Lan Chen

Lan Chen shares the skills she gained from an internship, and how she got one in the first place.

“Going into my first ever internship, I had no idea what to expect! I thought it would be really professional, formal, and impersonal. However I was really pleasantly surprised that actually, everyone is just human too! My colleagues and I joked, laughed, helped each other, encouraged, and supported one another. Despite the differences between me and the other employees, whether gender, age, experience, or career stage, I got along with everyone really well! It's going to be really sad when I leave, as I've made some amazing friends.

"Day to day, my role for the Plant & Food Research summer internship was quite varied. I read and explored the relevant literature, and also interviewed many of the staff. I spent time at my desk as the majority of the interviews were over Skype, but there were also times when I helped other teams and got to do fieldwork. This included checking out labs, orchards and beehives, which was so fascinating for me because I hadn't really been in those environments before!

"The project I worked on was exploring the concept of 'social license to operate', something I was familiar with from my environmental management studies. Social license to operate is a term that can be defined as community acceptance or tolerance for a company or industry. I interviewed my coworkers to explore what they perceived as the barriers to gaining a social license for their scientific research, and identified ways in which Plant & Food Research could help.

"I loved gaining insights into new areas that I didn’t even know about, or realise I would enjoy! It was fascinating how many facets of horticulture are explored in the organisation’s work, such as pests, cultivars, bees, moths, sensor technologies, and even exploring the flavour, colour and storage of fruit. Plant & Food also do a lot of work around biocontrol and they showed us the facilities where they bring in and store exotic insects! I really enjoyed this.

"One aspect I found challenging was because of the innate structure of short term internships: since you have such a limited time there (my internship was 3 months) you are purely devoted to one project. It makes sense that they are this way, but it can be quite hard focusing on just one project. Because I work in social science I didn't have fieldwork or lab work to mix things up.

"When it comes to the workplace, I’ve learned that the people you work with are so crucial. My office mates became really good friends. We hung out a lot outside of work, and I looked forward to seeing them each day. Plant & Food Research put in a lot of effort into their summer studentship programme and I was really pleasantly surprised. They brought all students (there were 40 of us!) together in Auckland to bond and help us with our careers, providing great advice. This was so helpful.

This internship has been hugely beneficial to me; firstly and most obviously in the experience which I can put on my CV.

"It means a LOT to be able to have experience, and a lot of past interns have become permanent employees at Plant & Food Research. It also means a lot to have some research experience, and see what the non-science staff do because there are so many areas to go into with a science degree (e.g. IP, commercialisation, management to name a few). I think a lot of science students feel like research is their only option but it is not!

“This internship has really helped me with my career planning. Every experience you have helps, and even the aspects I disliked helped me to learn and get closer to what it is I really want to do."

Get recruitment ready with CDES

Here at CDES our Career Development Consultants can help you with your career planning, including finding an internship, developing confidence in interviewing, and much more. Head to the CDES website to find some top tips, then check out the range of free career events and workshops on offer on MyCDES, so that you can create the future you love!

Pop along to our recruitment events this week where employers are coming on campus to recruit students for intern and graduate roles.