2006 NUJS Kolkata graduate Debolina Saha had started Internship Bank in December 2019 as a non-profit initiative to provide internships in the Indian legal profession to women, which we had covered in April 2020.
She and her team of four would mentor and assist female students, especially from those Indian law schools where not everyone in a batch gets snapped up quickly by Big Law and in-house departments.
Since then, Internship Bank had secured 185 confirmed internships for women, with nearly 12,000 followers on its Linked-in group, said Saha. “Truly speaking, I did not realise the platform would grow so quickly and become so popular among students.”
Saha had been financing and running the project out of her own funds and her free time, helped by her steady salary at Dorsey & Whitney in Hong Kong.
But then the pandemic hit.
“So far, I was solely financing Internship Bank but unfortunately I lost my job due to Covid-19 in May 2020 and I am currently struggling to finance Internship Bank on my own,” she explained.
In order to continue the project, Saha had launched a crowdfunding campaign earlier this month to raise Rs 5 lakh, which would provide a corpus to cover all of Internship Banks’ costs for the next 12 months.
The fundraising drive on Ketto ends on 31 March 2021 but needs to raise another Rs 1.3 lakh in the next six days, after having seen contributions of Rs 3.7 lakh from 54 individual contributors to date (click here if you’d like to support the project).
The funds raised would cover stipends for volunteers, website running cost, the Internship Bank scholarship fund, registration costs and engaging professionals like accountants, explained Saha. “I promise to be transparent on how the funds were utilised and plan provide full details on 31 December of every year, on our website,” she said.
“In the year 2021 we want to continue building on the good work that we started with and aim to establish an ‘Internship Bank Scholarship Fund’,” Saha explained about future endeavours.
“We plan to use funds from the ‘Internship Scholarship Fund’ to help qualifying students cover partial costs associated with outstation in-person internships mainly boarding and lodging and travelling.”
Tips to interning in a pandemic
Since she has been living and breathing internships since 2019, we also asked Saha for some tips about how to secure internships in the pandemic (and otherwise).
And things have certainly been getting harder.
“There is definitely a pattern of students wanting to be busy during the pandemic,” she said. “Everyone is keen to show that they used their off-campus time as efficiently as possible. In terms of internships, this has resulted in students wanting to do as many internships as possible and in case of paid internships wanting to continue for a longer term with such internships.”
“Given that most students are willing to continue with their remote internships along with their study, there is definitely a broader pool of candidates to choose from, which in-turn makes the whole selection process more competitive than was the case prior to the pandemic,” she explained.
Her advice is that students now have to work even harder to bag internships.
“Students therefore, among others, would need to re-double their efforts in tailoring their CVs, writing good cover letters and including a good subject line in their email, as well as follow up on the progress of their application,” Saha recommended.
“Also it would do good to monitor Internship Bank’s success stories,” she added. “In case a particular organisation has already taken three to four interns, it is most unlikely that they will take in more interns any time soon.”
“Also it would be good to brush up their interview skills. In fact, Internship Bank on its YouTube channel has already done such videos on the topic,” she noted.
She also said long-term internships were more valuable than short-term ones, generally.
“I think everyone (including students and internship providers) should try and think long-term. If students invest time in long-term internships, their learning as well as chances of securing a job increases both at the organisation they interned for or elsewhere,” said Saha.
“Similarly, when internship providers engage interns for long-term internships (above three months), there is a high chance that the training and time invested in such intern would be high.
“The interns feel invested in and the work product of such interns too would be high. Similarly clients too would benefit from the same pair of hands overlooking the transaction as opposed to quick changes in the team.
“In short the output of long-term internships benefits all and it is time that everyone starts investing time in this rather than encouraging internship hopping after every four weeks.”