A few months ago I wrote an article about the first days of my internship at L'Oréal Belgilux. What I first had in mind is to keep a diary and give you an insight on how this glamorous business looks from the inside. Why? Because it was that kind of information I was looking for before I started. I wondered what it's like to be an intern in the number ONE beauty company in the world, I wanted to be prepared. I have decided to do it differently. I am not going to go into details of the everyday life of an intern because they kind of resemble each other very much. Instead, I would like to share a few very important lessons that I have learned throughout my 4 months in Brussels.
UPDATE 2018 - In this video I tell you how I went from being an intern to starting my own business. Check it out, and subscribe!
you are the person in your resume
Before I got this internship in Public Relations, I did an interview for another internship within L'Oréal Belgilux. As if being questioned by one manager is not enough, I got two! Four eyes, two suits, both armed with a pokerface. "Shit," were my exact thoughts as the door closed and the two were seated opposite of me. "Bonjour Veronica! French or English?"
Let me present you with a few facts so you can understand my choice:
- Brussels is supposed to be a bilingual province (French and Dutch). In reality, 90% of the population in Brussels only speaks French. So did the manager whom I had an interview with.
- I've always lived and studied in Flanders (Dutch).
- I speak French.
- My resume says I speak French.
"English." If you did not yet fall off your chair in laughter, you must have had a seriously bad day and I hope tomorrow will be better!
I was so nervous, so afraid that my Francais wasn't perfect enough, that I went with my comfort lingo. What a huge mistake that was. I had let my nerves take over and do the talking. The entire time. In English!
What I should have done is immediately speak French. Mistake, or 150 mistakes, I had to speak French and do it with confidence. The fact that I didn't came across as if I was not completely honest in my resume. And if I wasn't honest about one thing, how could they be sure about the rest?
A few weeks later I went back for another interview. This time, it was for PR. The manager I was going to intern for was also French-speaking, but she did understand Dutch. So the first 5 minutes I spoke Dutch to her. And then I thought: "Get your shit, act, and skills together, and talk to her in French!" I thank my subconscious self for kicking my booty that day. That day, I was the person I described in my resume.
dare to talk about it
There will be situations where you will feel uncomfortable with the way someone is communicating with you. It might be the lack of information that is given to you, it might be intolerance towards you or simply the way someone addresses you. But it's your first ever corporate working experience and you might think: "Maybe it's normal?"
There were two things that were bothering me deeply. I tried to deal with them in quiet, without confronting my manager with it. After all, she has been doing this for so many years and I'm just a newcomer who is not used to the corporate life.
"Maybe it will go away."
"It's probably that time of the month."
"She must deal with so many details in a day already, so what if she doesn't call me by my name. Like, ever."
I was so afraid to be perceived as weak, or sensitive, or unfitted for this kind of world that I remained silent. And that is only a short-term solution. I felt like it was such a privilege to be an intern at L'Oréal, that I wasn't allowed to be not okay with something. However, instead of making up all kinds of excuses for my manager's behaviour towards me, I had to ask her for half an hour of her time and talk to her about it. At the end of the day, it's a relationship just like any other, and relationships are work.
Had I had the courage to do it immediately, I would have relieved myself from tons of irritation and stress. I would have made my problems vocal and we would have had the chance to work on them. By removing this issue, I would have cleared my mind and would have been able to focus better on more important things.
Remember, nobody will chase you and ask you if everything is pleasant for you. If there is something that you feel uncomfortable with, take initiative and talk about it.
unglue yourself from your desk once in awhile
A few months into your career as an intern you feel like this is the ladder you want to climb to the very top. Wait, no, I don't agree. Career ladder? Who came up with that?
It's not a ladder. It's a mountain. A ladder is just enough for one, from bottom to top. A mountain is meant to be climbed together with others. Imagine trying to conquer mount Everest all by yourself. It's lonely, it's dangerous and you only have one perspective on the road ahead of you. Good luck Chuck!
If there is one thing I regret the most it is the fact that I didn't make the time to get to know people I was working with better. I had awesome colleagues and I neglected to connect with them.
If you want to be successful in your internship, you must connect with others! Not just for the simple day to day things and exchange of files. But to learn from others. Network! All of the managers have gone through the basics that you are going through right now. They have knowledge and experience you can benefit from. Don't be afraid to ask for help, tips or advice. It doesn't mean that you should stalk them or pass by their office every 10 minutes. Schedule a short meeting or propose to have a cup coffee at the cafeteria. Get social!
Don't see it as a one-way street, though. The company that hired you did it for several reasons. They must have seen that you have something to offer them, that you will be able to add value to the company. By connecting and networking with your colleagues you will not only be able to learn from them, you will also have the opportunity to give a fresh perspective on things. Share some new ideas that they can use. Thus, you will be able to contribute to the growth of the company.
Even though I decided to not work for a company like L'Oréal, I did learn a lot from the 4 months I was there. Is there anything else that you would like to know about this particular topic? Don't hesitate to write me, comment below or tweet ;-)