Reflections of a Senior Intern

What is it like for a 54-year-old housewife to work as a senior intern in the buzzing scene of social media marketing?

In short, it's fun and varied. The team I work with needs to find and create interesting content for our I Feel Young SG Facebook, Instagram and website. In the six weeks that I’ve been on the job, I've interviewed interesting people; written and posted social media posts and website articles; created visuals; filmed and edited videos; acted in a polytechnic students' film project; helped behind the scenes with a photography shoot for an advertising campaign; listened in on social media strategy meetings and poked around with data analytics.

Margaret acting in Republic Polytechnic's students film project
Lights, camera, action... It was fun acting alongside professional actor Ali Khan for the students' video, which is a collaboration between Republic Polytechnic and I Feel Young SG.

Of course, I didn’t come in without skills. I had taken an 11-month full-time social media marketing course at Singapore Media Academy before the internship.

What prompted me to sign up for a social media marketing course (considering that up until 2020, I had ignored social media, online shopping and e-payments, and would you believe it, even QR-codes)? The Pandemic. After a few months of COVID-19, it became clear that I couldn’t avoid the digital lifestyle anymore. Furthermore, as my child was growing up and spending more and more time in the digital world, I had to keep up with social media to know what was happening in her world. I also realised that my job as a stay-home-mother would be ending soon, so I had to think about what to do in the next phase of my life. I thought that I should learn to market myself through social media and find work as a freelancer because who would employ someone who hadn't worked full-time for so long?

Margaret with classmates
Back to school... Can you spot me? I'm in the middle, together with my project teammates from the Social Media Marketing Training Programme.

My social media marketing course was filled with people who’d lost their jobs due to the economic fallout of the pandemic. Most were middle-aged and older. It highlighted the ageism that exists in employers' minds. It also highlighted the growth mindset, talent and resilience of my classmates, which were being overlooked by employers. But as one of my instructors, a 60-year-old data architect, says, "older people must not forget the value of their skills and experience and fall into the trap of ageist self-pity."

'Old dogs can't learn new tricks', 'old people are stubborn and slow'. These are said carelessly in everyday conversations and can cause older people to lose self-confidence. This mindset can also cause harm when employers judge candidates from a distance and overlook talent just because of age.

But fortunately, in real-world personal interactions, most people are kind, respectful, and polite. It is through personal interactions that different generations become comfortable with each other and discover that everyone has something to learn from the other, regardless of age or experience. Even as a published short-story writer, I’ve improved from having my writing edited by my colleagues. They’ve taught me how to adjust my style for social media, different audiences and various marketing objectives. My colleagues have told me that they appreciate the maturity and different perspective and experience that I bring, which helps them to think differently as well.

Margaret working with younger colleagues.
Knowledge exchange... The senior internship experience allowed me and my colleagues to see things in new light.

Not only is an internship a useful tool for bridging any generational culture gap at the workplace, but it's also a less stressful way for a mid-career-switcher to try out a new career and company, or a returning-to-work-caregiver to ease back into full-time work.

As an intern, I don't have a fixed job role or responsibilities. So, I can ask for work across job roles. It is liberating to be able to try out different things with a mentor around to teach me. Knowing I have limited time, I am very motivated to learn what I can from whoever is willing to give me their time and attention. I take on tasks that they are willing to pass on to me. It’s important to be unafraid to ‘look stupid’ in order to maximise the opportunity.

The internship isn’t all work and no play. In fact, I've had the pleasure of playing laser tag and singing karaoke with my colleagues, who range in age from twenties to forties. Every day at the office, I have a ready bunch of lunch buddies to eat with and talk to. Our lunch conversations include the usual topics, but my presence as an older person also triggers conversations about how life has changed in Singapore, which is very interesting for everyone. All of this has reminded me that corporate life can be much more social compared to domestic life.

Margaret and her colleagues went for laser tag as part of team bonding activities.
Work hard, play hard... I had the chance to play laser tag with my fellow colleagues as part of our team bonding activities. 

Returning to work has also helped me confront a nagging question. Had I made a mistake by giving up my career as a senior systems engineer? Career women have more achievements and fatter bank accounts. I had given up my financial independence and put myself in a vulnerable position. Had I wasted my education and my time and become nothing? For the past six weeks, leaving for work early in the morning and returning home after dinnertime made me realise what a different lifestyle we had because I chose to be a stay-home-mom. It's hard to be a working mom, and I have a great deal of respect for them. All choices give us something, but also require us to give up something else. I have no regrets anymore, especially since I know now that it's possible to start a new career in a different industry.

Singapore is expected to become a super-aged society in a few years. Therefore, employers will need to rely on older workers to fill the talent shortage. So, I think it’ll just be a matter of time before senior interns become as common as student interns. Having experienced a senior internship, I'd say it benefits both the intern and the employer.

Keen to explore senior internship with us? Or do you know of any inspiring senior you would like us to feature on I Feel Young SG? Drop us a message on Facebook, Instagram or via our email!

Article published on 19 December 2022