I might’ve got a bit carried away with my internship applications this year. Instead of enjoying my four-month-long summer holiday in some fancy European town, I found myself stuck in an office desk two days after I landed in Hong Kong. I now only have 14 days of summer where I won’t be worrying about the existence (or non-existence) of real estate investment trusts in the mainland or what the True and Proper Construction (TM) of some new statute is.
This whole article might sound a bit like a humblebrag and I won’t deny some of it is, but it does not take away from the point I want to make: internships are great!
First, several qualifications to my claim: internships are definitely not great when they are unpaid, when they involve simple, repetitive tasks, or when you are ignored by every salaried worker in the office. You deserve to be compensated for your contributions, and you shouldn’t just be a delivery man for the office photocopier. Every intern is there to learn something, and companies shouldn’t pretend to be nice and offer positions if they aren’t willing to teach you skills.
When they aren’t provided by some corporation trying to tick the corporate social responsibility checkbox, internships have the important function of showing you how to practically apply the things you have learned throughout the year. This is particularly true for degree programmes such as law, which inevitably have a vocational aspect to them. It is one thing to know the theoretical underpinnings of contract law, but another to know how to draft a contract that actually allocates risks and handles liabilities in a way you want it to.
My experience at The MTR Corporation thus far has proven this to be correct. Not only do I get to brag about working for a large multinational company, getting to do work that is both challenging and meaningful has really helped me get over parts of my degree which I found boring or irrelevant. While it is tempting to forget the knowledge you have learned immediately after the exam is over, internships remind you that these skills are still useful to you in your profession. They give you the opportunity to refresh and use these skills in an environment that is less stressful than the cold, sometimes extremely noisy (looking at you, UCL) exam hall.
I am not some hyper-capitalist madman trying to hypnotise the public into thinking that working 24/7 is a good thing, but I genuinely believe that paid internships are useful for one’s personal development. Apart from the simple fact that you need work experience to get other work experience, getting to use your skills outside the classroom helps you retain knowledge you might forget over the summer holidays. It’s certainly not as appealing as, say, eating vanilla fudge ice cream on the beach, but office work really can do you wonders.
… I swear I am a cool kid, really.