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It was December 2018. I was at Jeju Island, in one of those Airbnbs with a ‘sparkling clean’ review. My semester exchange in South Korea was ending and I was looking for an internship for when I got home.

I adjusted my laptop camera and got ready for my video interview with Jan – one of the co-founders at With Content.

That was the start of my internship journey here. From that call, I realized three things:

  1. Jan was calling me from Chiang Mai
  2. With Content is a fully distributed company
  3. Content marketing was a skill that I wanted to pick up

 

No longer aspiring

In 2018, I was a Year Three communications student at Nanyang Technological University. I had a few writing gigs before this, but nothing substantial to declare myself to be a writer.

intern reflections business development to writer

In hindsight, it was self-doubt that weighed me down. I knew I wanted to write. But wherever I applied to, companies or agencies will ask to see your past work. And I was embarrassed by almost everything that I have written. It felt like a huge, heavy boulder (read: self-doubt) in the middle of my path that I couldn’t get around.

So, before my time at With Content, I remained mostly as an aspiring writer.

I applied as a Business Development intern, despite the lack of writing opportunities involved. But I thought that if I was familiar enough with content marketing, writing might become as easy as breathing one day.

Plus, I was intrigued by what this agency does; it made content marketing sexy.

More than anything, I identified content marketing as a skill I wanted to pick up, given that the future of written word is no longer confined to print newspapers and magazines.

So I stalked Daniel, the other co-founder of With Content. I saw the work that he was doing, saw how good he got at the work that he did, closed all my tabs on stalking and applied.

 

One year on

intern reflections business development to writer

One would think that a success story like this involved copious amounts of luck. But it wasn’t luck that got me here. I didn’t expect to be involved in any of the writing here.

Yet here I am, a year later, writing at With Content as a freelancer for several assignments, alongside my main tasks in business development (in 2019) and marketing (in 2020). Come June, I’ll be joining the South China Morning Post as a graduate trainee reporter.

Sometimes, I still reel in shock when looking back at how far I have come since that winter in Jeju Island when I first spoke to Jan. Looking back, I know with absolute clarity that it was the team’s belief in learning and development that got me here.

I recall having a 1-on-1 meeting with Jan at Millenia Walk early last year. We were at Kith Cafe. Jan asked if there was anything that they could do to help me grow and learn on this internship. Even if it was unrelated to business development.

I recall telling her that I would like to try writing, but I was really unconfident about it.

But Jan made it happen. She thought that if writing was my passion, and that it was a huge part of what they were doing, it was worth a shot. She talked to Daniel, and I soon received my first assignment from them.

reflections business development writer intern

As I took on more assignments, I eventually stopped belittling my writing. Somewhere along the way, I have silenced the negative voice in my head. I may still be far from the best, but I came a long way in one year.

Today, it is rare to find internships where you get this kind of support. As undergrads, we come for a dime a dozen these days. Wash, rinse, and repeat. As soon as you are out of the door, the next intern comes in.

But here, the team cared about my growth opportunities, as an employee and as an individual. Despite being a team distributed across space and time zones, I’ve never felt left out as an intern, nor was my well-being at work ignored.

For my first (and only) anniversary here, I received a free mani-pedi session as a gift. And for my farewell gift – a Mossery Twinbook. To the uninitiated, gifts might seem materialistic. But I appreciated them because it was thoughtfully chosen to suit my preferences – in a thread months ago, I mentioned in passing that I always wanted a Mossery Twinbook.

Thank you, Jan, for this sweet gesture.

 

A round-up of what I did here

Apart from writing, I was also involved in a number of other roles and responsibilities. For the first half of my internship, I was exposed to various aspects of business development. While we were a remote team, I met up with Daniel and Jan often in my first month as we were all in Singapore.

After a mishmash of past internships, I was surprised when I underwent a clear onboarding programme for me at the start. It came along with a set of guidelines and goals. Jan also meticulously guided me through the applications that the team used. For once, I was not thrown into the deep end and expected to swim on my own.

In my first few months, I tagged along to meetings, made calls to clients, sent out hundreds of cold emails and added on to our sales database. Whenever I need clarifications, Jan listened patiently and gave me the direction I needed.

When Jan went back to Chiang Mai, I got confident enough to attend some of the sales meetings alone. As a remote team, we often pushed for video calls, but there can be times where clients would still require a face-to-face meeting.

This year, I focused on With Content’s marketing efforts. I helped with short blurbs, copywriting, and even wrote my first ever case study for our blog with Daniel’s guidance.

reflections business development writer intern

In fact, the first draft of this reflection was sparked off from this case study. Reaching the midpoint of writing it, I was hit with a wave of immense gratitude. I rushed to pen all of these thoughts down.

 

A thank you note

I will always be grateful for With Content’s investment in their employees’ learning and development. Even for their interns. Self-doubt has always been an obstacle for me to improve in writing. But here, I was given the opportunity to write. 

To the team, thank you for giving me the confidence to produce good work. It has been a fulfilling ride at With Content. I’ll soon begin the next chapter of my life, accompanied by my Mossery Twinbook. Your investment in me has blossomed into my dream. And all the pride that I take in my work today, it all started here. 

 

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Cheryl Heng

Student by day and writer by night, Cheryl is an aspiring journalist who formerly interned at Shanghai Daily. At With Content, she helps the team with sales, marketing, and writing.