What Is It Like Being An Intern In Malaysia


What Is It Like Being An Intern In Malaysia

Written by Violet Ooi and posted on KinBiz Online on 3oth October, 2014

Like any other final-year student, I dreaded the idea of having to spend eight hours a day sticking my face to a computer screen for three months. But it was inevitable. The process of applying for an internship was at one point distressful and disappointing especially if some peers have already found a placement, while others had several offers under their belts.

Applying for an internship is much like applying for a job. It requires a bit of courage, confidence and unrelenting determination. The process can be gruellingly slow and one may grow impatient over time. Thus it is helpful to be proactive by giving the company a call and showing your enthusiasm.

An offer would come eventually. I recall leaving the KiniBiz office feeling excited and a little proud that the interview had gone well, at least to me. There was a huge sense of relief at having finally scored a job that sounded most pleasing. Having studied pure economics at the University of Malaya for three years, this particular internship would be my final assignment.

In the days running up to the start of the internship, I was faced with mixed feelings. Sometimes, I would be tremendously upbeat and there were days when I was just terribly nervous. While I read the news on a regular basis, I had minimal knowledge about corporate finance and little by way of writing skills. I was absolutely certain that I would be confined to a narrow and pitiful job scope. It would have been a major victory to do some proofreading. Never did the thought of writing a publishable article ever cross my mind.

Yet here I am writing as if I am a writer.

One thing I have learned in the stint as an intern is the importance of cross training in acquiring experience. Those unsure of venturing into any profession should take up several internships before deciding on one. Many puzzled at my choice of working in a news portal as they are under the misapprehension that one has to be trained formally to be a writer/journalist.

Writing is about expressing ideas through words and the possession of a literate and inquisitive mind should suffice to begin with. This analogy can similarly apply to other fields or professions where one might find hidden potential/talent along the way.

Being treated as a fully qualified journalist, which I am not, is perhaps the best experience ever. Like any amateur reporter, I have had the good fortune of attending press conferences and launches as well as interviewing industry heavyweights. It takes time to figure out headlines and churn out ideas especially when English is not my mother tongue. However, I must say that I have improved and am getting better by the day. While menial work dispirits an employee, active participation in professional work emboldens one.

Working in KiniBiz has taught me invaluable lessons, such as the importance of upholding the freedom of the press. The persistence of entrenched corruption and cronyism in the country makes investigative journalism all the more important. Back in the day, state-run mainstream newspapers and television channels used to constitute the mass media, but the emergence of independent online newspapers today offer different angles to similar stories.

While the mainstream media is more toned-down, independent newspapers are more inclined to censure and criticise. Essentially it teaches the public to be more critical, argumentative and to see things from a wider field of vision. The freedom of the press is thus consequential to creating a more informed and truly educated public.

My internship has so far been a fruitful one but there are so many out there who aren’t as fortunate as I am. Lost, confused and angry, they are stuck temporarily in a pit.

It is good news that there is a willingness on the part of the government to improve the situation. Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in the tabling of Budget 2015, mentioned that TalentCorp will provide RM30 million for the Industry Academia Collaboration, a programme where universities, government and industries will collaborate to develop a curriculum for internship and industrial training.

To Shamsuddin Bardan, the executive director of the Malaysian Employers Federation the move is an effort to intensify existing window dressing collaboration between the parties.

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In 2012, TalentCorp spearheaded a structured internship programme (SIP) where companies under its programme qualified for double tax deduction. According to TalentCorp, it recorded over 10,000 placements in 2013 with more than 1,500 participating companies such as PwC, Ernst and Young, Groupon, Celcom Axiata, Maybank and Sime Darby.

To Shamsuddin however, the programme is a setback as it does not win favour among the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who hire only a few interns and would prefer to avoid the bureaucratic process of application.

Najib’s proposed Industry Academia Collaboration could be a part of the solution but we have yet to see its outcome. Companies who take in interns should put more effort into designing a useful and rigorous programme. They need to be sure of what roles both the company and interns ought to fulfill.

Cooperation between universities and industries is vital. Consistent monitoring of students performance such as frequent visits and evaluations of students performance could prevent employers from neglecting interns. Companies that abuse interns should be black-listed. Interns at the same time should understand that this is a leave-it-or-take-it opportunity; that they can either work hard and with passion or ruin their chance.

Such strategies together with initiatives to improve students English as well as incorporate more practical studies in academic syllabus could make internship a pleasant experience for undergraduates in Malaysia.