Five things to know about internships

9:49 AM

One of the main reasons why I chose to do my master’s degree at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona was the opportunity to do an internship. Yes, I had been working for the past 4 years but I was still lacking the “agency” experience. There’s no secret that Puerto Rico’s communications market is very limited and very hard to get in. Have you seen those memes “Experience: 10 years, Education: Master’s Degree, Salary: $7.25/hour”? Well most comm jobs are usually like that. I used to think that I wasn’t “good enough”, that my résumé was wrong, that I was under-prepared, Blah, blah. But it was a wake-up call when I received a notification to interview for a job in Miami at a worldwide agency. It made me realize that I wasn’t the problem, the limited and unfair market in Puerto Rico was the problem. I didn’t get selected for the job only for one reason: I hadn’t had agency experience. Looking back to the interview, I am glad that I was completely honest and straightforward with my questions. Despite not getting the job, I felt more confident and realized that there was only one way to advance: earn a master’s degree and get agency experience. Fast forward to September 2016, already living in Barcelona -and loving it- I started my internship application process. Little did I know it was not going to be easy.

Curricular vs extra-curricular internships

When internships aren’t curricular, it means that it isn’t a requirement to complete the bachelor’s or master’s degree. I thought that it wouldn’t make a difference, but it did. Why? First, it makes the process of finding a job harder because most places will require the internship to be curricular. If it’s not curricular, the company doesn’t feel obliged to give you the job. There’s not an agreement between the company and the university to place the students in practices. Second, because the paperwork is far more lengthy and bureaucratic. I applied to several offers without success. It was like looking for a job. A real job. I was getting a little discouraged (and desperate) until I decided that I would not back down.

Finding an internship on your own

I sat down one afternoon and googled all the agencies in Barcelona and started applying one by one. I didn’t care if they didn’t have want-ads. I would still send my CV. Some said “yes but we can’t pay”, to which I said “thanks but no”. I had +3 years of experience, I could do most bilingual tasks locals couldn’t. I have bills to pay. I was not going to do free work. That, I had very clear. I say this because often we get desperate and accept the first offer we get when most of the times, we know that it isn’t the right one. My past experiences have taught me to stand firmly by what I believe in. And if I go down, I’ll go down swinging.

But I didn’t go down. Eventually I got the call I wanted.

Big or small agency – which is better?

Choosing a big or small agency to do your internship will depend on your goals. A big agency has a worldwide reputation, it is well-known within the sector. Also, your chance of getting hired or find out opportunities across the globe might be higher. Nonetheless, these agencies often do not delegate a lot of challenging tasks to the intern. If your goal is to learn, you might consider getting into a small agency. Small agencies are well, small. This means that they can offer a personalized attention and are most likely to delegate more meaningful tasks to interns. Having your expectations clear will help you choose the type of agency. Likewise, that will help on the next point: the interview.

The interview

Learn everything that there’s to learn about the company and understand what you are looking for. If you don’t have a clear mind on what it is that you expect, you might end up in a less-than-thrilling intern job. I knew what I wanted and why I wanted it, so communicating that was very important. Interviewers sense your will to do a job and value your confidence and honesty. I got selected for the job and I do believe that it was because of how confident and capable I portrayed myself. My motto has always been, “look like you know what you’re doing, even when you have no idea.” It’s all about confidence. And hey, for the record, it’s better to know what you’re doing.

The paperwork

Once I got the internship position, the paperwork process began. It takes around 2 weeks to be complete. I don’t know how it is in other universities but here in la Autònoma it goes down like this:

  1. Tell the company to contact Treball Campus – The company must fill some forms in the online platform. Treball then will take up to a week to validate the information, approve the agreement, and prepare a contract. There’s also a fee involved that the company has to pay.
  2. Treball Campus will contact you and the agency once the contract is ready to download. – The agency must download the contract and print 3 copies: one for them, one for you, and one for Treball Campus.
  3. Contract signing (on all sides) – the contract needs to be signed by you and the company on each page. Each page. If not, Treball will say it’s not valid and make you go back to the company to get it signed. 
  4. Take the contract to Treball Campus to get it signed and validated – this will take up to 2 business days for reasons I am still trying to comprehend. When it’s ready, Treball will notify you and you can go pick it up.
  5. Get registered with the Seguridad Social (social security) to get a number. If your internship is paid, the company needs this number to do the legal process to pay you. The registering process is straightforward:
  • Go to a Seguridad Social office (usually open Monday thru Friday, 9 AM to 2 PM). Make sure you don’t need an appointment prior to getting there. I didn’t need one but offices in Barcelona city might me different due to the higher volume of people.
  • Take with you your NIE, passport, the original contract (signed on all pages by you and the company, and approved by Treball Campus) and a copy of the contract. 
  • In the office, they’ll assign you a number that you’ll need to give to the Accounting/Human Resources department at your internship center.

And that’s it. I had to wait around a month until all the paperwork was finally done. It’s not a walk in the park but one of my goals had just been achieved: I got an internship at a communications agency.

So, should you do an internship?

If you don’t have a job, I advise that you try to get into an internship. You will get not only experience, but you will improve your current skills and acquire new ones. Is it easy? No, it’s not. You must organize your time to fulfill your school and work obligations. But internships are a great way to demonstrate your commitment to your career and your determination to take it to the next level.


Have you ever done an intership? How was it? Do you think it’s worth it? Leave your comments below!

Photo credit: Kaboompics // Karolina

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