As the school holidays are around the corner, some students have written to me about securing internships. They are motivated to do this for different reasons. Some want to gain valuable work experience and others want to make money.
For a lot of internships, I am often told that something’s gotta give. You either get experience or make money. You can’t have both. I beg to differ.
My first internship was with a start-up IT consulting company. I did something absolutely different from my peers, who had secured internships in top law firms or companies. I did not wish to use my holidays sitting and ruminating in a law library, or spend my precious hours standing by the photocopier.
That was the phase when every young person’s dream was to set up a .Com company. I didn’t have the money to do so but I certainly wanted to be a part of that wave and earn some money in the process.
I remember the company had advertised numerous positions in the newspaper. The advertisement gave me the impression that the company could do with some extra help in its Singapore office.
I wrote to the late managing director of the company. A day later, I received call from one of its managers, and they invited me for a discussion.
At the meeting, I sensed they liked my passion but I think they were concerned about my lack of experience and knowledge. I took a chance. I offered to work for them without pay, and told them that I would leave it to them to decide my value at the end of eight weeks.
The time passed in the blink of an eye. On my last day, they took me out for dinner at my favourite restaurant. At the end of the dinner, I was given a $5,000 cheque in appreciation of the work I did for them. I never expected it. It was ten times more than what my peers received for their internships in top law firms or companies!
A year later, the company hosted me in their new office by a beach in Phuket. I spent a small part of my holidays helping them with legal issues in their property development arm. I was exposed to the law of a foreign jurisdiction, while having the luxury to go into my office in beach-wear. All my expenses were taken care of. I went back to school with some pocket money.
Dump convention. Be creative when searching for internships. The experience and memories is something you will cherish for a long time to come.
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