Well-paid internship at KLM

Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

Meet the King, and get to check out the interior of a brand new airplane. Nhu Anh Nguyen’s internship at the Communication department of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines comes with certain perks. While the internship is compulsory in her programme, Nhu Anh (20, Communication Sciences) is delighted with the opportunity. “I think it is important to gain experience before starting on your first real job. It allows you to face your strengths and weaknesses in a work environment.”

Nhu Anh says KLM is one of the best companies around for doing an internship: “In addition to a generous reimbursement of 500 euro per month, they’ve given me a lot of responsibility. For example, I’m working every day on a project aimed at improving KLM’s internal communication processes, and I’ve been asked to write articles and newsletters. I also got to meet King Willem-Alexander. And the interns from each of the departments were allowed to look around inside a brand-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.”

Finding the right company for your internship can be quite challenging, particularly if you’ve never applied for a job before – apart from that stint stacking shelves at the local supermarket. Nhu Anh: “Looking back, I’m happy I started applying quite a few weeks beforehand: the early bird catches the worm. KLM is a large company with a strong corporate culture. Most of the employees have been working there for years, meaning that they have strong ties with their colleagues. Still, they made me feel welcome straight away. And I don’t have the idea that I’m treated less for not being a regular employee. My colleagues are very nice and also interested in me as a person. I’m really enjoying my internship, but I do realise that it could have been a different story. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to also plan other fun activities besides your internship, to get you through particularly long days.”

Het vinden van een geschikt stagebedrijf kan nogal een uitdaging zijn, vooral als je nog nooit gesolliciteerd hebt – op dat vakkenvullerbaantje bij de Appie na. Nhu Anh: “Achteraf ben ik blij dat ik een goed aantal weken van tevoren ben gaan solliciteren; beter te vroeg dan te laat. KLM is een groot bedrijf met een sterke bedrijfscultuur. De meeste mensen werken er al vele jaren waardoor de band tussen collega’s sterk is. Toch voelde ik me meteen welkom en heb ik ook niet het gevoel dat ik word benadeeld omdat ik geen volledig werknemer ben, mijn collega’s zijn erg aardig en ook geïnteresseerd in mij als persoon. Ik vind mijn stage erg leuk, maar ik zie wel in dat het ook anders had kunnen zijn. Daarom denk ik dat het goed is om ook leuke dingen in te plannen naast je stage, om zo door lange dagen heen te komen.”

Working overtime until 10:30

Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

Munther Al Ahmad (21, International Business Administration) is also very pleased with the terms of his internship, although he does put in a lot of work in return. After earning his bachelor’s, Munther decided to do a gap year to gain experience as an intern. He is presently well into his third internship – working as a product manager at HelloPrint.

“I work full-time – and occasionally even longer than that. I’m paid 450 euro per month, but HelloPrint also covers my breakfast, lunch and dinner where required. On top of this, I have a free gym membership and get to go on company outings. At the Rotterdam office, you can find 120 employees from 23 different countries. What attracted me most in this company is the international aspect – since I’m not from a Dutch background myself. I had heard that they have very strict requirements at HelloPrint as far as the applicant’s personality is concerned – there are quite a few rejections. They’re really looking for the right combination of personality and skills. What I would like to have told my younger self is that you should look for an internship in a profession that truly appeals to you. Only then will you really feel appreciated and enjoy going to work. It’s also important to join in, take the initiative and speak up: these are all learning experiences. During my internship at HelloPrint, I’ve never had to do groceries or make coffee. Everyone simply cleans up their own mess. One time I worked overtime until 10:30 p.m. – even though I was allowed to go home. The whole team had to do a ton of work that evening. But at the end of the day you achieve a certain result – and that feels great.”

Sensitive topics

Monique Olde Engberink (23, Care Management) has already completed 544 hours working as an intern at Sint Antonius Ziekenhuis’s Natal Care department. She receives some 350 euro per month in reimbursement. “I found this internship together with my internship coordinator. While an internship isn’t compulsory, I really wanted to gain a better understanding of the field. During the first few weeks, I was assigned more administrative tasks like sending out invitations, as well as tagging along with some of the team members. After I knew my way around a bit more, they gave me more responsibilities and I started feeling more valued as a team member. Although things could get complicated sometimes, since there would occasionally be discussions during the consultation meetings. As an intern, I couldn’t really contribute to the debate. And a few times, I sat in on discussions about relatively sensitive and private topics. Times like these, I wondered if it wouldn’t be better for me to step out of the room for a moment.

“I think it’s important to give careful thought to your expectations and discuss them with your internship supervisor within the company. And finally, it’s a good idea to make clear what you’d personally prefer to do: tag along with people and support them, or bear responsibility for your own project? You can already discuss this during the application interview – so you know straight away what kind of tasks to expect. Communication is the key: that way, you can avoid unpleasant moments or disappointments.”

‘It’s normal to pick up coffee every now and then’

Annette van Ham works as an internship coordinator at ESHCC. She works with students to find the right workplace for them and supports them during their internship. “I always check the company’s website beforehand to see whether it’s suitable. If that’s the case, I’ll talk with the student about his or her expectations. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t say anything about internships, so which tasks companies should assign to students remains a grey area. If anything unacceptable occurs, we enter into dialogue with both parties. In the worst case, we cancel the student’s internship. It’s quite common for a student to feel unhappy with his or her internship – this isn’t unusual. In that case, it’s important to discuss whether anything can be done to improve the situation or whether it’s better to quit with the internship.

“Of course there are limits to what you can ask from an intern: it’s normal to pick up coffee every now and then, but it shouldn’t be your primary task – we’re talking about university-level students here. The main problem I run into is that students simply don’t know what they want, which creates tensions. That’s why I recommend starting the application process as soon as possible, and perhaps talking with companies in a variety of sectors to get a good idea of your options. And don’t be afraid to make demands of your own. If you really like working on particular tasks, feel free to ask whether they can be assigned to you during the application interview. Ultimately, your internship should be an educational experience – but there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy yourself too.”

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