Internship interview: Stan Verdurmen
You started looking for an internship during this pandemic. That can be quite a challenge. How did you find your internship company? What was your biggest struggle?
It was a huge struggle for me. I had to look for an internship quite unexpectedly and therefore I was not prepared at all to have a good CV and cover letter ready back then. It was hard for me to decide which website would be the best to search for vacancies. I spent many days looking for vacancies on websites like LinkedIn and Student Career Services by Tilburg University. I think that I sent at least 20 companies my CV and cover letter, each time with adjustments to make sure that they matched the vacancy.
I was relieved that I got invited to 3 job interviews. I really thought that the first two went very well and I secretly hoped to get selected for the internship. Unfortunately they both informed me later on that they had found a better candidate. They both mentioned that this candidate already had more experiences with internships. This really frustrated me, because the main goal of doing an internship is to get experience and in my opinion it is completely logical if an applicant hasn’t got any experiences yet. I think this was the biggest struggle for me. Moreover, the deadline for finding an internship was approaching very fast and I only had one shot left with a company. Again, in my opinion, the interview went smooth and luckily I got invited to a second interview in which I had to work out several cases. This was hard initially, but I think that I succeeded, because in the end I got the spot!
At which company are you working and what are your main tasks during this internship?
I work at Hill’s Pet Nutrition. It is a global leader when it comes down to pet nutrition. They currently operate in 84 countries. In the Benelux however, they are not that big yet and their main challenge therefore is to increase their brand awareness among customers. One thing in which they achieve this brand awareness is to create partnerships with shelters. In short, Hill’s gives these shelters the opportunity to buy quality food for an interesting and reduced price in return for brand visibility. Adoption parents then notice that the shelter is feeding their animals Hill’s and the aim of Hill’s is to make sure that these adoption parents stick to the brand after they have adopted a pet. This program already exists in the Netherlands and now, my task is to set up this program in Belgium. This requires me to investigate a lot about the Belgian market and all their rules and regulations regarding shelters. I also have to evaluate the program in the Netherlands in order to find out how I can set up the program in Belgium in a more effective and efficient way. It is really challenging, but very interesting to do.
How does covid-19 influence your experience?
During the first month, I was able to go to the office twice a week. The office worked with 2 different working groups that were allowed to go to the office on different days. However, since the enforced regulations and the lockdown, I have to work entirely from home. I think this is a pity, because I miss a lot of interaction with colleagues and I even think that I learn less from home, because I cannot learn from my colleagues. Of course, I can contact everyone if I have any questions, but it is not the experience you get when you normally do an internship.
Also, a big part of my internship would have been to visit shelters in the Netherlands and in Belgium. I literally just visited 1 shelter in Breda, when the lockdown was announced. This meant that I could not visit these shelters anymore, because most of them are closed for public now. Consequently, I have to interview all of the shelters now via telephone. It is doable, however, I rather would have gone to all the different shelters, because first of all, it is more fun, but most of all, doing interviews in person is way more effective and educational.
In what way is this internship an addition to your study career?
My internship description mentions itself being a marketing internship. In this way it relates to my study career, as I am doing a Bachelor International Business Administration. The internship teaches me how to approach people, in my case shelters, in an effective and professional way. All with the goal of persuading them to sign the partnership with Hill’s. Several marketing theories come in very handy, because it explains how people make choices. In my case, it is important to know how I can influence the shelters in order to acquire them. I have to keep in mind how these marketing theories work and apply them in my approach to acquire these Belgian shelters.
How do you experience bringing your knowledge into practice? Are the courses that you have followed helpful during your internship?
I love to finally get the chance to put my knowledge to practice. By only doing a study and not doing any extracurricular activities, I think you miss out on so many levels. I learn how to work in a professional way and how to work together with people from other departments and even with people with other nationalities. Also, working enriches your skills and competencies, especially because a lot of them are not taught in university. At university you learn a lot of theories of which many might seem vague, due to the fact that we cannot apply them to real practice.
“By doing an internship, I get the opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge to practice and see how the real world works”
As mentioned above, I am doing a marketing internship. Courses like Marketing Management and Decision Making in Marketing are therefore really helpful, because they help me with understanding how people make decisions and which tactics can be used in order for me to acquire shelters.
Do you recommend doing an internship to other students? What are your tips/advice?
I absolutely advise other students to do an internship if they get the chance. For me it was either doing an internship and obtaining professional experience or doing an exchange and obtaining international experience. Due to Covid-19 the latter was impossible for me, but I am so glad I got the opportunity to do an internship at a big international company! It teaches you much more practical skills that universities are lacking us to teach. Also, it might help with figuring out what you would like to do in the future. Perhaps you might think that you want to pursue a career in finance. By doing a finance related internship it might confirm or contradict your previous aspirations and therefore it might make career decisions easier for you. I also would definitely recommend to start searching on time. I had approximately 2 months for finding an internship and it was not even enough. I had to ask my university to extend the deadline for me, because I still had my second interview after the deadline had passed. Especially in times of Covid-19 it is just a fact that less internships are available.
Therefore start on time and make sure you stand out from the rest. Make yourself unique by having an original CV and by having a powerful LinkedIn page for example. Show the real you!