Temporary hook-ups

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A file picture of Amir (left) and Zafirah in a previous interview. Photo by Patrick Goh

IT is the website that interns or interns-to-be go for insight into the outfit they work in, or want to work in. The Intern Insider has been around for more than a year now, having been founded in September 2013.

It’s the work of Nik Nor Zafirah Nik Affendi and Amir Hamzah Rozlan, who unlike young adults in their age group — the early 20s — are a few steps ahead of those juggling between work, studying and having a social life.

Zafirah and Amir — both final-year students in the United Kingdom — started the website as a summer project;  a simple friendly peer-to-peer sharing site among interns, where those who were part of an internship programme were able to share their insights and discuss their experiences on the website.

At that time, it was merely a small project and they were not expecting it to be a success. The Intern Insider has grown to host names and logos of big and small companies, including leading banks like HSBC and Citibank to media outlets like news portal The Malaysian Insider and free newspaper theSun. More importantly, the website, whose partners are Talentcorp, Graduan and Tandermic, is a treasure trove of reviews by interns who signed up at these companies.

“We started this website mainly because we feel people need to start talking more openly about their internship experiences,”  22-year-old Zafirah tells The Edge Financial Daily in an exclusive interview.

“Amir and I had very different internship experiences and they were not what we had expected. This is essentially about sharing one’s insights and experiences on a bigger platform with a lot more people.”

Realisation struck Zafirah and Amir in January 2014, when they realised that while they were doing well, review-wise, there had to be more to the website. Enter phase two of The Intern Insider — monetisation.

For an annual subscription fee of RM100, companies will be given a profile description on the website, as well as added information that might come in useful to potential interns.

“Phase two was about opening our doors to companies and encouraging them to come on board,” says Zafirah, an Economics student at the University of Sheffield. She adds that the main focus is to push companies to improve their internship programmes, based on the reviews given.

The bubbly young woman says The Intern Insider serves to be a win-win platform for both interns and companies — interns can write their own reviews as well as read the reviews written by their successors, while companies or firms can promote their internship programmes.

Amir, who joined us temporarily on Skype, said when it comes to marketing and promotion, social media is the chosen path to engage with potential clients and interns.

“We try to make Twitter and Facebook as engaging as possible. It’s the best way to reach out to people.”

Apart from their Twitter and Facebook page (@interninsiderMY and https://www.facebook.com/interninsiderMY respectively) The Intern Insider is also one of the latest to jump on the trending hashtag bandwagon on Twitter with #curateinterninsider. On a weekly basis, interns are invited to tweet about their internship experience.

The response has been encouraging as Amir says:  “We have interns from oil and gas companies, political offices and hospitals — to name a few — tweeting about their experiences. Sort of like bite-sized reviews.”

Rewards and reactions

In a bid to reward loyalty, The Intern Insider celebrated its first birthday by giving out RM100 MPH vouchers to 10 lucky draw winners and RM150 worth of Uber rides to reviewers who posted on the website.

As far as responses are concerned, both Zafirah and Amir say they’ve received “interesting” reactions from their clients. Some companies that subscribed were not pleased with the critical reviews about their internship programmes, whereas some were hesitant to come on board in the first place, for the very same reason — fearing bad publicity if the reviews are not positive.

“We have rules and regulations regarding writing a review, and as long as the intern adheres to the rules, we will publish the review — be it good or bad. This is what many companies are displeased about, as they do not want to be publicly scrutinised,” Amir, a London School of Economics student, says.

“We want to be fair to both sides, of course,” he adds.

Yet, as far as phase two is concerned, Zafirah and Amir proudly say that The Intern Insider has seen some success thus far, with 30 over companies already on their clientele list — and counting.

Zafirah attributes the help and support of their partners when it comes to attracting clients.

“We decided to come into partnership with Talentcorp (as well as Graduan and Tandemic) because they understand our mission and have similar aspirations in making internships better across the board,” she says.

Finding balance

Naturally, as one would have guessed, juggling a student’s life while managing the website is no easy task, to which Zafirah says: “It’s certainly hard managing a long-distance relationship with your business partner, as we’re in different parts of the UK. But technology has helped maintain our project from afar. Our main priority is still our studies.”

Amir is quick to agree. “We designate our duties well, and that’s how we manage.”

When asked if they would like to bring The Intern Insider to an international level, both admit that it will take some time, saying that the internship sector in Malaysia is still underdeveloped, and for now, they plan to focus on local companies.

Amir says: “There is so much of potential in Malaysia and the internship sector here is still very much underdeveloped. We’d like to go big locally first.”

 

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 3, 2014.