Internships come in all different shapes and sizes, but one thing is one-size-fits-all: relationships.
Whether you are the only intern or one of 200 interns, it is imperative to build connections and form relationships throughout your short time with the company. Not only does this give you a better perspective of what it would be like to work for the company full time, but it also gives you the opportunity to connect with people who could help point you in different directions throughout your career. Remember, these people you are networking with have likely had various roles throughout the company, as well as friends at other companies! But this doesn’t mean simply building connections within the current marketing department. While this is important, it is also important to go outside of the marketing realm and form a greater understanding of what every function does within the company. This will allow you to better understand the processes and gain an appreciation for all the work that goes into making one brand successful. By having this more holistic view, you will not only be more successful with your project (because now you have thought of the implications of your recommendation from every angle), but you will also gain a network that extends beyond the marketing world and can help you progress in the future.
But wait – there’s more! Yes, this summer internship is all about networking within the company, but don’t forget about your fellow interns! While the size of internship classes vary, if you are in a situation where there are other interns, take advantage. Get to know them and build a foundation with them. These interns are MBA students from schools all over the country, meaning they have different connections and different experiences that you can build off of, too. And if you get an offer and head back full time, these people are going to be your new coworkers – so get to know them!
Why am I emphasizing relationships so much? As a Consumer Marketing Summer Associate at Johnson & Johnson (working on the Listerine brand), my summer has been all about forming relationships. JNJ understands the importance of connecting with people both internally and externally, and therefore my summer has been booked solid with 1:1 meetings and networking events. Networking is something I came to business school to improve upon, and this summer at JNJ has allowed me to face my fears head on. Although I am just over halfway done with my internship, I have already spoken 1:1 with Associate Brand Managers who were in my shoes recently, Brand Managers who understand the importance of this internship process, Directors who are humble enough to sit down with an intern and give advice, and Vice Presidents who have relayed wisdom that goes beyond this internship experience. Two months ago, the thought of scheduling dozens of meetings a week and spending all day going from meeting to meeting would have been overwhelming, but now I realize the importance and excitement of these meetings. Not only have I gained a greater understanding of the company and the community at Johnson & Johnson, but I have also gained the confidence and poise to speak with people at various phases in their careers and learn from their journeys and experiences.
But my internship isn’t all about relationships. This summer I have been tasked with creating a business plan to enter a new channel and expand Listerine’s reach. My project has the potential to build strategic partnerships in a rapidly growing professional area, thus allowing the company to be a first player in this new market and build Listerine’s scientific brand equity. The best part? This new channel is part of the brand’s business plan for 2015, meaning budgeting has already been set aside and my recommendation will (hopefully) be implemented after I leave this summer. But wait – it is actually all about relationships for me because the business plan I am creating is centered around strategic partnerships and forming relationships that go beyond profits.
So remember, while the internship is about your project and delivering high quality work to the company, it is also about forming relationships that extend beyond your project. Take advantage of these months and focus on building your network and gaining a new community.
And with all this networking, you’ll want to make sure you have a clean mouth – so go buy some Listerine and start building relationships! (Shameless plug)