Your invaluable investments: your internships

Student blogger JatanYo, yo! What’s up, Jatan here.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
~Jack Kerouac, On the Road.

This is what I am. And, I would love to connect with anyone who identifies themselves with the same. I’m in my third year; pursuing a BSc in Economics and Finance. This is my first blog entry; it might be rough, please bear with me. And, do point out my errors because I am and will always remain a WIP (Work-In-Progress). I’m 100 percent sure that when I will look back at this blog entry after a month I’ll find area(s) where this entry could be improved. So, without further ado, let me talk to you about internships.

Before my internships, I felt like I a punk. Not living up to the imaginary platinum standards of THE LSE that I (and some overambitious relatives) set. So, I did these internships: first one, at IIM, Ahmedabad; second one, at Narottam Sekhsaria Foundation (NSF); and third one, at Center for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS), turn me into Paul Krugman? Nope! You don’t turn into a no-nonsense, rockstar economist, by the end of your internship. Yet, I (and your future employers) believe interning, can be your single best “investment” during your vacation. Lemme justify myself.

Internships magnify your sticking points (which might not be acceptable for your future job), and indicate some practical ways forward. Sometimes, you are intuitively aware about your sticking points; sometimes you aren’t. For instance, I was acutely aware I’m no Paul Krugman. But, where could I source some of that practical economics? During my internship at IIM-A; I was working on the Anchoring effect (part of Behavioral Economics). I got to know about a search engine dedicated only for research papers: Google Scholar! Research papers can be one of the most authentic (and sometimes quite boring, intimidating) resources to dig deeper into a particular topic and its practical validity. Moreover, I even got introduced to some really interesting books on economics, written for laymen: Price of Inequality, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, Predictably Irrational, et cetera. There’s this phenomenally amazing scholar: Nassim Nicholas Taleb. You’ve just got to read his books! I urge everyone who’s reading these lines, to read, and re-read his books. Reading such books gave me a much clear understanding of a myriad real life implications of the economic theory that was introduced by Dr. Witztum’s in Introduction to Economics. Since my IGCSE, I knew my IT skills (especially Excel) were pathetic. But, I was too lazy. After some embarrassing moments during internships, I resolved to upgrade my IT skills. So, I ended up signing up for a computer course. Internships, per se, are not the final solutions but they put you into the process of introspecting and improving yourself.

You are forced to be independent. Initially, you have seniors and other colleagues to assist you and settle you down. However, you cannot always be dependent on them; because they’ve their own work to do, and more importantly, they might even get bugged if you keep asking them too many questions. So, unlike a teaching center, where we’ve teachers at our disposal; in the workplace you’ve got to figure (approximate) solutions by yourself. Quick tip: every department, in every workplace, has at least one person who feels under-appreciated or will be generous enough to answer your questions. Catch hold of such people!

Contacts. Not only do internships help you connect with the “like-minded” people; they also enable you to meet some wise colleagues who could provide you with some golden, life-changing career advice or even help you secure your next job/internship. A week ago, I was terribly confused about how to craft a kick-ass CV. So, I called up my ex-colleagues; who are helping with my CV. Further, I observed this interesting loop: one internship, directly or indirectly, leads to another internship.

Office politicking. Even NGOs with the noblest intentions have some sort of silent, invisible, complex politics going on. So, be ready to face some back-stabbing, the manipulator who always wears the Ms/Mr Nice Mask. Never dis about anyone (especially your boss) in front of anyone you don’t really trust. It can be safely concluded that every organization – small or big – has some degree of dis-functionality within.

How do you find ‘good’ internships? The question should rather be “How do I find meaningful internships for myself?” ‘Good’ is quite subjective. Someone interested in marketing will get utterly bored if he works on “How corporate governance affects the stock prices of Indian companies?”. So, figure out what “sort of” interests you. It’s not some big career decision or a complicated decision about which postgraduate degree to pursue. Don’t complicate it. In fact, internships are opportunities for you to realize what actually captivates you (or I’d rather say, realize what you loathe). Big companies, big names don’t matter. What really matters is the level of responsibility you will be assigned. Small firms might be places where you could actually be delegated with challenging tasks. Apply soon! Apply at multiple places! It might buy you the freedom to quit and leap from a boring, mundane internship to a more fulfilling one.

Jatan is studying for the BSc Economics and Finance with support from Podar World College in Mumbai, India.

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