Internships are hard all over the world. They’re usually a student’s first taste of the slick, competitive real world – a world where they don’t automatically trust you with work, where positions matter and there’s so much to learn.
Here are the 5 stages of being an intern in the UAE and helpful tips from those who have been there:
1. Becoming a LinkedIn Stalker
The first fundamental step to be being an intern is finding an internship. Most students have an admirable history for the number of times they have called up companies and haven’t managed to get through to HR.
Most companies are notoriously god at ignoring you. It’s as though, these companies secretly follow a cruel guide termed, ‘Learning to Avoid Interns: A Comprehensive Guide.’
- Be prepared to wait.
- Go through your social networks and find people in your field of interest. Do not send out e-mails to info@ addresses – they usually remain unanswered.
- It’s a numbers game: the more people in the company you reach out to, the higher your chances of reference [Get info through LinkedIn].
- Use an interesting subject line on e-mails.
- Don’t e-mail them, call. If they don’t answer, visit and drop off your stuff the old-fashioned way.
- Minimise the number of clicks it takes for the employer to reach your credentials [the best way would be to have everything on a well laid out website – your work, experience, bio].
An undergraduate student at Middlesex University Dubai, who chooses to remain anonymous, says,
“I had nearly given up; none of the firms I applied to internships for were replying to my emails or calls. I asked my professors what to do, and they recommended I visit the firms personally. This was a great idea, as visiting the firm not only gave me good insight into their work-culture, but it also helped me network with the people working there. The move help me better-prepare myself for the interviews.”
2. The Day of Judgement: Interviews
You’ll be facing a wide range of question -, from those that are relevant, to those that make no sense at all [depending on the interviewer]. Keep your mind open and leave the best impression you can.
The recruitment staff at Doodle Worldwide DMCC, a Digital Marketing & Events company suggested the three main factors that enhance the employability of anyone looking for an internship are:
“Ability, Drive and Enthusiasm”
- Dress well; look like you know exactly what you’re going to do. Don’t get carried away with the idea of being formal, striking a balance in your attire is vital.
- Be confident: A recent study by the University of Iowa titled, ‘The Employment Interview’ suggest that candidates can boost their chances of being hired by appearing more confident. You may not be the best, but if you can seem like it, that position is yours.
- Look up common interview questions online and have vague ideas of how you’d answer them.
- Relax – they’re not looking for you to know everything. Most firms are looking for enthusiastic candidates who can hold their own and learn on the job.
Urooj, an undergraduate student at University of Wollongong gave us a useful tip on how to tackle interviews,
“It’s about taking care of the smallest details – from carrying a copy of your resume to the interview, to ensuring you makeeye-contact with the interviewer. It’s the small things that contribute to developing a good impression.”
3. SCORE: The Internship
Now that you’ve landed yourself an internship, you can lay back and relax.
You’re in entirely unchartered territory, especially since you’re new – Now is when you get to work. You could be buried under a mountain of menial work or no work at all. Your enthusiasm and commitment to work are both important.
A recent study conducted by Harvard University concluded that interns who reflect wide range of skills and enthusiasm during their internship are 70% likely to retain their presence within the firm through permanent placements.
- Take initiative: Don’t expect people to delegate work to you. Go and grab your share of work.
- Ensure that your supervisors give you feedback after big tasks. This shows them that you’ve completed the task, taken on more and are willing to accept constructive criticism.
- Be proactive – spot and report how things could be done differently in the organisation [depending on how open your boss is]. Many firms love to get a fresh perspective on old ideas.
- Ask for deadlines [if you work well with deadlines].
- Always make it to work on time.
- Maintain a tidy workspace.
Noor, an undergraduate student at the University of Sharjah said,
“When I did my internship, I had three other interns with me working on the same project, one of them, at the end of the internship said, ‘This was a complete waste of time, I didn’t get to do any work.’ I asked her, ‘Well did you ask for any work?’ and she said, ‘I thought they would just come along and give me work.’ Things don’t work out that way. You go to the work, the work doesn’t come to you.”
4. Learning to Network
There’s a lot you can do at your internship apart from the role description you’ve be allotted, work towards strengthening your professional contacts. An internship provides you with a brilliant platform to develop your professional network.
You could benefit incredibly just by adding someone onto your LinkedIn, referrals are a great way to receive placements, you can never know the person you’re currently working on a project with could help you fetch your career goals.
- This may not seem important, but it might be the most: Socialize in transition [Hitch a ride or drop someone off].
- Lunch hour is ideal for this.
- Befriend those employees that are seen to be the most trustworthy in the organisation. When it comes to getting a recommendation at the end, this will be crucial.
- Stay away from office politics.
- Make your way around the firm and ensure everyone knows who you are before you leave the firm – this might increase your chances at a permanent position [since it shows you’re well versed with the work culture and have a good working chemistry with groups].
An undergraduate student from Middlesex University Dubai, who chose to remain anonymous stated,
“Whenever I was free from work, I would go up to the cabins of the people in the office and introduce myself. At lunch breaks, I would go and strike up a conversation. Small talk is a great way to get started at an internship – it helps you familiarize yourself to everyone in the office and make new friends.”
5. Using Your Internship to Your Advantage
Most companies have a set quota for applicants who are recruited for permanent jobs on the grounds of previously working with the company. Giant firms such as CNN, Microsoft and McKenzie have stated that they look for candidates that have done a good amount of internships.
- Make sure to get a good reference from your internship. Ensure that these recommendation letters descriptively reflect your contributions during your internship.
- Ensure that you have documented all the major work you’ve done during the internship for your portfolio.
- When writing cover letters for your next job, insert a quote or two from the internship supervisors – subtle testimonies that may sway the vote ing our favour.
- University of Waterloo conducted extensive research on the ideology that firms adhere to while recruiting interns: ‘It is observed that most firms pay detailed attention to the references that applicants submit.’
How was your internship experience in the UAE? Tell us in the comments below.