Unpaid Internship in Singapore (Importance and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 23 October 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Unpaid internships offer the opportunity to learn about the work environment and skills individuals use in specific industries. It's a good idea to consider looking for internships, especially if you're at university or have graduated recently. Understanding the importance of unpaid internships can help you set goals for yourself regarding what you want to achieve during and after the internship. In this article, we define unpaid internships, explain their importance and provide tips for getting an unpaid internship in Singapore.

What is an unpaid internship in Singapore?

An unpaid internship in Singapore is a temporary arrangement between an individual and an organisation whereby both parties agree there's no payment. It allows interns to gain work experience, explore their potential work environment and form networks with professionals. Interns are typically students who want to earn credit for university and attain practical experience in the industry in which they wish to pursue a career. Professionals with degrees may also apply for unpaid internships if they're considering a career change.

Related: The Best Times to Apply for an Internship (Plus Tips from a University Career Coach)

Importance of an unpaid internship

Here are a few factors describing the importance of unpaid internships:

Work experience

Unpaid internships allow you to explore certain careers and decide if they're right for you. Working as an intern may give you insight into the day-to-day work in a career that interests you. It can also improve your resume by showing employers that you have experience observing and performing specific job duties. Internships can show them that you're interested in working in the industry and that you already have a basic knowledge of the job requirements that may give you an advantage over someone without experience.

Related: What Is the Importance of an Internship?

Skill development

Unpaid internships help familiarise you with the work environment and allow you to observe experienced colleagues. During this time, you can ask to shadow specific professionals and learn how they complete tasks. Internships may also teach you soft skills you can apply in any career. These include communication, teamwork, attention to detail and time management. You may also learn technical skills that you can apply to your future roles in the workplace. For example, if you want to work in accounting, an internship might teach you how to develop financial statements and perform internal audits in a practical situation.

Related: What Are Skills? (With Definition and How to Improve Them)

Connect with professionals

Unpaid internships allow you to interact with professionals in the workplace. You can form relationships with these individuals and ask them for advice on developing a career in an industry that interests you. Interacting with professionals may also give you a chance to impress them and gain permanent employment within a company or ask them for letters of recommendation, which can help you seek employment elsewhere.

Related: What Is an Internship? (With Benefits and Responsibilities)

Tips for success as an unpaid intern

Here are a few tips to help you succeed as an unpaid intern:

Do your research

It's important to begin doing research into unpaid internships at the first possible opportunity. Consider starting your search while at university to increase your chances of finding a suitable internship. Think about the goals you want to achieve during this internship and search for opportunities that allow you to attain them. For example, if you know you want to work in marketing, search online for marketing internships. Search using appropriate keywords to ensure you find relevant results, such as marketing internships or marketing intern positions.

Use job portals, social media and company websites to look for unpaid internships. Set goals that help lead to career advancement, such as forming relationships with superiors, learning new skills and finding a mentor to guide you through your career.

Related: 6 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Internship Law

Interact with university professors

If you're at university, consider requesting meetings with university professors. They may have connections with companies looking for interns. Professors often have vast experience in the industries that interest you, so they may give advice that helps you progress your career. Ask them what they consider the most important things for you to learn during an internship. This advice might help you set goals for the internship that lead to career development.

You can also ask professors if you can earn extra credits through internships during the university course. Try to find out the requirements for you to achieve these credits to help you plan the things to consider developing during your internship. For example, professors may require supervisors to write regular reports about your performance. Learning these requirements allows you to request these reports from your supervisor in good time.

Attend professional events

Ask colleagues, friends and university professors about professional events such as seminars, job fairs and conferences. These events might present you with opportunities to network with individuals who can help you get unpaid internships. Try to talk to as many people as possible during the events to maximise your options.

Share your contact information with them so they can contact you if they have any internship opportunities. Ask them for an email address so you can follow up with them if they mention any upcoming unpaid internships. Attending professional events might also allow you to meet future employers, so it's important to interact with them and make a good first impression.

Related: 8 Benefits of an Internship (With Tips to Help You Excel)

Begin your search early

If you want to get an unpaid internship after graduating from a polytechnic or university, consider beginning your search when you're still a student. This can increase your chances of getting an internship soon after you graduate. Consider performing online searches regularly during your free time. Search for companies that offer an unpaid internship to new graduates, contact any that you find suitable and find out what they require of an intern. For example, if they require documents such as personal statements and resumes, you can begin writing them.

Develop application materials

When searching for unpaid internships, you may find a few that require you to submit application materials. They may give instructions on what information to include and how and when to submit them. Examples of application materials include:

  • Personal statement: A personal statement is a document whereby you explain who you are, describe why you're interested in an unpaid internship and outline your academic credentials and skills that make you suitable for the internship.

  • Resume: A resume is a document in which you give an objective statement explaining your goals during an internship, list your educational achievements and highlight your relevant skills for the internship.

  • Cover letter: A cover letter is a document in which you can explain your interest in the unpaid internship, describe your goals and their similarity to those of the company and explain how you want to achieve them as an intern while contributing to the company.

Related: How to Write a Compelling Personal Statement (With Tips and Examples)

Prepare for interviews

After finding an internship that interests you and submitting application materials, the next step is preparing for an interview. You may receive a call for a telephone interview, a video call or a face-to-face interview. Find examples of questions interviewers may ask you during the interview. For example, if you're preparing for an interview as a sales intern, search for questions using the keyword sales intern interview questions with example responses. This may prepare you for the types of questions to expect and give you sample answers to practise. Try to practise regularly with peers or seniors and ask for their feedback.

Related: 10 Tips for What to Do Before an Interview (With Importance)

Make a good impression

If you get an opportunity for an unpaid internship, try to make a good impression. Form relationships with your colleagues and superiors. Be polite towards your colleagues and ask for feedback whenever you can to show you're interested in the job. If there are opportunities to take on extra responsibilities, consider taking them. Showcase your skills and willingness to increase productivity in the workplace.

Use an internship to show executives that you can work as part of a team and you're a valuable team member. This may improve your chance of getting permanent employment in the company after your internship.

Look for opportunities to learn

During your internship, look for opportunities to gain skills and knowledge within the industry. Ask superiors to teach you how to perform tasks with which you're unfamiliar. Observe how colleagues and seniors perform daily duties and communicate. Learning in your work environment can teach you aspects of a career that universities may not. Take notes during complex tasks to refer to in the future and write down valuable advice from senior colleagues.

Ask for letters of recommendation

As your unpaid internship nears completion, approach your superiors and ask them for letters of recommendation. These letters may help you get employment in-house or from other companies. Consider asking two or three senior colleagues you consider mentors to write these letters.

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