Internship is the first step that undergraduates take to explore the real workplace, allowing them to apply their knowledge and skills learned, meanwhile accumulating working experience.
However, either the interns or the employers always face difficulty while approaching one another. The interns have no idea how to reach out to a proper yet reliable company for their internships. On the other hand, the SMEs also find it difficult to recruit trainees.
As a resolution to the problems and conflicts, Lim Choon Chong, Chew Yinxie and Li Bin founded Interspoon, a platform connecting interns and employers, matching interns to enterprises that are more suitable and in need of qualified personnel while bridging the gap between employers and young students.
No doubt to that, students benefit much from internships. Nevertheless, this is not easy for inexperienced students to seek for the possibilities of placements, ranging from turning in the resumes for interview to the eventual completion of the meaningful placements.
Chew Yinxie, one of the founders of Interspoon, shared her opinion. Plenty of students have reported that the biggest problem during the internship job search was they had no clues where to find appropriate employers and companies.
“When we talk about internships, students will only remember the well-known companies. For example, in the field of accountancy, we will only remember the Big Four, but if I cannot get into these companies, where else should I go? This is what everyone will discuss.”
The co-founder of Interspoon Lim Choon Chong also pointed out that small-sized companies which are less popular might have lost the interest from students applying for their placements. They would rather turn to the big companies doing simple yet trivial things than going to companies where their talents are more desired, and opportunities are given to learn and explore their potentials.
Lim shared his personal experience as well: a student came for an interview in their company, after that, he went to other companies for interviews too. Then the student realized that the trainees in these big corporations only do data entry or trivial paperwork.
He bantered, “The so-called placement is merely doing data entry in the office like a machine, yet the purpose of having a placement is not for you to practice your typing.”
The biggest problem is that when this student went to another construction company for an interview, the venue of interview was not in the office, it was a café outside. However, the company offered him RM2,500 salary, causing lots of speculations. At last, the university found it suspicious and rejected the placement.
He mentioned that the students usually will search for their placements through two channels, one is the list of companies provided by varsities, the other one is through social media.
It is rather risky to seek placement through social media. Posts of students seeking out internship opportunities are often seen on social media by just doing a quick search. Some students only provide their basic information and email addresses and this approach is barely acceptable, whereas some students almost disclose all their personal details such as handphone numbers, with a highlight of their urgency. One may easily feel the eagerness of the student from the texts that a placement is urgently needed as if it is postponed, the same goes for graduation.
All of these indicate that there are safety concerns in the process of getting an internship which requires more attention from the adults.
Giving advices and feedbacks to students
Established in 2019 by Lim Choon Chong, Chew Yinxie and Li Bin, Interspoon serves as a platform linking interns and employers, while pairing each other by students’ resumes and employers’ company profiles within its database. Different from its counterparts like JobStreet and WOBB, Interspoon is a recruitment platform that only focuses on internships.
On the one hand, students can reach Interspoon via Facebook or their website with their resumes presented. The back office staff will give advice and feedback to students on the shortcomings of their resumes before they are being referred to the suitable companies who make the final selection.
On the other hand, Interspoon opens its door for enterprises to register. In this case, relevant documents are required to ensure they are safe and reliable ones with proper company address, organizational structure and business.
Lim noted that from the students’ perspective, they are mere freshmen in the workforce who have little knowledge of the market and society while from the market’s perspective, many big corporations are unlikely to face the problems of recruiting interns, however for those SMEs and newly-founded companies, it can be extremely difficult to come across a good intern.
He added that 80% to 85% of enterprises in our country are SMEs, but when it comes to posts of internship openings displayed on the university job boards, there are all from the popular corporations, yet the number of which is no more than 20.
“Therefore, firstly we want to address the safety concerns of interns. Secondly, Interspoon will focus more on helping the SMEs to get their right interns.
Offering suggestions as well as more choices to students
Chew explained further with her own experience. She had been working as a finance consultant before the platform was set up. Since then, her accountancy background has been on a 180-degree turn and replaced by human resources now. “In fact, what we have studied does not mean we have to work in the same field after graduation. We can extend to other fields as well,” she said.
Hence, whenever there are students applying for placements or companies having intern recruitment, she gives advice to them based on the status quo accordingly, getting interns and employers to know each other as much as possible, as a resolution to the employment issues involving both the parties.
“When a student applies for internship, he will have his interested field or company stated, then we will acknowledge it as his first choice, and suggest him the second and third choice on top of that, so that he knows more about the fields or enterprises which he can open up to, having a backup plan instead. Students will have the final say of whether they want to join these companies as interns or not.”
Expanding pool of candidates
She remarked that when a company is hunting for interns for their marketing department, students who study marketing will be on their first thought. In fact, the human resources department can further expand the pool of potential candidates, such as reaching out to students in psychology or business management courses.
“We will explain the reason for recommending that particular student to the company. For example, he is an undergraduate studying psychology course, possessing a background in graphic design so he can provide support to create marketing content. For another example, this is a student in business management with what kind of strengths and characteristics. With this information, HR and decision-makers of the company will know how to train the intern so as to bring out the best in him during internship.”
Over the past year, the team of Interspoon stepped into campuses of numerous higher education institutions, providing pre-employment guidance such as sharing the tips on resume writing and interview skills to students. At the same time, some SMEs were introduced to students while participating in their events acting as a chance for both to get to know each other.
Now Interspoon is working with 28 local universities and colleges to engage in handling affairs related to internships. Last year, over 6,000 intern resumes were received by Interspoon, and 70% of them successfully found the right companies for internship through the platform.
Intern Zeng Yi Qing: small-sized companies offer more choices and chances
As an internship recruitment platform, Interspoon hires interns in their company on a long-term basis. Lim Choon Chong revealed that at many companies, interns are employed but only assigned to do the data entry job in a robot-like way which is a waste of opportunity for the students to realize their full potential. However, he joked that interns hired by him are capable of doing what full-time employees do after being trained for some time, and thus are acclaimed as ‘Super Interns’.
“Don’t underestimate their capabilities just because they are interns.”
We had an interview with one of the undergraduates Zeng Yi Qing on the spot, who was currently interning with Interspoon. Many people may assume that one having internship at a company which manages an internship recruitment platform must be a student in human resource management, but contrary to their expectations, Zeng Yi Qing is a psychology student.
She shared with us that psychology is the study of human mind and behavior. A psychology student is competent in doing any job that relates to human beings, and that was the reason for her to choose this company where dealing with people is inevitable.
During the internship, she was assigned with tasks that are commercially-oriented like data analysis, social media management, copywriting in three different languages and telemarketing, etc. As a psychology student, it has been undoubtedly a new learning journey full of freshness where abundant new knowledge was gained.
She said, being an intern at a newly established company means that one will have to handle more trivialities followed by a much busier life, yet learn a great deal at the same time. Internally, she can learn about design, making good use of Microsoft, the operation model of the whole company while externally, she has plentiful chances to communicate and interact with clients and students.
“I might be able to focus on a role with specific tasks, gaining more professional knowledge if I do my internship at a large corporation. But a start-up or small-sized company will make me exposed to different fields and aspects while learn a lot of different things.”
Though at first she would think that as a mere intern, she was incompetent to do certain jobs. With hands-on training under the guidance of her supervisors and experiences accumulated by exploring on her own, she slowly gripped on the work and could accomplish most of them independently in the end, even without the presence of her supervisors.
She encouraged fellow students to undergo placements at SMEs based on her past experience. “It is a different experience with small-sized companies, students might as well open up themselves to more choices and opportunities rather than sticking to large corporations blindly.”
In her opinion, internship offers precious learning opportunities for students to acquire knowledge beyond the textbook by providing hands-on experience and a better understanding of the real workplace. If students expect to gain more throughout the internship process, being open-minded and willing to accept challenges are necessary. Never self-handicapping and there is nothing to lose by going the extra mile. Students should look at what can be gained from internships, so as to make it a meaningful experience instead.