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Jackie Swoyer

How To Find Your Fit & Evaluate Your Internship

by Jackie Swoyer Thursday, August 20, 2015

For the last three months, my classmates and I have been busily applying all of our incredible learnings from the first year of our Wisconsin MBA program to our internships. We’ve scrutinized Nielsen data, we have strategically evaluated our brands, and we have provided our respective companies with clear recommendations to move forward. As the end of the summer approaches, I cannot express how proud I am of our collective success in making it through the most pivotal part of the Wisconsin MBA experience thus far.

When I think back to the beginning of this journey, I knew that my top priority throughout the summer was to deliver outstanding work that showed the leadership team of Nestlé USA that I could think and execute like a Brand Manager. Along the way, though, I also remembered a critical component of the internship that I want to share today – as much as the company is evaluating you, you should also be making the time to evaluate them.

In many ways, this can feel overwhelming…because, over the course of just 10-12 weeks, how can one person (1) navigate a new organization, (2) sit through countless trainings, (3) learn a new category and business, (4) propel multiple projects forward with recommendations, (5) present a compelling story to leadership, AND have enough time left over to evaluate whether or not this company is a good fit? The reality is that by maintaining such a laser-focus on your own projects and deliverables, it is easy to overlook the opportunity to think about the organization beyond this single internship experience.

Based on my time at Nestlé, here are three tips I have for future interns going through this process:

  • Get away from your desk! There were definitely points during my summer when I was so glued to my desk looking through data, or meeting with crossfunctionals on my projects, that my brain would start to spin. A perfect way to take a (sometimes necessary) break from your projects is to schedule 30 minutes with someone new every day. There are so many people in your building who are not connected to your project…take the time to get to know them! I loved grabbing lunch or ice cream breaks (fabulous bonus of working on ice cream) with different ABMs and managers on other businesses. This gave me a chance to ask questions unrelated to my project, and really learn about career paths and the culture of the company.
  • Participate in department activities! There were several department-wide trainings and events this summer that were not necessarily designed for interns. Yet, by taking the time out of my calendar to participate in them, I saw a totally new side of the company…you get a chance to learn with others, ask questions, and get an idea of how the department likes to engage together. I was beyond thrilled with the opportunity to spend a day with other ABMs and managers at Google’s headquarters, where we immersed ourselves in the role of mobile for our brands. I was the only intern to attend the event, and I think the networking and education of it was well-worth a lost day of working on my projects.
  • Get to know your fellow interns! Rather than get competitive with your fellow interns, spend time getting to know them. The reality is that these interns will be your peers in a class of incoming ABMs, so the friendships that start now will reflect your experience with the company later. There is nothing better than enjoying the people that you work with, so making the effort to bond throughout the internship is extremely important. Saying goodbye to my fellow interns was the hardest part of leaving the internship for me, and I know that I would enjoy returning to the company that much more if we all went back together.
At the end of the day, it is so important that you leave your internship without any questions left unanswered about your company. You can learn a ton about the organization just through working on your projects and interacting with team members alone, but taking the extra step to absorb the company away from your projects can be all the more helpful. It is vital that you impress your employer with a compelling deliverable at the end of the summer; but you also want to walk away from your summer equally impressed with the company! Best of luck to the Class of 2016 as we make decisions on the best fit for each of us.