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What to expect when you're interning

Last updated on: January 20, 2014 10:29 IST

What to expect when you're interning


  • What is it that interns should be doing and what is it they should absolutely avoid?
  • Where should they draw the line?
  • Is internship as crucial as they make it out to be?

As part of an ongoing series, we asked five young students about their learnings in their various internships and for their advice to their young colleagues.
With internships becoming a norm, it is crucial to understand just what you can and cannot expect in an internship.

Also in this series

10 things we wished interns knew

How to convert your internship into a job

Today we asked five young students what their inexperienced peers can expect from their first internship, what they must do to get that job and just why it is so important to start working while you're still in college.

Nikhil Kumar (22)
Fourth year student of Nanotechnology

Interned at:

  • Wipro
  • Hockey India League
  • WeChat
  • Campus Diaries
  • United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

The only internship I did that was in the same line as my education was the one at Wipro," Kumar says.

"All the others were marketing and event management-related jobs.

"This was a conscious choice because in today's times you cannot afford to restrict your career growth to a single field."

His advice to young interns:

Work on your weaknesses

  • Assess your strengths and weaknesses and take up internships in areas where you are weak.
  • Build on your strengths too but focus on your weaknesses.

Let your internships be diverse:

  • Avoid restricting yourself to your area of specialisation. It will help you explore various options outside of your field. If you cannot explore possibilities now, when else will you explore?

Look for a start-up:

  • Start-ups give you a lot more freedom, their work culture isn't set in stone like the big companies. You will be more involved with the core of the project unlike anywhere else.

Photographs: Francois Lenoir/Reuters


'Remember you are a student first'

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Karshni Kharbanda (21)
Final year student of Psychology

Interned at:

  • Vogue Eye Wear
  • Procter & Gamble (Ambi Pur car freshner)
  • Star TV

I'd realised much earlier in life that being intelligent doesn't always take you places; being smart does," she says.

"All my internships have taught me to be more (street) smart and deal with people better.

"In my various stints, I have had the opportunity to meet with managing directors of large companies as well as students younger than me. It's made me realise the difference in the way one communicates with the two ends of the spectrum.

"I also earn a little through stipends so it has given me a great sense of independence that I hadn't experienced so far."

Her advice to young interns:

Learn as much as you can:

  • Be it about the very idea of working in an office setup or the nitty-gritty of your job itself.
  • Absorb as much as you can. Because if you don't do it now, when else will you do it?

Make contacts:

  • Make the most of your time and network.
  • Get to know people and leave a good impression on them.

Learn to say no:

  • Be eager and do extra work; but don't get exploited.
  • If you cannot manage something, bring it up with your supervisor.

Remember you are a student first:

  • Whatever happens, do not ever sacrifice your studies for your internship.
  • So whatever you take up, ensure you aren't stretching yourself too thin.

Image: Remember you are a student first. Don't let your internship come in the way of your grades.
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

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'Read up about the company you're about to join'

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Akanksha Siwach (18)
First year student of English

Interned at:

  • JBL Professional

I want to be a writer but I would like to explore other options too, Siwach says.

"So besides interning at an online newspaper, I also intern at JBL (the electronics company) where I am supposed to distribute their products among my friends and give feedback to the company.

"Along with marketing, I also do some sales. None of this is remotely close to what I want to do in the long run but it is always good to know what options exist out there," she says.

Her advice to young interns:

Choose your company wisely:

  • Read up about the company you're about to join.
  • It is easy to get drawn in by big names so before you join, find out everything you can about the company.

Discuss your role with your boss:

  • Be open to accepting something that you may not be looking at.
  • At the same time, if you simply cannot handle it also don't hesitate to ask for a change of role.

If your bosses aren't empathetic, quit:

  • This is one of the few times in your career you can take this liberty.
  • If they are not able to understand where you're coming from, it's better to leave than suffer.


Image: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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'Do not agree to do anything that you find degrading'

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Francesca Shroff (19)
First year student of Mass Media

Interned at
A fashion magazine

I graduated from Class 12 last summer and I was hoping explore a career in fashion designing," Shroff recollects.

"I applied for internships at various fashion magazines but most of them were looking for a prior work experience.

"Only one magazine was willing to hire freshers. So we joined.

"I interned at this place for three weeks, the worst three weeks of my life.

"They treated us shabbily and the only thing we were doing was hanging clothes and putting them away in suitcases. We were shown neither appreciation nor courtesy. It was degrading to work there.

"Then one day, while we were putting away a dress, we admired how pretty it was. One of our superiors overheard us and told us that we were interns and our opinion wasn't asked for. It was so humiliating we decided to quit.

"We did bring this up with one of our bosses but we were told that this was how they treated interns.

"After three weeks, we quit. Neither of us got paid -- not that we were expecting to -- and we walked away humiliated. I don't think I will ever go back there.

"But none of this has put me off internships. I understand internships are important and we need to have work experience before we graduate. I am now in my first year of Mass Media and am specialising in advertising. This summer I am hoping to intern at an advertising agency. Hopefully I'll have a better experience there."

Her advice to young interns:

  • Take up a job you really like.
  • Ensure you are treated well
  • Do not agree to do anything that you find degrading
  • Do NOT tolerate anyone being rude to you
  • Just because you are young and are not getting paid does not mean people can treat you in whatever way they can.
  • It is alright if you don't get paid but ensure you get treated well.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

Image: Feeling degraded? Quit!
Photographs: Dadang Tri/Reuters

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'Learn to be professional'

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Prayag Desai (20)
Final year student of liberal arts

Interned at:

  • Prithvi Theatre
  • Hindustan Times
  • Movie Content Solutions
  • Digitaldubba

When I first started interning in college, the idea was to just pass the time," Desai says. "It seemed like a fun thing to do."

"College ended at noon and there wasn't much to keep me busy. Working seemed like a legitimate way to pass the time and perhaps make money on the side.

"My internships have opened a whole new world before me. I've met people I'd have otherwise not met, experienced new cultures and become financially independent even before I've completed my college.

"I am currently a social media executive at Digitaldubba where I am involved in all aspects of client servicing except finance. This means I meet clients, understand their needs, strategise social media campaigns and execute them.

"Before I started this, I was pretty sure I didn't want to take up a career in social media. Now I am half convinced that this is what I should be doing."

His advice for young interns:

You have to intern

  • I have friends who have never interned before and are in jobs they don't like.
  • They're hesitant to leave because they don't know what to do next.
  • If you've dabbled in various roles, by the time you're done with your education you should hopefully have a fair idea of what you want to do in the future.

Know that it won't be easy

  • The days will be long and tiring.
  • You will be managing college AND work
  • There will be times you want to just give it all up.
  • Don't give up because when you will look back at your life, these are the very years that will make you who you are.

Learn to be professional

  • Remember you're no longer in college and so you have to be careful about how you're interacting with your colleagues.
  • Learning to be professional is a lifelong process. The sooner you start it the better it is for you.

People will take advantage of you

  • You are young, an undergraduate and inexperienced.
  • People are bound to take you for a ride, people who won't pay you for your services.
  • There are only two ways to deal with it -- hound them till you get your money or grow up and be smarter the next time around.

Don't take up internships for the money

  • Well, not initially at least
  • When you start off, the work you do and the people you work with should be important.

Do something different each time

  • When you move from one internship to the next ensure you do something different.
  • That way you actually learn something new and are able to apply that knowledge to decide on what career you want to take up.

Image: Don't let money be the criterion for selecting your internships.
Photographs: Babu Babu/Reuters

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