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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Soh

12 Tips to Survive (And Ace!) Your Compulsory Internship Program: Part 1

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

Ah yes, the Compulsory Internship Program (CIP), the dreaded NM3550Y – a 20-week internship that all CNM majors must embark on in one of the semesters during their third year. If you have stumbled upon this article, it means you are a clueless NM major about to embark on your CIP. Well then, you are in the right place; I, too, was in your shoes just a few semesters ago, a blur sotong stumbling through the whole process. But I made it through, and so can you! Through my CIP, I have picked up several tips and tricks that will help you not only survive your CIP, but also ace it.

Prep work

#1: Can We Do It? Yes, We Can!

‘But the CIP is such a chore! I might not go on exchange! I need to spend one sem working! It’s only 12 MCs! I got to do modules with it and all...’

Firstly, before you can even think of getting an internship, you need to have the right attitude. I know, I know – easier said than done, but as someone who scrapped through the whole process: trust me when I say it’s not as daunting as you think it is.

Instead of bemoaning how cruel fate is to you, the poor NM student, take this CIP as a chance to learn some practical skills, get a feel of the industry you are interested in, and make relevant contacts. Who knows, maybe by the end of this internship, you may just very well secure the job waiting for you after graduation!

#2 If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail

Plan your modules to take ones that will equip you with the skills you need before embarking on your internship! After all, you don’t want to be applying for the role as a journalist without actually knowing the basics of media writing, do you?

A semester or two before your internship, think of what possible industries you might enter and take modules accordingly. For example, want to do a writing/communications internship? Take a media writing module such as NM2220! Want to venture into graphic design? NM3217 is your best bet. Games strike your fancy? NM3216 here you go!

Alternatively, you can ask seniors what modules they recommend doing before CIP, or even drop us a message for recommendations.

CNM will hold a briefing to recommend modules to take before interning, but if you are kiasu and want to plan way before the briefing, you can always send the friendly CNM department an email asking what modules they recommend.

#3 MOOCs? Wassdat?

Hey. The internship is only worth 12 MCs. Isn’t the recommended workload 20 MCs per semester? What do I do?’

MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, are your best friends! During your internship, you can choose to do 1 or 2 MOOCs, which involve 4 – 7 face to face sessions during some evenings after work.

Personally, I overloaded with 24 MCs in Year 2, so I only did a Level 3000 MOOC that required me to go back to school from 6 – 9p.m. once a month during my CIP.

When you are selecting MOOCs, here are some factors for consideration:

  • How is the workload?

  • Is there a project component? (Your groupmates will most likely be in a different company from you, so meetings are another logistical nightmare!)

  • Can you afford to do a 2k?

  • Or do you want to clear a 3k?

Don’t want the hassle of doing an MOOCs on top of your full-time internship? Overload twice and write in to CNM detailing your study plan to request for an MOOC exemption!

#4 I Choose You!

After all that planning, it’s finally time to shortlist companies you want to intern at! You open TalentConnect and other job portals and realise… you have no idea where to start. There are so many job positions – and so many companies! How do you know what company to choose?

Of course, you should choose a company that best aligns with your interests and will offer you the most fruitful internship. You can narrow down the search by thinking of what type of company you want to intern in. Startup? SME? MNC? Government sector? Each sector has their own unique pros and cons, so always do research and consider what fits your needs and interests best.

Don’t like the listings available on TalentConnect? Self-sourcing is always an option! Just make sure to tell the company they are required to submit an internship evaluation of you to NUS, and to source in advance as there are additional administration steps to go through before CNM can approve of your internship. The steps are as below:

  1. Once the company you self-sourced has offered you an internship, make sure that they set up an account in NUS TalentConnect and list their job opening.

  2. If any issues, liaise with the school, the CNM coordinator will advise. Always call the CIP office should you run into any issues!

  3. Student must accept the job offer in NUS TalentConnect for it to be recognized by the CIP team. Thereafter just write to the CIP team that you've accepted the job offer like everyone else.

Pro-tip: my friend’s friend self-sourced a company on her own without having enough information to form a complete picture of the company’s culture and team… only to realise her company was something that came out of Five Nights at Freddy’s. With unpaid OT till midnight, crippling workload, and only interns working alongside the boss, it was not a stretch to say that her internship experience was hell. So, before accepting any job offers, be it from TalentConnect or self-source, always research and gather more information. Check their website, find job reviews, or even find out more during the interview itself.

#5 Speaking of Interviews…

Interviews – your final hurdle before getting your internship! Don’t fret if you take a while to get to this stage; I only managed to snag the interview with the company I eventually interned at in Week 11!

Before your interview, don’t forget to prepare: bring your resume, and depending on the position you are applying for, bring along your portfolio or writing samples. Make sure to research enough about the company, and always overdress rather than underdress! There will be many common questions the interviewer will ask during an interview, so do some research and make sure you are mentally prepared. Some common questions include telling them about yourself (which is an opportunity to pitch yourself as an asset to the team), why you chose to apply for that particular role and company, and how you can contribute to the company as an intern.

The most common and dreaded question is, “Do you have any questions for us?” Never, never, never leave an interview without asking them a question. It shows that you either have not done enough research about the job to not have any questions, or that you are simply not interested enough in the position.

  • Good questions to ask that will impress your prospective employers include:

  • What is the work process like?

  • How does the current team (or the team I will be joining) work together?

  • What do you expect from someone you hire when they come onboard?

Or simply ask specific questions about the jobscope that is vague in the job description.

Remember: an interview is not just a chance for you to impress the company, but also a chance for you to understand the company, your prospective bosses and team, and how much of a fit the internship is for you.

And this concludes the end of Part 1! These tips will help you nail that internship search, helping you nab that dream job. Now you might be wondering, what do you do once you actually get that internship? Part 2 awaits.

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