Internships are now seen as an essential part of one’s ‘arsenal’ in terms of application to highly selective universities and colleges. Together with high grades and impressive ECAs, the idea is that they mark you as ambitious, driven and occupationally talented. Whether that still works with so many presenting this ‘formula’ is another question; but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be useful and even enjoyable experiences.
It is therefore best not to try to second-guess the utility of an internship in terms of university admission but to consider its intrinsic value and its suitability for you as an individual. Ask yourself whether it aligns with your particular interests, talents and your relative strengths. Are you aiming to develop certain occupational skills, make some extra cash, help support a social cause or all three?
The word ‘internship’ is overused and is often applied to what are essentially summer jobs. A proper internship should include an element of training and is therefore sometimes unpaid, partially-paid or even subject to a payment or fee from the internee. It also presupposes an informed and serious interest in that occupational field, sometimes resulting in a permanent posting in the same firm. As such, ‘real’ internships are often only open to graduates or undergraduates in their penultimate year of study.
Apart from eligibility in terms of age and/or educational level, one has to add possible language requirements in Cantonese and/or Mandarin when searching internship opportunities in Hong Kong. In practical terms, how many weeks can you commit to?
Finding suitable opportunities is a real challenge in Hong Kong where the ‘tradition’ of internships isn’t as well established as in, for instance, the USA. Online searches do exist and a number of the better-known links are included below. Much advice on this is consistent with advice for job-seeking in general and that is, to start with your own personal connections and those of your family. Do these connections include a company, service or charity that suits your needs? If so, pitch yourself as someone who could add value to this enterprise and if you know enough about the target employer, perhaps even suggest a short-term project that you could offer or at least contribute to. Show your CV and show some initiative!
Somewhere in the middle of the personal approach and online searching is Linkedin. This can be used as a search engine for internship positions and it is easy to request notifications of such opportunities, as they arise (I did this and received 36 results posted in the past month, with some just hours old). Rather than just utilize the professional Linkedin network that your dad might have built up, the best approach is to create your own Linkedin account, profile and page to promote yourself and what you can offer. Blow your own trumpet by all means, but retain some measure of humility – after all, at 15, 16 or 17, your experiences and competencies are still in an early stage of development. Try to be as specific as possible about the type of experience you are seeking without limiting your options too much, and be clear about the amount of time you can offer.
(for further advice see this link)
If the internship does include training/learning element and you still don’t enjoy the experience, you have still learnt something, and probably a number of things, about yourself: your strengths, limitations, preferences, your ideas on the value of work and work/life balance. The opposite might happen and you find your vocation for life! Most experiences will come somewhere in between but will undoubtedly inform your future decisions, add to your CV and perhaps provide a shining recommendation from your supervisor. In all cases, though you may not realise it, you will have also developed some soft/personal skills in relating to other employees and your employer. The phrase, “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is very much applicable to internships.
When I urge students to speak to the representative of a college or visit a campus that is not on their shortlist, I will ask them how they can make an informed choice without a point or points of comparison. Applying the same principle to internships and work experiences is not only advisable in that sense, but it can make you a much more interesting candidate for college admission. After all, if you were the admissions officer for a highly selective US college, slogging your way through hundreds of applications, would you find the candidate who had completed 3 consecutive internships with J. P. Morgan as interesting as the candidate who had completed one such internship but spent another summer working on a building site and the third developing a mini-project for the UNHCR?
In short, focus on your own development and the rest should take care of itself.
Links for Summer Intern Opportunities in Hong Kong:
Some specific opportunities in Hong Kong
Young Advocates Programme – Justice Centre
3 week programme for students interestd in Law, Human Rights, Social Policy, NGOs etc
Music for Life
As indicated, a chance to learn about Music Therapy. Non-paid, 2 months, Cantonese required.
Faust International Youth Theatre
3 weeks as Theatre Assistants in the summer or Year-Long as Student/Assistant Leaders
Crossroads Foundation (NGO with various social functions)
Volunteer or Internship (17+)
Varied roles and lengths of volunteer work (16+)
CUHK Summer Clinical Attachment Programme
For budding doctors – apply early and competitively
Part-Time Work rather than Internship
Join the Hong Kong Teen PT Facebook Group