and specialisations. Allow me to ease into the daily routines. Do not treat us as young ignoramuses with no experience in “the real world”, and mollycoddle us every step of the way. We can bring something new to the table.
Because quite frankly, I just want to be treated as a normal employee. Let me be part of the company. Once I have been shown the ropes, and after I have proven my competency in my first few assignments, entrust me with roles and responsibilities that you would have assigned to regular workers. More rigorous challenges like these will give me the chance to make mistakes on the job; and, more importantly, to eventually learn from these shortcomings.
Challenge your interns. We can take it.
Kwan Jin Yao
Resident Student Sceptic
Dear Prospective Employer,
I am the triple science ‘O’ level student who switched to triple humanities in the International Baccalaureate programme. I am also the NSF who took 1 whole week of leave during NS just to participate in the Habitat for Humanity programme, as well as the student who travelled to France for a semester exchange with only rudimentary French (4-week crash course, to be exact).
Why? Just because I can.
Expect different from me – from us – we are the You-Only-Live-Once (YOLO) generation. Our curiosity knows no bounds, leading us on to paths less travelled. While other employees give you the same ole’ dry ideas, don’t expect the same from me. I don’t promise mistake-free work, I promise a fresh perspective, a new take on old problems.
But I also expect different from you. I will not be satisfied with photocopying, with tea-making, with paper-filing. Been there, done that. And definitely not for anything less than $600 a month. You see, I did a quick calculation in my mind; if I worked at McDonald’s for $3.50 an hour, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, not only do I earn more ($560), I will also learn more (how to make those curly fries!). Not to mention, McDonald’s has won the Hewitt Top 10 Best Employer Award (Singapore) in 2007, 2009 and 2011. In the UK, interns are seen as just another source of cheap labour, I hope that the companies in Singapore do not follow the same path. We are not cheap labour.
An internship is a two-way process. You judge our work performance but we are also judging you. You are the prospective employer but we are your prospective employees. The internship is your marketing campaign to us. Mess it up and we not only promise not to ever apply to your company but we will also tell our friends not to work there. I remember all the internships where my friends have done menial labour, received paltry remuneration and in one particular case – sexual harassment in the form of dirty jokes bandied about.
I’m sure your esteemed company recognises that a happy intern is a productive intern. Treat us like valued employees in your company and I promise it will be a win-win situation for the both of us.
Highly Employable Undergraduate