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304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
As a foreigner completing an international internship, your experience will not be the same as if you interned back home. Compared to your friends and acquaintances who intern locally, your internship will include challenges beyond the workplace, and the threshold of transforming your internship into a full-time position with a company-sponsored work visa is much higher.
Therefore, for those of you who are interested in doing your best at your internship and converting your international internship into a full-time position, we have gathered a list of tips you can follow.
If you have Mandarin or other Chinese skills prior to your China internship, be sure to speak it as much as you can for practice. Not only will your boss and coworkers appreciate the effort (it spares them from having to speak English or another common language), but it will help you improve your Chinese while in China. If you have to speak English, but it isn’t your native language, don’t sweat the details and just speak it proudly. More than likely, your coworkers are also not native English speakers and understand the challenges involved with speaking a foreign language. Rather than feel self-conscious about your vocabulary, grammar, or accent, focus on clarity, body language, and remember to smile.
When given tasks, don’t just complete them like a robot! Think about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how your work contributes to the greater scheme of things. Doing so will help you understand what the goals are, avoid mistakes and misunderstandings, and do a better job than anyone has expected of an intern!
It’s best to have an understanding of performance goals from the beginning by having frank productive discussions with your direct supervisor and manager. Find out what the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are in order to understand how your work will be measured, and use your newly gained knowledge to map out your direction and schedule. Put in more effort on the projects or aspects of a project that are valued, and less in aspects that perhaps you care about personally, but that is not considered a KPI by the company. Doing so will prove you are result-oriented, can follow directions, and are efficient in managing yourself.
For a new employee to ask for help, especially in the absence of good training, is perfectly normal. As an intern, it’s even more common. Chinese companies are not known for excellent employee training or orientation programs, but asking for help is always expected and welcomed. Asking for help is not a sign of foolishness, but a sign of humility. Ask for help when you need it, but don’t ask the same question of several different people or repeat the same question too many times.
When you ask your coworkers, team, or supervisors for feedback, you’re acknowledging their experience and seniority, which is conducive to future collaborations and overall workflow. Today, companies often seek individuals who can work independently, under strict management, and mesh well in a team. Asking for feedback from management is to be expected, but asking feedback from fellow team members or coworkers shows that you trust their opinion and understand that every work can use improvement. So next time you’ve written a proposal or article, ask a team member to take a look at it and provide input!
When you’re new to a company, you can take engagement a little overboard by trying to comment, question, or provide suggestions for every topic and brainstorm. You don’t need to pressure yourself to be that active, but can show your engagement by actively listening, taking notes, and asking thoughtful questions from key individuals (such as those team members) post-meeting.
Many Chinese companies will hire international interns and employees solely for their international perspective. If you have worked in other similar companies or roles with different business practices than your current company, you can always share them neutrally, without judgment. Case studies from your classwork, local company examples, and even global examples that can be applied to the China context would be appreciated if it could mean improving the company output.
If you have ideas that can help solve a problem, or easily improve the process for a more efficient result, then do share! Just ask in a polite, humble way and do not suggest that it has not been tried before.
Sometimes interns feel shy about stamping their names on work they’ve done, whether because they are heavily guided or because they are “mere” interns. Don’t be too humble. If you wrote an article, or created a report, do stamp your name on it with your Intern title and the year—it will go on your resume anyway!
Networking has been hyped as a requirement for all, but there’s no point in networking unless you’re making useful connections. Be strategic about your networking and look for professionals in your company who are where you would like to be, who could value your background, or who might be interested in the industries your home country is known for. Ask to be introduced, reach out, look for mentors, and converse!