How to land an internship during a pandemic
Finding an internship can be tricky at the best of times, but chuck a global pandemic into the mix? Ooh boy, it gets even tougher. That’s why when we see UTS students landing valuable work experience positions, we definitely sit up and take notice.
That’s where Jordan-Anne and Connor come in. We chatted to them to find out how they found positions in their fields even with the restrictions of Covid-19, what their expectations were compared to the reality, and what advice they have for students looking for internships now.
Jordan-Anne, Connor, thanks for chatting to us today. Why don’t you tell us a little about yourselves?
I’m currently in my last semester at UTS studying Advertising but I started my internship with Mindshare Singapore in August 2020. I’m part of the performance team as a media intern and I do performance marketing and media planning.
I’m a Professional Engineering Practice student majoring in Mechatronic Engineering. I’m currently working at Jenkins Engineering Defence Systems (JEDS) as a mechatronics intern.
What was the process of landing your internship like?
I wanted an internship that was with a media agency instead of a brand as I wanted to expand my knowledge and experience. I was also looking for something related to communications, preferably digital marketing as digital has been on the rise lately. But mainly one that I felt could give me a good learning experience and seemed reputable.
My internship interview was done via video call (because of lockdown) and thankfully I only had one interview round. It was a little bit stressful because I waited about 4 months to secure and interview and I did not want to stuff it up. I had to read up on the company (maybe even stalked the interviewers to see their background!) Thankfully I was part of Accomplish Award with UTS so they gave several tips – like having an appropriate background and clothing – on how to do a great video interview.
I look for positions that have a good fit with my area of study that are in industries of interest, like infrastructure or defence.
I applied for mechatronics intern position at Jenkins Engineering Defence Systems (JEDS) through UTS CareerHub. I received a phone call inviting me to attend an interview about a week after applying. There were three people interviewing me, so I was bit nervous, but then I realised the interviewers were just as keen to tell me about the company as they were to ask me questions.
What does a day in the life of your internship look like?
I usually start at 9am and end by 6.30pm, but on days where I have school I have to excuse myself from work to attend lessons
Honestly it can go from 0-100 real quick. One moment I could be a bit more free, the next I’m a mess and scrambling for things. I get to sit in for a lot of meetings such as WIPs with clients. As I’m working on a regional account it can be a little bit more chaotic as there are multiple campaigns going on at a time so I could have up to 4-5 meetings in a day. If I’m not in meetings I’m usually on backend work.
I have an 8 am start and 4:30 pm finish. I normally make a coffee first thing in the morning, then spend most of my day doing researching for projects and writing MATLAB scripts. I occasionally assist my manager with engineering drawings or obtaining quotes.
What’s been your favourite part of your internship?
The people I work with are great. They’re very patient and willing to answer whatever questions I have, and they really took the time to teach me how to do certain processes. I’m really so grateful for them. I also get to interact with several clients and vendors which helps to improve my people skills, as I normally don’t speak up in a corporate setting.
Have you been able to learn any new skills? Go through any career development steps?
I’ve been able to learn a lot about signal processing, and further my MATLAB skills. As part of the Research and Development team, I’ve also developed my research skills quite a bit.
I’ve also had the opportunity to learn about my colleague’s careers in the defence industry, which has given me greater insight into where I would like to take my own career.
What was the expectation of your internship vs the reality?
I kind of knew what to expect (to a certain extent) based on other people’s experiences, I expected the chaos but I did not expect to have learnt what I did. I thought school taught everything but it goes to show that internships are so important and beneficial to prepare you for the real world. I would compare it to a culture shock as I’m still learning a lot of new terms now.
And finally, any tips or tricks for students looking to land an internship?
Check UTS CareerHub and LinkedIn often. Schedule a practice interview with UTS Careers, they really do help a lot! Get involved in extra-curricular activities to help stand out from others.
UTS provides free LinkedIn Learning which helped me a lot – I got my CV template from there! It’s also good to have a presence on LinkedIn as that is where most employers will go to ‘stalk’ you. I also found out through LinkedIn Learning that several big corporations have a machine to ‘read’ your CV, so it’s important to get through the machine to reach the human. Tailor your initial CV for the machine, read up on the job description and try to use the same keywords in your CV, as the machine will cross check the keywords. Make a personalised cover letter for any company as not all job scopes are the same (templates available from other LinkedIn members too)
I think the most important one is to persevere – I sent out about 40 applications (and CVs and 40 different cover letters) in a span of 4-5 months and only secured 3 interviews. Don’t stress over it! You’ll eventually get there 😊
Even if you can’t secure a proper job now, look for something that might help to enhance your portfolio or CV. Things like volunteering, finding a part time job, hackathons, UTS Accomplish Award, UTS SOUL Award, BUILD, etc. will help immensely.
Finding an internship in the middle of a pandemic is tricky, but not impossible. And if you put in the hard work, it can definitely pay off, giving you valuable experience, expanding your network, and providing the possibility for full time work down the track. If you want to hear more from Jordan-Anne and Connor about their internship journey, check out the recording of our Getting an internship during the pandemic session.
Cover image courtesy of Pexels.
Lily Cameron is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is a UTS Communications (Creative Writing) graduate, and current Communications Assistant at UTS Careers. She is passionate about telling stories, both hers and others’, and the way digital and social media is changing the literary landscape. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Brag, and elsewhere.