The study is intended to explore features of good internship experience, what are the expectations of students regarding internships, and does internship satisfaction affect student’s willingness to work in the company in the future. Also, suggestions to CAC (Career Advising Center at Nazarbayev University), students and hiring companies are presented. Results of seven in-depth interviews of Nazarbayev University undergraduate junior and senior students were used in the study. It was revealed, that internship satisfaction reflects student’s willingness to work in the future in the company. Students who were satisfied with their internship experiences noted that their duties, requirements and tasks were well assigned and discussed from the first day; their communication and working style preferences met the company’s; they felt that they were contributing to the department’s work; their mentors were often open to provide assistance, and that they were acquiring something new and interesting. Suggestions of CAC and company staff were the main sources for finding an internship program for students.
Many companies in Kazakhstan design and organize different types of internships to attract young employees for the long-term employment. Therefore, it is important for these companies to get feedback from students who had interned in their departments, as this feedback is an important source from which HR community decides how to alter internship programs and what type of students to recruit.
However, official available data tend to be biased, too general, and therefore not beneficial neither for organizations themselves nor potential interns. Namely, some organizations on their official websites have special forum or article(s) where interns (some of which may be employed) share experiences (mostly or totally positive) (“Otzyv Ot Stazhyora”, “Otzyvy stazhyorov”). Moreover, their answers are very short, and the fact that the information is posted on the website of the company also affects its one-sidedness, as the website themselves are aimed at representing their positive image only. The problem is that those platforms are the single data providers for students looking for internships and other parties in Kazakhstan.
However, some more or less objective feedback is presented by international organizations, such as Big4, where their goal is to introduce real image of the work in these companies so that more suited interns will apply there (Kudaibergenova 2018). However, to other companies, especially governmental, there is often lack or too brief biased information.
Purpose of the study
The study was intended to get more detailed and direct feedback from Nazarbayev University (NU) bachelor students about their internship experiences, as officially there was lack of objective literature on topic as well as direct and more concrete feedback from the interned students themselves. Namely, their expectations and satisfaction with internship programs, and future employment consideration of the organization were explored. Moreover, the study was aimed to figure out any patterns in internship experiences depending on the student’s major,
gender, ethnicity, place of study, type of interned organization (governmental, NGO, etc.) and any other attributes. The study is important for recruiters as for them it may not be clear what attracts millennial generation, NU undergraduate students, and they might adjust internship programs more or less to the youth’s perceptions.
Before going in depth to the academic literature, it is important to explore internship regulations. For example, for Nazarbayev University bachelor students major greatly affects internship application procedures (“Rules and Regulations.”). Namely, students of previously School of Engineering (SENG) students can have an internship only during the summer. While previously School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS) majoring students as well as students of previously School of Science and Technology (SST) may take internship during any term period (Summer, Fall or Spring). Moreover, workload for SHSS students should not be more than 15 hours per week, while for SENG students it is not stated. However, to SENG and SST certain assignments regarding the internship should be provided before the end of the internship, while SHSS do not face such limit. Such conditions may affect what type of internships students take, their expectations of the programs and even experiences.
Academic literature on themes of ‘student internship experience’, ‘internship satisfaction’, and ‘expectations from internship programs’ are from English sources, as there is an absence of online academic works related to the topic from local Kazakhstani scholars.
Works of D'Abate, Youndt & Wenzel (2009) and Ko (2008) provide different factors which may substantially influence student internship satisfaction, and which can be used in the study to figure out the trends in local internship programs. In particular, D'Abate, Youndt & Wenzel’s (2009) empirical study relies on outcome of survey conducted from undergraduate junior and senior students of mostly Management and Business Department (81%) at a liberal arts college in the USA. It assessed internship satisfaction by three factors:
a) job characteristicsor “what an employee does at work” (i.e. skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback);
b) work environment characteristics that affect an employee (e.g. learning opportunities, supervision, career development opportunities, interpersonal relationships with colleagues, organizational support);
c) contextual factors such as flexible work hours, having a long commute, if the internship is paid internship, and its location.
Whereas, factor analysis of Ko (2008) uses more expanded features of each factors influencing student satisfaction with internship in hospitality industry in Taiwan:
1) supervisor (e.g. professional knowledge and technique, management and training methods, management attitude);
2) physical work environment;
3) learning or obtaining professional skills and knowledge;
4) administration (i.e. service and internship arrange, mentor to care and well-being for student);
5) relationship with co-worker and consumer.
It is quite visible that the factors affecting internship satisfaction are different depending on the industry. For example, in hospitality industry there is an importance of considering relationship of an intern with consumers, and that physical work environment here is more significant than for management and business departments. Also, Bao and Fang (2014) noted that in China in hospitality field students are often provided with good peer communication opportunities. This may be due to that in this field peers tend to assist each other and give suggestions during group training, and less focus is put on competition between workers. While other work factors tend to be dissatisfying, such as opportunities for self-development, payment, autonomy and challenging nature of the work. Regarding clinical psychology interns Pillay &
Johnston (2011) found thataround 35% reported being prepared for the internship, suggesting
that hiring coordinators should work on bridging the gap between theoretical and clinical backgrounds of bachelor students.
Regarding the results and some patterns, research of D’Abate et al. (2009) and regression analysis by Liu, Xu and Weitz (2011) revealed positive correlation between learning opportunities and internship satisfaction.
D’Abate et al. (2009) suggest that contextual factors did not play role probably because of temporary nature of internships, which makes students to tolerate long commutes, lack of payment, etc. Gupta and Schiferl (2010) came to the same conclusions, adding that internship duration also did not play a significant role. While Stansbie, Nash and Jack (2013) found out that contextual factors can be initial motivation for students to intern, while over time the interns may become mostly driven more by job characteristics.
Nevertheless, using snowball sampling for mixed method questionnaires, McHugh (2017) discovered that differences in student satisfaction in terms of internship payment do exist: interns who had been paid indicated higher levels of supervision, clear task identity from the staff, and higher willingness to be employed in the future in the company than interns who were unpaid.
The point here is not only in payment’s positive effect on the students’ work efficiency, but mostly in that companies tend to invest more time on planning and enhancing the programs for which they waste own finances. Hurst and Good (2010) noted other benefits of paid internships:
higher accountability of interns; more interns to recruit, and thus more suitable to the program interns are available; and easier to demand progress from interns.
Regarding unpaid internships, students from low socio-economic status demonstrated less internship satisfaction. These students tend to experience financial problems before enrolling in the program, and/or expenses for commute and lunch during internship worsened their financial situation. Moreover, regardless of unpaid or paid internships, students for whom internship was required before graduation showed less satisfaction with the programs. It is possible that these
students chose the program solely due to the college requirement, and thus did not seriously pay attention at components of the program itself, which may be disliked by the students even prior the internship.
According to Smayling and Miller’s survey of management majoring students (2012), differences can be observed about how interns feel about supervision: interns being supervised by staff of the same gender tend to be more satisfied with the program. Potential reason was not stated by the researchers, so this pattern will be tested in the research study in Kazakhstani context.
D’Abate et al. (2009) also explain respondents’ need for feedback and mentoring as outcome of academic environment where students (great majority of interns are bachelor students and recent graduates) tend to get feedback and are mentored almost every day. While Ko (2008) explains demand for supervising for its benefits to students to work on mistakes.
Similar finding was demonstrated in Stansbie et al.’s (2013) Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS), where interns who received feedback was associated with continuous professional development, and the increased likelihood of them not repeating the same mistakes in the workplace. Moreover, Rothman’s (2007) content analysis found that business interns favored certain types of feedback more than others. Specifically, they preferred one-to-one feedback from their mentors, as well as bosses who interacted directly with interns, over feedback given by those who just delegate tasks to them.
D’Abate et al.’s (2009) study also stresses the widespread tendency of internship coordinators to take the learning process for granted, and recommends that coordinators should rely on a planned learning approach. According to the findings of another similar quantitative study related to internship satisfaction in the business sector by Gupta & Schiferl (2010), program satisfaction was also highly correlated with the provision of well-planned, challenging, and interesting activities coupled with having well-defined duties during the internship. Rothman
(2007) expanded on this idea of ‘well-defined duties’ with a content analysis study of written evaluations of business interns. This analysis showed that interns reported that mentors need to provide tasks, what namely they expect from an intern, clear deadlines, and how to do things better before the workday begins. In addition, it was highlighted that internships should provide experiences which will equip students to compete in the job market (Gupta & Schiferl, 2010).
For this research project it will be important to see if students mention the above concepts, if these ideas are tied to their satisfaction, and to identify which skills they consider to be demanding in their fields or in Kazakhstani job market.
Regarding the importance of work environment, D’Abate et al. (2009) have suggested to hiring companies to focus on integration of interns not only into individual departments, but also to the entire organization. Additionally, a study by Liu et al. (2011), of retail industry junior student interns based on surveys given before and after the program, found that internship satisfaction positively correlates with emotional sharing meaning an open communication of inner feelings with other people and social activity during an internship such as building and maintaining professional links. Hence, the researchers recommended that hiring coordinators should attempt to guarantee a work climate suited for open communication.
Liu et al.’s (2011) study assumes that internship work satisfaction increases an intern’s willingness to further work in the field, which is also demonstrated in Johari and Bradshaw’s (2008) factor analysis study of IT and computer science interns. This study found that job prospects (0,512 correlation at 0,05 significance level) were second after positive internship experience (0,748 correlation) to define satisfaction with internship. Nevertheless, Gupta and Schiferl (2010) found out that internship satisfaction is more associated with acquired skills during the internship than to future employment prospects. Thus, the study will evaluate how interns relate their internship satisfaction to future employment choice.
Regarding student expectations before enrolling in an internship, Gupta and Schiferl (2010) write about that information from previous program participants can be very influential.
However, in the study these informants tended to highlight short term effects of an employment in the particular company (e.g. payment), while faculty members highlighted more long-term benefits and drawbacks (e.g. promotions, long-term career opportunities).
In regression analysis of Bao and Fang’s (2014) questionnaire responses interns showed significant interest in decision making during the work than total obedience to what mentor decides the right thing to do. Ko’s (2008) study showed similar findings, explaining it that this may happen due to benefits from placing responsibility more on interns themselves so that in the future they will get used to important tasks. In the content analysis of written responses of business interns Rothman (2007) also noted the interns’ appreciation of supervisor’s allowance to work on projects interesting for an intern too.
A survey conducted by Paulins (2008) revealed that the place of internship plays a huge role in determining satisfaction. For example, interns at corporate headquarters found their programs to be beneficial for further careers and were willing to recommend their internship sites to others, while the opposite was observed in the responses of store-based interns. Reasons for that would be monotonous repetitive tasks and those encouraging a lot of ‘dealing with other people’ given to these interns, according to their responses. The latter one can be both positive and negative experiences for interns, as on the one hand they will be able to develop interpersonal skills, while on the other hand they deal more with difficult people.
O’Connor and Bodycoat (2017) noted the importance of studying disengagers. Such students lacked any interest in participating in the programs, mostly due to their preconceptions of internships as unpaid, involving mostly making good coffee champ and exploitative, or more focus on getting a good degree. In addition, the students disliked being treated as ‘newbie’, as
while studying they have acquired many useful skills. Some criticized the programs’ inability to fit their degree,and therefore favored further graduate studies.
In general, many sources indicated that student satisfaction depended on multidimensional factors, and strengths of their relationship are unequal. However, none of the studies are related to Kazakhstani context, thus they may not be generalizable, and quantitative studies predominated qualitative ones.
There was conducted Student Internship Satisfaction Survey by Career Advising Center of Nazarbayev University to assess internship satisfaction and areas need to be developed by the companies (A. Sadykova, personal communication, February 13, 2020). Namely, NU senior and junior students who have interned in 2018 or 2019 had been asked during September 2019.
Despite low response number (30 responses), it provided following recommendations to hiring coordinators: need to establish program with clear timelines, responsibilities; to take seriously issue of quitting interns. While towards CAC itself students responded that they preferred first come first in system, that CAC assisted well. However, the center should focus on making sure that interns are indeed doing their jobs, providing abroad internships, more company information, and assistance during internship itself (Picture 1). Therefore, these findings are compared with findings of my study, to find out how similar they can be.
Therefore, relationship of factors affecting internship satisfaction will be explored in Kazakhstani context, namely observing different patterns in students’ perceptions as well as perception of hiring coordinators of internship programs.
1. What are the expectations of undergraduate Kazakhstani students from internship programs?
2. How do the students tend to define internship satisfaction?
3. To what extent internship satisfaction level reflects student’s future employment choice?
4. What can be recommended to a. hiring companies?
b. future interns?
c. Career Advising Center (CAC)?
The data had been collected in January and February 2020. There had been conducted seven semi-structured in-depth interviews in Kazakh, Russian and English depending on respondent’s choice. Participants were junior and senior bachelor students studying NU, having internship experience in any city in Kazakhstan. At first, I was concerned to explore experiences of 3-4th year bachelor students of any university/college studying in Nur-Sultan, however, due to the time limit for recruitment and ability to recruit sufficient number of participants for interviewing, I decided to stop recruitment with seven interviews conducted from Nazarbayev University (NU) students only. Despite that, there were many interesting findings that I have noticed during conduction, transcription and analysis of the responses. Moreover, before interviewing I ignored one fact that some NU students, despite studying in Nur-Sultan, had internship experiences in other cities, namely their hometowns during winter or summer holidays. Also, it was considered to recruit participant using two social media, Vkontakte and Instagram. However, snowball
sampling demonstrated its high efficiency in recruitment, therefore there was no need to use Instagram. Snowball sampling meant to ask my friends and acquaintances about their internship experiences and willingness to share their experiences, as well as contacts of students from other universities/colleges who may meet criteria to participate in the study. Namely, to those accounts, which were suggested by my friends and acquaintances and who do not know me at all, recruitment letter by Vkontakte was sent. Relying on this method was a right choice, as I have connections with many senior and junior students in NU. Also, these students had at least rarely communicated with me, and thus more or less knew me in person. That’s why they would more or less feel themselves comfortable to share whatever experience with me. However, many people refused to participate in the study due to ‘very short internship duration’ or
‘useless/negative experience’. Despite that I have written them that one of the aims of the study is to provide suggestions to hiring organizations, all of them kept refusing to share the experience. Even though I asked everyone about people they knew who might be interested in participation, it was difficult to get contacts or social media accounts of potential participants, as many people who I sent invitations tended to promise but failed to provide those contacts.
Any needs of participants were asked and addressed in informal way and in plain understandable language (related to the study) before the interview.
During the interview verbal answers were recorded in audiotape by a tape recorder by participants’ consent. Each interview proceeded from 30 to 60 minutes. There were no greater risks than minimal. Participation was voluntary and a person could skip any question or withdraw at any point. In order to protect confidentiality, all participants were given pseudonyms that only reflected their gender. When they talked about other people, those individuals were also given pseudonyms. Finally, companies were renamed as well, to only express the type of workplace and further protect privacy. All information was stored on my personal password protected PC, and all the information was kept in a special folder.
There was no direct benefit to participants, but their participation could contribute to the study of internship experiences.
I had two students with economics major, one student with sociology major, two students with mathematics major, and two engineer students. There were two students who changed their majors: from economics to sociology, from computer science to mathematics. In addition, one student confessed in regret to shift her major (from engineering to computer science). As only one of the participants is a male student and other six are female, there was more focus on how interns of different majors or specialty types (technical or non-technical majors) experienced internship programs rather than how students’ gender influenced their internship experience, as these factors may significantly impact on internship satisfaction of the students.
I was the one conducting the interviews, so that the participant would feel comfortable sharing his/her thoughts. However, study advisors assisted in designing the study as well as shared their experience and insights, when needed.
I decided to use open coding, because during transcription of the interviews I have found that quite often the respondents used several sentences to explain or describe one thing. That’s why line by line coding would not be appropriate.
Data analysis and Discussion of Findings
Initially data analysis was considered to discuss following four aspects:
1. Analysis of expectations prior involving in an internship program;
2. Analysis of internship satisfaction;
3. Evaluation of future employment in the organization;
4. Recommendations to hiring organizations.
Nevertheless, due to the findings from the interviews, I decided to make following changes by adding 4th research question:
1. Analysis of expectations prior involving in an internship program;
2. Analysis of internship satisfaction;
3. Evaluation of future employment choice in the organization;
4. Recommendations to a. Hiring companies;
b. Future interns;
c. Career Advising Center (CAC).
Research Question 1: What are the expectations of undergraduate Kazakhstani students from internship programs?
Expectations of students can be divided into several themes: students’ expectations of recruitment of interns, students’ expectations of companies, students’ expectations of internship experience, students’ expectations of interning/working in Nur-Sultan’s office, and influence of
‘first ever experience’ on expectations.
Students’ expectations of recruitment of interns
GPA is a significant factor affecting where to intern for majority of the students interviewed. The point is that it is not clear whether companies always or often rely on GPA of students. However, it is clear that many students expect that their GPA will influence their enrollment probability, namely in top companies or well-known ones. For instance, Gulnaz was not indeed sure does the company Welcom rely prominently on GPA. Nevertheless, she considered this assumption seriously when she was making decision where to apply. Adding to this the fact that she considered her GPA as not high, Gulnaz decided not to apply to Welcom at all.
Balnur was a single respondent who tended to rely on online data to find out what is expected during job interview: “It was as it expected. Like I've searched on the internet what kind of like potential questions employees would ask.” “and I think everything went well.”
Therefore, despite that online sources can be helpful to at least psychologically prepare interns for the first working day.
Also, Balnur was the single one who expected her Nazarbayev University identity affecting recruitment process:
They knew that I'm Nazarbayev University student. I think this affected at first time that at the stage of review, a CV screening, maybe they would like oh it's a NU student, maybe she is smart, like she must be smart.
… I'm just like assuming that I think they would prefer me rather than student from like non-popular university. I'm not like judging this kind of others, but it may be, it might give me some kind of privileges, I think.
She held same expectations of company’s perception of NU graduates even after she finished the internship: “Because NU has like good reputation in Kazakhstan. I do not know about this. They would certainly be interested about these university graduates.” Cenna where Gulnaz interned also demonstrated preference to NU students: “You should come to work here.
We like Nazarbayev University students.” It is important to note that if Balnur was the first NU student interning/working in Finco, Gulnaz is not the first one in Cenna. However, it is still unclear whether these companies indeed give preferences to NU students/graduates than non- NU. Even though, some students may think that their NU student identity affected recruitment or will affect recruitment.
Students’ expectations of companies
It is found that company’s international feature and having many foreign employees is considered to be positive, and signifies that the company is good. For example, for Laura pointed out that the fact that Nest is a good company, because it is an international company with foreign workers. Mereke also mentioned that the company where she would like to intern ‘is more international’: “… It seems to be interesting and more international.” This can be related to common belief in Kazakhstan that international companies are better in many aspects compared to governmental organizations.
Even sounding of significance in the name of a company influences students’ decision to intern here. As Laura noted: “It just seemed somehow prestigious to me, like “FNC!”,” presence of sounding of prestige does matter for some students. Probably it is related to companies about which students no nothing, namely about company’s inner functioning.
There are several significant sources of information about companies. Social connection with employees of a company is one of them. For example, Laura’s sister had been working in Nest, and Laura mentioned that her older sister was the main source of information about the company: “Well, I knew purely from my sister’s words.” Also, it is important not to ignore social media accounts of companies as information sources, as some students actually follow these accounts and read their feed. For instance, Balnur noted that she followed Finco’s Instagram page, and that’s where she learned about the company.
Interestingly, within university community information about companies can be even contradictory. For example, before it was mentioned that Gulnaz associated Welcom with top GPA interns, while from Aida’s experience it is clear that interning in at least some departments in Welcom could leave negative perception. Therefore, students may have contradictory expectations of a company due to their reliance on knowledge or experience of different NU students.
Majority of participants revealed that the fact that they knew nothing about a company was not an obstacle, as for them it was important to gain almost any internship experience. For Mereke, for instance, it was important to gain any experience related to her major: “I just needed any construction company, so I wrote almost to any of them.” While in Gulnaz’s case her studies and CAC affected her inability to do some search on the company:
I didn't have a lot of time to search because we were applying during the spring and we were having midterms in between, the quizzes. I did not search the credibility, what the company does. It was just proposed for math students like because the companies were based on the majors by CAC.
In similar cases CAC may affect internship application by proposing particular companies depending on student’s major. Therefore, absence of any major expectations was not an obstacle to want to intern.
Balnur and Mereke expected companies to have strict corporate culture and employees themselves being very strict and serious. “The atmosphere was warm, but than I expected. I expected like strong corporative culture.” By ‘strict’ Balnur meant that employees are themselves strict and always follow deadlines. Mereke also pointed out that she expected Struct to have serious atmosphere, namely employees themselves being serious:
Interviewer: Indeed, about Struct before taking internship what thoughts did you have about this company? Interviewee: About it… to be honest, I don’t know, that they are so serious.
They did not seem that much serious. All of them looked like aimless.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that these perceptions can be different to each office or department of companies. In general, the students may have associated these companies with strict and disciplined corporate culture, because these companies were expected to be successful, and thus to have such culture.
Students’ expectations of internship experience
Even prior coming to a company, some students have certain expectations from the internship program, due to family and individual stereotypes, expectations from someone else’s experience in same or same type of company or even in any company. Aida mentioned that she considered her general expectations of Kazakhstani internships prior starting interning:
At the beginning I was sure, I was convinced that I’m going to have no choice, and that there will be some kind of requests and might seem ridiculous like bring you a coffee or buy a present for someone. I was ready for that at the very beginning, because my parents informed me that “This is Kazakhstan and you should be ready for it”. So, I accepted it, and I was not surprised at all.
These expectations include her parents’ expectations too. Moreover, the after effect is that she did not feel ridiculed when she performed stereotypical tasks such as bringing coffee or tea, or buying something from store. While Islam mentioned different expected feature of
internships: “Well, many internships are like that. They are just given paperwork: How to make a presentation, prepare documents, sort out something.”
In case of Danel her family and friends associated Gost’s governmental nature with high level of bureaucracy: “Well, I was warned because of that, yes, governmental institution. That there will be this bureaucracy, and all things.” Therefore, people may have expectations of governmental organizations that they are highly bureaucratized, tend to give interns unnecessary tasks and a lot of paperwork.
Aida used her own measurement of experienced and successful company, which should be tolerant in almost any sense and have already developed efficient internship program, when she referred to her experience in Welcom. That’s why she expected Welcom, which has been considered to be successful in the local market, to be very experienced with interns and be more socially open. Therefore, students may rely on own conceptualization of successful organization during internship application.
Students’ personal characteristics also can significantly influence what kind of experience students expect prior interning. Despite that Danel knew nothing about Gost and internships there, she expected that her experience will be positive there. She relied on own intuition, which always states that her experience will be different, it will be positive experience.
As she noted, this reflects her general attitude to any new experience: “Well, it is, probably, personal, I don’t know. Personal attitude is like that.” This expectation of definite positive experience explains why Danel kept interning at Gost, despite some drawbacks she had been noticing. Indeed, Danel’s expectation of positive experience is quite reasonable, as she meant that other interns’ negative experience does not necessarily guarantee her negative experience.
First day of internship affects what an intern may expect from the rest of the internship.
The reason is that student can identify what is the perception of the company of interns in general. It can be seen from the first day depending on what kind of work space and tasks does
the company propose. For instance, Danel pointed out that from her first day in Gost she understood that the company recruits interns only to fulfill certain places:
Well, as I said in the beginning that this organization just needed to put a tick that they had some kind of intern. They did not have separate some kind of work for him. There were no duties like that. It seemed as if they did not know what to give me first days.
Such attitude towards interns can be also seen from the fact that Danel’s work space was not prepared when she first came in Gost:
I did not even have own work place, when I came there. I said that I will not just sit on a sofa, give me normal table and so on. And only then they began to look around: «Ah, it turns out that they actually had a free work place somewhere.
In a nutshell, she meant that Gost did not consider intern’s need for individual work space, and that the company ignored significance of learning new skills and knowledge. Gost did not prepare not only personal work space, tasks for Danel, but also it whether expected passivity from interns:
I.e. in the beginning they thought: «Ok, just an intern, let her sit for a while and something else.» After you talk with them, they will be like: “Ah. Well, ok. We will teach you. We will help you. We will show you like that.” I.e. all of this work, it lined up only if I say that I don’t like.
Later Danel herself explained probable reason for that. Namely, she referred to how failures of interns may affect the department, in case interns are actively and significantly engaged in company’s work.
In Gulnaz’s case her mentor honestly told what they will be doing during the internship:
“He told us that we may contribute in writing the national report, but we need to write in the purely academic Russian without any emotions, like without stating any opinions.” Later she confirmed that she was assisting with completing this national report by providing unbiased writings to her advisor. Thus, it can be stated that first day of internship reflects further
Having networks of people who had experience in the company is an important factor affecting what students expect from internship. For instance, Mereke revealed her unwillingness to work or intern in MELD, due to her engineer acquaintances’ words, according to which the company reminds Struct in working with interns: “they do not that much torture and pay attention, they do not consider us seriously.” Likewise, Mereke relied on experience of one engineer student when she was explaining why she want to work in another company:
And I heard that person, i.e. student, who worked there, had learnt another kind of engineering method or like that. He kind of learnt that, and now he is even writing a research related to that. I was surprised – actually you can learn one thing.
Here the fact that someone of the same major had positive and useful experience of work referred to her possibility of gaining useful experience there too.
Some respondents expected that they would not enjoy office work, namely working from 9 am to 6 pm. However, many of these students demonstrated different attitude towards office work due to interning. For example, Danel along with working in office during regular hours expected that she would prefer working alone:
I can do all of this work, and in fact I like working with people. In other words, I always thought that I am not a person for group works, and I do everything on my own. That I need to sit quietly and work somewhere at home, that’s why I thought maybe someday do freelancing or something like this. However, here I understood that indeed, no, this office atmosphere normally affects me. So. And I found out that I also have stress resistance.
Therefore, internships are useful to find out real perceptions and preferences at workplace of a student.
Students’ expectations of interning/working in Nur-Sultan’s office
As Balnur interned in her hometown Home, when she was asked if Finco’s office was in Nur-Sultan, would she work/intern here, she answered positively. Further Balnur explained what differences she expects from companies in Nur-Sultan:
I expect from office in Astana to be more… Formal, yes, way of working than in Home.
But if I had chance like to work there, I would also apply my CV.
… I think like Astana is desired for like people who work, but in Home they are more like friendly people more. Even in at work they try to stay in like in a friendly way, not so formal as you may expect.
… Recently I was talking with my roommate... because most of the people like who work in this even Finco from Home they’ve gained like education like experience like from around the world and had some good education but eventually there are from Home, they have roots from Home. It is their root is tied in their individuality, I think. But in Astana I have people from very different backgrounds and from different regions and they do not have like same kind of vibe I think as in Home.
… And they try to stay some kind of more or less alienated from each other.
From Balnur’s words it is clear that expectations regarding local culture may influence expectations about company’s office.
Influence of ‘first ever experience’ on expectations
According to Danel, her internship in Gost was the first ever. She relates this fact to her positive expectations of her experience:
It was my first one, and that’s why I thought so, you know, took positive view, I came here with expectations. I thought: “Now I will get out of this place, and I will have knowledge, and so on. I will learn everything right now and so forth.” I, conversely, went like that.
The fact that she had never had an internship affected Danel’s expectations to be high. If experience in Gost was second one, she may not have such high expectations prior interning.
Laura mentioned that her first internship experience in Nest left her the most vivid memories because it was the first one. Mereke also pointed out significance of first experience: it was the most impactful in her opinion, and she considered it very seriously. Her attitude towards second internship was different: “While in second one I was more tired, I guess. Sometimes I went before afternoon, sometimes after the lunch.” Also, Balnur pointed out that she tried not to
leave bad image after herself by revealing discontent with something, because it was her first experience.
Interestingly, compared to Aida during his second internship experience Islam asked for more practical work: “I asked my supervisor to help me to gain technical experience, work with hands.” Perhaps the fact that he had previous internship experience influenced his willingness to share his discontent with tasks that were assigned to him, compared to Aida whose experience in Welcom was the first one.
To put in a nutshell, first ever experience is very powerful to many students, and they tend to take it seriously from day one and with high expectations about companies. Moreover, students tend not to share any discontent during their first internship experience.
Research Question 2: How do the students tend to define internship satisfaction?
Department interacts with interns in a friendly way. This is related to company’s entire workforce engaged in internship experience: advisor, director of department, rest of the department staff. In Welcom at Aida’s department staff confessed in their inability to properly communicate with interns. This problem was major reason why Aida generally disliked her experience, because she should have interacted with employees on a daily basis: “One of my tasks was to bring documents for the signature of another directors or managers, and approaching their room, approaching themselves was not that pleasant task.” Moreover, this inability to interact with intern was clear from department director and advisor’s unhealthy reactions to the intern’s mistakes and unawareness:
This manager and director were bit impatient and could directly express their dissatisfaction with me, while other employees were not like this, they were not like this.
… But as the one manager, whose assistant I was, she was rude. Why – because when I didn’t understand something and we asked for something to clarify it, she could show her face that she is not satisfied with me. Like “Aida, I have told you. You did not get it? Ok. I will explain it again.” With this kind of tone of her voice.
… She (director) once mentioned that I’m from such university and why wouldn’t I know…
While rest of the department staff were helpful, when Aida was asking for something.
However, as she mostly interacted with her advisor, and the director was the main decision maker in the department, interactions with them were of higher importance. Furthermore, Aida continued interning despite that from the first interaction with the director during recruitment interview she noticed strict and cold communication preferences of the director which she found as ‘not that pleasant’. In addition, Aida said that even after being accepted to the program she still had this little nervousness:
Since I'm already a person for a less confidence in yourself and plus the first impression after the interview - everything was combined, and it made me very nervous and anxious on the first day of the work.
This can be one of the reasons why she tended to feel mentally tired after the work.
Therefore, interns should be communicated in a friendly way even when they are making mistakes or are unaware of something.
Collective’s communication preferences match intern’s preferences. Interestingly, this point was not discussed in literature review section at all. In Aida’s case it was problematic, thus, she felt herself quite isolated from the department, and could not share her real views on things at work. Some interns may not have such problems in case of Aida, due to their preference to communicate in formal and strict style at work. That’s the reason why it is important during recruitment interviews to pay close attention at whether intern’s communication preferences match department’s ones. It will make easier for both of the sides, as intern will look for another internship rather than having a month of unsatisfied internship, and the department will find a student who will have no problems when it comes to interactions with the staff. Likewise, Aida mentioned that she would prefer interning at Welcom’s HR department, as from her observations staff here is more of her type, i.e. they tend to have conversations on topics outside the work.
Afterwards, as Aida discovered her workplace preferences, she will be more selective depending on companies’ corporate culture. Danel experienced similar problems regarding ‘too formal’
communication at work. She said that it somehow influenced her experience:
We always had to speak “Vy” and so on. In general, such rules of communication very…
that I cannot enter the office while they sitting there etc. I.e. there were such rules everywhere, and it embarrassed me too a little.
Regarding language of communication Balnur mentioned that the fact that her colleagues spoke Kazakh, her native language, as well as English made her feel closer to the staff.
Whereas in Nest in Laura’s department employees mostly communicated via special chatting program. That’s why Laura said that if she worked there for long-term, she would not prefer such communication, as frequent face-to-face conversations make colleagues know each other more. However, as she was an intern, Laura said that it is ok for her.
Mentor provides tasks that result in acquiring certain skill or knowledge. Aida prefered working on making a questionnaire, analyzing the outcome, and reporting it to the head managers, as she felt that she reached ‘certain outcomes’ and she did own real research using questionnaire for the first time. Also, Aida liked that she learned new terms related to her major in different languages, as well as learnt how to use them interchangeably. On the other hand, regarding questionnaire she did not like doing rest of the bureaucratic tasks like “bringing documents, making lists of participants, and meeting them, solving their problems, like why they are not in the list.” Also, Aida felt that she did not acquire any skills when she was asked to buy presents to the department staff. Probably Aida disliked majority of bureaucratic tasks due to same reason. Mereke also generally was not satisfied with both of her internships, as she only enjoyed learning new program (which is not related to her field of interest), while majority of the tasks resulted in acquiring nothing new and useful: “They gave me work with cutting papers and making badges. Well, that was the whole work.” The same can be said about Gulnaz’s experience: “… they needed space between, in this paragraph the interval between distances, between rows should be like 1.5, and here one point 25.” Like it was all that work he wanted me to do.” As this was all what she had to do, Gulnaz disliked her work in general, and used to force herself to do these things. That’s why after first week she became much less ambitious. Danel said that when she was doing all of these little tasks (which was a lot), she felt that what she was doing was going nowhere, as it is not significant to anyone. Therefore, interns whose work was mostly bureaucratic did not enjoy their internships.
Mentor pays constant attention to task assignment to intern. Gulnaz started leaving
decided to dedicate this time to do other things: “They were looking at me not doing anything and I was just watching, uh, like YouTube, learning languages, doing exam myself time.” The same can be said about Danel’s case: on the first day her colleagues did not know what to give her, and Danel felt that the organization did not have separate special work for interns. That’s why she thought that Gost needed interns just for putting mark (‘сделать пометку’). For Mereke it was also important that staff in her department paid attention to what type of tasks she was doing: “If I was in a project group that pays close attention to me and maybe gave me different tasks, I would be interested I guess.” She said that in first internship they did not consider her as experienced and she was finishing sophomore year. That’s why they put her with safety engineers, instead of giving her tasks with higher significance. While in second internship she felt that she was considered in a more serious way, as they gave her tasks, explained how to do them and left her alone trusting that she could do it. As both of the companies that Mereke interned in did not pay serious attention to task assignment to interns, she now more focuses on this aspect. For example, when she was talking about her future plans, Mereke mentioned that she is not going to intern in Inkel, as she heard that “they do not that much torture and pay attention, they do not consider us seriously.”
Mentor provides tasks related to the field that intern is interested in. Mereke mentioned that her tasks were not related to her interests, and that’s why she was not interested in her work: “Well, I would also work, if they gave me something including working with AutoCAD.” Despite that she wrote in motivational letter that she is interested in structural engineering, Mereke did not intern in offices where people had corresponding expertise. Similar can be said about Danel’s experience in Gost. Danel’s major did not correspond to the field of work of her internship. Even after interning she said that the company’s sphere is still not her sphere. Gulnaz also knew her interest – teaching math. That’s why she was thinking to intern in an intellectual school: “And it was more or less what I can, what I think I can do with joy.” Also, during her internship she enjoyed working with calculating literacy rate of employees. This task
can be interesting to her, as it is more or less related to math. Overall, this point is significant, as lack of interest in field generates lack of interest in the work itself. In turn it leads to discouragement to work hard during internship, and also acquired knowledge may not be used in the future at all.
Mentorship is considered as a separate important duty by the company. Mereke had a problem with her advisor, as she often could not meet him when she needed, and he did not specialize in her field at all:
My supervisor, well, he was in much higher position, and he always had to be on construction site. He could not take me with him, because I had no, how it is called, in short they could not give an access to interns to construction site.
Gulnaz also mentioned significance of having separate person who will coordinate interns. The point is that a mentor is a person who an intern relies on whatever he/she wants to clarify/find out. If this person is not nearby, when he/she is needed, an intern is usually left with doing nothing related to the internship. Companies may not draw serious attention at this issue, and thus leave interns often waiting their advisors. However, employees do not see the situation from intern’s perspective, as they may think that students should not be constantly doing something during internships.
Working conditions are at least satisfying. Mereke mentioned that canteen was in an awful state, outside, and construction workers entered bringing dust with themselves. She said that she does not want to work in place like that. Balnur also pointed out that working conditions should be improved in Finco, such as wi-fi functioning, access to coffees. But compared to Mereke, Balnur was not that much critical to this aspect. This also may explain why Balnur preferred Finco, whereas Mereke did not prefer Struct.
Intern’s location is near to his/her department. Mereke was in confusion why she was assigned to sit in the office of the department which is not related to her field at all. That’s why
she could not observe what is going on in her office. Thus, interns need to be located nearby their colleagues, as doing tasks for own department is not enough to be in the same flow as the colleagues.
Intern is assigned to a certain department from the day one. Even though students would be happy to intern in good companies, they may dislike working in these companies generally, if during the internship they could not gain anything from their fields. That’s why it is important to recruit interns whose fields or interests match fields of departments of the company.
This is visible from Mereke’s experience: “They could not find out where to put me. Civil Engineering is kind of too broad, and they themselves did not know could they assign me to engineers.”
Intern’s working style matches company’s working style. Gulnaz working on national report said “the information seemed not so credible that I did not put a lot of work on it..”
Therefore, working with not credible sources may discourage intern to create good piece of work. Alongside with different perceptions of using sources, Gulnaz did not like organization’s general work style: “Honestly, I did not find their work important at all. I was just feeling they were not very efficient.” Also, she did not consider topics of their work important. All of these majorly influenced her perception of the internship experience. Likewise, Danel did not prefer Gost’s workstyle: “I did not like because I constantly had to falsify the report. In general, it is like contradicting yourself. Personally, it was unpleasant to do it.” The problem was that when Danel wrote honest report, she was criticized and forced to change it so that it says that everything is good. She confessed that she would like to conduct real research, that’s major reason why she disliked the internship.
Laura’s preferred working style is regarding combining office work with social work.
After her forth internship she found out that she does not like sitting most of the time. Because I
did not work that much, and I was interacting very rare. Nevertheless, Laura had positive internship experience in Nest, as she enjoyed working with people and generally her duties:
I was not sitting in the office from morning to evening. Sometimes I went out. For example, if person was leaving and he has a dog, and thus it should receive injections, therefore, I needed to go with them to vet, and so on. Sometimes I needed to go out and do something different from my routine office tasks. In this case I was lucky. I liked this.
Lack of stereotypical “bringing coffee” tasks. Gulnaz said that one of the reasons why she may had begun to dislike the internship is older employees asking her to buy something from nearby store. Later she confessed that as these tasks were quite few, this internship in general was not that bad compared to other internships where students are often asked to bring coffee and so on. Laura also compared how interns were treated in Nest with other companies, noting that it was significant advantage that in Nest interns are not asked for bringing coffees.
Intern is aware of the opportunities to be noticed during internship. Gulnaz was not that much ambitious prior interning, and she was glad to hear from her mentor that they are not pressured to do a lot of work. Interestingly, by the time she was very hardworking during the first week. Moreover, when she found out that her name and her texts can be included in the final report if she worked harder, she got confused with the fact that her mentor did not specify it in the beginning: “Maybe if he told me like more explicitly you can be added to the national report only education.” She also mentioned that she would have worked as hard as during the first week, if she knew in advance that her name will be put in the report.
Intern clearly knows what is expected from him/her from the first day. Balnur was satisfied with her internship experience in Finco, as from her first day she was informed about what is expected from her, what her duties are and where to get necessary information. While Gulnaz had totally opposite experience:
I didn't know what am I doing there because really even so we were told: “You can contribute.” We didn't know to what? Like it wasn't explicitly said that it was a national report. I just found out about in the end.
Intern contributes to the general work of the department. Balnur felt that she was contributing to Finco’s work, as she knew that her researches and analysis were used by her colleagues. She felt that she did first step of their work, which was significant and related to economics. Also, by participating in weekly discussions of specialists of her field Balnur felt that she is contributing to their work. Islam also felt that he was contributing a lot, as starting from the second week he was doing half of the job.
Intern is expected to lack certain knowledge or skills even related to his/her field of study. When Balnur came to Finco, she found out that she does not acquire some significant for her field skills like programming. That’s why she felt quite embarrassed to constantly ask for guides from her colleagues in her first internship. Despite that the staff reacted to her inability to program well in a healthy way: “They can approach you, very warm and you don't feel pressured. I'm not even if you like lack skills as I did in programming.” This can be reason why Balnur is seriously taking to learn programming after the internship.
Interns can easily communicate with each other. Balnur mentioned that communication with her intern mates, who worked separately from her, was very useful during adaptation and solving work-related individual issues. In addition, Laura noted that in her first internship in Nest interns could not interact with each other easily. She barely found out that there were other students in the organization interning at the same time: “It would be better if every Friday or once in two weeks they invite all interns and ask them to interact with each other in teambuilding kind of.”
Intern can engage in practical tasks. Balnur’s internship was related to her major, and she noted that if at university she was learning only theoretical part of her field, during her internship in Finco she encountered practical side of it, which she enjoyed. Islam mentioned the
same point. He enjoyed more practical tasks. That’s why he said he would prefer working in departments that provide working with hands.
After internship intern gets feedback on what he/she should work on. Balnur liked that her mentor approached her individually during her last internship day, and that alongside with warm words, he mentioned what she is good at and on what she should work on. This is especially useful for interns who had first ever experience and thus knew almost nothing about themselves at work.
Company is open to change regulations to correspond to intern’s needs. Balnur had problems with corresponding to initially assigned work schedule of Finco. Nevertheless, she appreciated that her managers agreed to alter her workload per day, so that in general she will meet assigned workload to entire internship period.
Intern engages in out-of-work conversations with the collective. According to Danel, she more or less could feel as a part of her collective thanks to tea meetings in the beginning of almost every day. The reason is that they could speak informally with each other, and share some tips or any new information within the company. It constituted good source of information that Danel needed to get use to the organization.
Intern’s ideas are welcomed. Danel interned in Gost and had research assistance at the university. She had experienced different perceptions of the atmospheres in these internships. In Gost she disliked that she is expected only to obey, and that’s why she could not share her ideas.
In short, she suggested Gost to provide some freedom to interns. Whereas during assistance at the university she was in atmosphere which was open to creativity. Thus, Danel decided to never work in governmental organizations like Gost. In Aida’s case, she also experienced limitations regarding creativity, however she expected that prior interning. Nevertheless, Aida also pointed out interns’ inability to share honest views with the company to be major drawback.
Collective’s views generally match intern’s views. Danel much more enjoyed working at the university than in Gost, as her views matched views of her colleagues at the university.
The opposite can be said about her experience in Gost. She also mentioned that despite low payment she may work in organization where company atmosphere is cool, i.e. if it matches her preferences in corporate culture.
Internship is paid. Danel and Balnur were paid for their internships, even though low amount they said. The former pointed out that paid feature can be one of the reasons she liked research assistance more. Balnur also appreciated Finco’s payment comparing it with other internships that are not paid. Whereas Laura confessed that she would prefer internship in Nest being paid, as she did almost the same amount of work as other employees, and sometimes even overworked. Therefore, internship payment is never considered bad, and it should be relocated depending on intern’s workload.
Internship period does not intersect university semester. Several participants had internship period intersecting beginning or end of the semester. Danel and Gulnaz pointed out that their studies may somehow affected their experience. As Danel stated her thoughts were a little in her studies.
Company provides possibilities for growth. Danel felt that Gost cannot provide her promising prospects, therefore, she decided not to suggest it to NU students.
Presence of flexible working hours. During her internship in the university Laura was taking summer course, and that’s why having flexible internship hours was beneficial for her:
«Yes, you will be like an intern, however I cannot give you anything, but you will get experience and free schedule. And you can, for example, come at four am and then go. It’s ok. » That’s why I liked it, because I was taking one summer course, and I just needed, so that I will not just lie taking one course, and I just wanted to do something, that’s why I found it.
Organization is located nearby. Laura had interned in the university, and its location close at hand was a big advantage as she says. While Mereke searched for companies that are located close to the dormitory.
Reporting system is adequate. Islam had problems with internship reports that he had to submit. He mentioned that he prefers writing one big report rather than weekly reports, as his tasks are almost the same for each day, and thus it took a lot of time to write these weekly reports. Moreover, he had to write report to the university. In this case such reporting system seems to be inappropriate. Mereke also had problems with reporting. Namely, as her tasks were
‘useless and simple’ and not related to her field at all, she was forced to make up a lot of things in her report, because she could be criticized by her professors for not learning something substantial.
Intern has official access to necessary tools and sites. Mereke and Laura had problems with having access to certain locations or programs, that’s why Mereke could not follow her mentor and gain much more knowledge in her field, while Laura had to hide the fact that she was given other employees’ code or password to access the program which she needed.
Research Question 3: To what extent internship satisfaction level reflects student’s future employment choice?
Aida was unsatisfied with her internship in Welcom, mostly due to her problems with interactions within the collective: “If I go to that place again, I would recall my memory and felt bad that I did this kind of mistake, and they saw my mistake.” However, she would like to intern or work in different department, if it meets her communication preferences and values.
Balnur was satisfied with internship in Finco. That’s why after graduation she would like to work there or in similar companies.
Danel was unsatisfied with her internship in Gost, therefore she does not want to intern or work there or in any governmental institution.
Gulnaz was mostly not satisfied with internship in Cenna, that’s why she does not want to work there.
Islam liked interning in TIZA ad Nest, and he is going to apply to similar companies with departments that provide more practical work.
Laura was satisfied with her internships in Nest and university, but not in FNC. She is thinking to work in Nur-Sultan in international company similar to Nest.
Mereke was not satisfied with both of her internships. She said that she will not intern or work in Struct.
Therefore, internship satisfaction directly reflected future employment choice of students.
Nevertheless, students’ unsatisfaction of internship in one department of the company did not affect willingness to intern or work in another department of the same company.
Research Question 4.a : What can be recommended to hiring companies?
Directions or fields of departments where students are going to intern should be specified in descriptions of the internship programs.
Hiring coordinators should carefully skim cover letters so that to provide better match students’ interests or fields with department’s sphere.
Provide advisor from HR department, someone who has good soft skills or had good experience with mentoring.
Draw attention on does intern’s communication preferences and working style more or less matches departments’/company’s using interviews via phone or face-to-face.
Even though your company is not that well-known and not in top three in Kazakhstan, try to ask to intern many students from various universities/colleges. As the study revealed that for many students it is not that important if they know nothing about organization.
With the description of the program it would be better to put description of a company itself or link to its website/social media accounts, as some students may not have a time to search about the company, and therefore may prefer different company which they more or less know about.
Try to create atmosphere where interns may honestly share their views. Many students are afraid to leave bad image after they share things they would like to change. That’s why the need to make sure that their honest perception will not in the future negatively affect their career.
If intern shares the things that he/she dislikes, it does not mean that intern will instantly quit the internship, as it may refer to that they would prefer these things to be changed.
So, instead of looking for different intern, try to find a time to sit and informally discuss with an intern how to make the program better from intern’s viewpoint.
Try to draw serious attention at first day of an intern in a company. Things that may seem
set deadlines with specific interesting tasks for day or week. Try not to make some tasks much more significant than they really are, as interns should know what they will be doing entire month from the first day of internship. It will make recruitment easier to you too, as you will recruit interns who will definitely intern entire month, as they in fact will agree to do assigned tasks.
HR coordinators should prepare along with future intern advisor already set of tasks that will be done by intern. These tasks should be discussed with department managers in details.
Try to recruit many interns, as it is quite difficult to find good internships, and there are much more students who want to intern than internships themselves.
Research Question 4.b : What can be recommended to future interns?
Before applying to internship make sure you know how interns are going to be recruited:
on first come, first serve basis? Based on GPA, major, year of study, CV screening, interview results, test results, etc. Make sure that it is clearly stated in the description of the program. Do not automatically think that your GPA is the first factor. Even if you are not sure about whether your GPA meets company’s requirements, try to send your CV and email with willingness to participate anyway.
If you are invited to an interview before interning, try to prepare yourself at least emotionally so that you will not feel nervous prior and during the interview. For that try to look up from Internet what questions, behavior, dress code is expected in job interviews.
Many organizations tend to have ‘significant’/ ‘prestigious’ sounding. Nevertheless, their inner functioning may be far from excellent. Make sure that this does not affect your decision to intern in a company.
As information within the university tend to be contradictory, it is not suggested to rely on one student’s experience or knowledge. Rather try to contact with several students who worked/interned in the department/company. Also, do not forget about that each intern has own definition of ‘good/bad/useless’ internship experience and even satisfaction with the program. Try to be objective while analyzing someone else’s experience, even though it is your close relative or friend.
Try to find data on specific office or department of a company where you are going to intern, as perceptions of the corporate culture or program itself may be very different in different departments or offices of one company.
Even though you heard that a company is very experienced in local market and is one of top companies in its field, do not relate this success to successful internship program
of the company or good corporate culture and working conditions. Thus, try to find more data from those who worked/work or interned/intern there.
Even if you are having first internship experience or you tend to worry about leaving good image, do not be afraid to ask your advisor to give different tasks. Many employees do not know what to do with intern, i.e. which tasks are better for him/her. Therefore, by telling honestly that you are disliking some tasks and naming those which you prefer to do is more considered as help to your advisor.
Try to c