What I Have Learned from 10 Weeks in the Real World

My summer as a Merchandise Analyst Intern at Kohl’s has been nothing short of an all around incredible experience. Over the past ten weeks, I have learned more than I ever thought possible, and have experienced my first taste of what a career in the retail world actually looks like. Reflecting on my internship search and my experiences this summer, here are a few of my major takeaways:

1. Just because you don’t get one internship does not mean you won’t get any internship.

This is such an easy thing to tell yourself…after you finally get an internship. One of the most frustrating times during my junior year was from December to March, during which I was on a quest to find the “perfect” internship. I probably applied to about 30 internships, and heard back from maybe five. This is not because I was unqualified (although, that is what I started to convince myself of), but it is easy to forget that thousands of other college juniors are probably doing the same thing you are. Not receiving or hearing back from your “dream internship” can be a punch in the gut, but then again, what really is a “dream internship” anyway? In college, you have never really been in the working world yet, so keeping your options open to all of the possibilities when in your search can open your eyes to interests you may not know you have, or companies you never considered.

2. First impressions are something, but not everything.

Everyone will tell you that on your first day, you need to be on your “A-game” and that you should be dressed to the nines, but in reality, this should be something you are thinking of everyday of your internship. Your first day is very important, don’t get me wrong, but when I think about what I have done this summer or the impression I gave, I don’t think that what I was wearing or how firm my handshake was is in the forefront of my manager’s mind. These are important qualities, but it’s almost a given that each college student should possess these skills. What you do in the weeks following that initial meeting are what people remember you by, and whether or not you are able to back up a great first impression is what really counts.

3. Don’t let one small thing keep you from opening your mind to new experiences. 

Candidly, I was very hesitant to move to Milwaukee this summer for my internship with Kohl’s. I knew it was a great company and that it was awesome opportunity to have earned, but I was hesitant to leave behind my friends who would now be eight hours away in Columbus. I am more than thankful that my parents encouraged me to take a risk and move here for the summer, because it has completely paid off, and then some. One thing my mom always says to me is, “Don’t wait around and make your decisions based on what everyone else is doing, because they aren’t waiting around for you, and then you’re going to be the one left behind.” I was so worried that I would be missing out on fun summer happenings in Ohio, but passing up an amazing opportunity like this because of that would have been one of the biggest mistakes I could have made.

4. Sometimes what you are looking for comes when you are not looking at all. 

That may sound cheesy, but by the end of my internship search, I felt very defeated. I had spent more time looking for a job than I did on anything else during those three months, but was having no luck in finding something that really fit all that I was looking for. I met a Kohl’s recruiter at the spring internship fair, and interviewed on a whim. During the interview process, it became very clear to me that this company invested a great deal of effort and time into their internship program, and this was very exciting to me. I had never considered Kohl’s as an option before, mostly due to the location. However, just when I was ready to give up, what I would soon find to be an amazing opportunity showed up, and I couldn’t be more thankful that it did! I can’t stress enough what keeping an open mind can do for you, I just wish I had realized it sooner!

During my last few days at Kohl’s I am trying to soak in anything and everything I can! It has been an incredible summer, and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to play a small part in such a big operation!

Point of No Return

This past weekend I visited Cedar Point for the first time in ten years. While at the park, I decided that I would work up the nerve to ride Top Thrill Dragster. After waiting in line for an hour and a half, I was shuffled closer and closer towards the cars. That’s when the anxiousness set in. Before I knew it I was strapped in the car and out of the loading station ready to be launched over 400 feet into the air at record speeds (120 mph). At that moment, I experienced the point of no return. I had crossed the threshold and there was no going back (regardless how terrified I was).

This week during the internship I experienced a similar point of no return. Thankfully my managers did not launch me 400 feet into the air or send me off at 120 mph. This point of no return surrounded a case study that the interns and I had been working on since the moment we joined Key in early June. The case encompassed four different hypothetical prospect companies that Key was interested in. We were tasked with deciding which prospect was most attractive for a partnership or a merger. The RRG interns were broken into two teams for this project. We named our team Risk Team 6 (in reference to Seal Team 6 – because we’re that good). Throughout the past 8 weeks we worked diligently to bring a presentation together.

At last, on Monday, the big day arrived! In addition to our case being the capstone of our internship, the entire risk leadership team was in attendance including the General Auditor Kevin Ryan. After working on this presentation for 8 weeks, we embarked on our final journey as a team. As we approached the presentation room, my heart began to race. To our nerve’s demise, we were selected to go second. While we waited outside the presentation room, I couldn’t help my mind from wandering back to Cedar Point. I remembered the way I felt as I inched closer and closer to the ride. I recalled the way I felt when I was strapped into that wild ride and just waiting for my turn. While I was waiting for my turn to present, I again experienced that point of no return. We had already completed our research, built our slide deck, and practiced our presentation. We were strapped in and just waiting for someone to pull the trigger.

The minutes passed by like hours, but our turn to present finally came. Our deliverable went off with only a few hiccups .We received positive feedback and insightful questions. Just like my anxious experience on Dragster, our team survived and thrived.

These experiences have thoroughly resonated with me as I reflect on my internship. I encourage anyone who is reading this to never let your fear hold you back from anything. Whether it is flying by at high speeds or impressing the entirely leadership suite; never let your nerves hold you back from anything. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how much experience you have, or where you come from, if you trust your intuition and silence the self-doubting voicing in your head there is no limit to what can be accomplished.

Check out some of this week’s intern fun:

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Intern Lunch at Carrabbas

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interns at the Rock Hall!

 

 

 

 

 

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Interns at the Indian’s Game!

 

Opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent those of KeyBank

How to Prep for your Final Presentation

The end of my internship is almost here (holy crap that went fast), and with the end an internship comes the final presentation.  Most major companies will have their interns present what they accomplished during the summer and their major projects to their teams.  Each company approaches intern final presentations differently.  For example, my roommate working at P&G only has to present to four people, but those four people are pretty high up in the company.  At Lux, I’m presenting to my entire brand team (around 25 people), which includes managers and higher leadership, as well as the recruiting team, and any other Lux employee that wants to stop in and listen.

Regardless of the final presentation structure, you definitely want to end on a great note and rock your presentation.  Here are some tips I’ve discovered to help you do just that:

  1. Go through the template of what to include in your presentation and start inputting your information (whether it’s on a hard copy or on your computer). It helped me to get all the content I wanted to cover written down first, and organize it later.
  2. Run through the content you want to present with your manager. She can correct terminology and give feedback on how much time to spend talking about a particular project.
  3. Meet with other interns in your department. I met with the two other interns on the Target Optical brand to share our ideas for what we need to cover in our presentation, what format to use, and other feedback we had received from our managers.
  4. Practice! Run through your presentation by yourself a couple times, then reserve a room to practice it out loud in front of your manager or other interns.

And on the day of your presentation…

  1. You’ve been working on your projects all summer.  You know them inside and out; it should be easy to talk about them.  All you have to do now is brag yourself up showing everyone what a great job you did!

Corporate Sustainability

Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Corporate Responsibility, Corporate Conscience, Corporate Citizenship, CSR, Responsible Business, or more commonly known as community service done by a corporation. Regardless how you slice it, giving back to the community is becoming more important to employees and employers alike; So important that some companies utilize giving back as a base for their business strategy, for example Toms.

I am proud that I am interning for a company that also celebrates corporate responsibility. Not only has Key granted the Public Square revitalization $4 million, but they also encourage all employees to participate in “Neighbors Make a Difference Day”. Each year on “Neighbors Make a Difference Day” around 6,500 employees participate on a wide variety of community service projects that costs Key a $806,445 wage equivalent value for donating their employee’s time for the day. For more information on Key’s dedication to the community, please check out their 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report.

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BVU Volunteers

This year the Neighbors made a difference day fell on May 14th. Unfortunately, the internship began on May 27th after the volunteer day. Key is so invested in the value of corporate sustainability that the intern managers arranged an Intern version of the larger “Neighbors Make a Difference Day”. This past Friday, my fellow RRG interns and I departed the office around 11:30 and traveled to the Community Greenhouse Partners for an afternoon of greenhouse building.

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Key Intern Volunteers

Our afternoon started with a pizza luncheon to learn about Cleveland’s water sustainability. After the lunch we proceeded to our service site. The Community Greenhouse Partners show individuals who live in the city ways to live off of the land. It was a pretty incredible operation. For example they had a chicken coup and greenhouses right in the middle of the urban jungle. Upon arriving we were divided into 3 different teams. To my surprise, the team that I was placed on was staffed to fix a 15 foot hole in a chain link fence. I have never built a fence before or really anything to be honest. I experienced quite the learning curve. Once getting into the work we realized there was a bee hive in the ground right by where the fence is. In addition to the bee hive, there was also a mountain of wood chips to get to the fence site. Candidly, it was really challenging to perform the community service. Our first attempt resulted in failure because the chain link fence roll that we were instructed to use was too long, after getting the right size fence we were successful in putting up the fence. Countless bug bites later, the team emerged victorious against the tricky chain link fence.

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Interns and Chickens

Regardless the challenges our team faced, it felt really good to be able to give back to the community. Thank you to Key Bank, BVU, and Community Greenhouse Partners for making this experience possible. Check out this neat article by Cleveland.com about the volunteer day!

Opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent those of KeyBank.

Texas Trip

Every year, the Dow Finance Internship Program goes on a one and a half day trip to Freeport, Texas, the location of the largest chemical manufacturing facility in the Western Hemisphere. The trip is an incredibly intriguing and valuable experience. Not only was it amazing to see all the humongous Dow operations on the Gulf of Mexico but it was also great to get away to the scorching heat and beaches of Texas. As I sit back on the corporate shuttle flight back to Midland, Michigan, I can’t help but share the story of this incredible experience.

The trip began bright and early Tuesday morning. The Dow Shuttle from Midland to Freeport leaves at 6:00 am. This means getting up at 4:15am, getting ready, and traveling to the Dow Hangar at the local airport to be there at 5:20am. One of my favorite things about taking the Dow Shuttle for the trip was the convenience of arriving at the airport 40 minutes before the flight and that the airport is only 10 minutes away from work.

The two and a half hour flight down to Texas went by very quickly. The shuttle, which seats about 45 people, has plenty of leg room to stretch out and plenty of tray space to get work done during the flight. After eating breakfast on the plane, I was able to knock some things off of my to-do list. Given that I am not the most comfortable flyer in the world, I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth the flight was, making it go by even faster.

After arriving in Texas, we immediately boarded the bus that would be touring us all around the Freeport operations area for the day. After a short presentation that explained the enormity of the Freeport operations, we embarked on our first tour. The first tour of the day was a research and development center called Pack Studios where they work with customers to ensure that our product is meeting their packaging needs. I was surprised to learn that nearly every food item in my pantry and fridge could be made out of Dow materials. This tour was especially cool because we were able to walk around the warehouse with enormous, complex machines running all around us.

Our next tour of the day was of the Freeport marine terminal operations. This is where the ships dock from the Gulf of Mexico to either pick-up product produced in Freeport or to deliver inputs that the plants use in their processes. As we drove around and witnessed the humongous ships at port, we learned how important the operation is to moving our product around the globe.

Next, we engaged in a panel lunch in which we were able to ask questions of some members of the Texas Controllers group who do the cost accounting for the Texas operations. Even better yet, the authentic Tex-Mex food that was catered for lunch was delicious.

After learning more about the accounting aspect of the Texas operations, we headed back out on the road for a tour of the largest chemical plant in the area. It is hard to understand how massive these plants are until you get up close to them and see the massive structures that contain thousands of pipes. Seeing the plant itself was a great experience because it allowed me to understand where the product comes from and how complex the processes are.

We then had the special treat of seeing the emergency operations center at that plant and speaking with one of the emergency personnel on site. We were able to learn all about how they prepare for and overcome natural disasters and other major emergencies. This particular speaker really helped me understand how much emphasis the company puts on safety and emergency preparedness.

The next plant that we toured was one that is still under construction. Much like the rest of the operations we saw, I was amazed at the size and complexity of the facility. The coolest thing for me about this tour was seeing the control room of the facility where the processes of the plant are constantly monitored. We were able to learn more about what the product is at that plant and what different technologies are used to produce the product.

After touring the Freeport operations for the whole day, it was finally time to go out to the beach and have dinner on the pier. We drove about an hour along the gulf coast past hundreds of vacation homes on stilts to Galveston island. The island is home to beautiful beaches, piers, and other tourist attractions. We had dinner as a group at Bubba Gump’s shrimp on the Galveston pier and then ventured out onto the beach. The warm water and soft, sandy beaches reminded me of the beaches back home in Tampa. It was the perfect, relaxing ending to a long day of learning.

I am currently sitting on the Dow Shuttle on my way back to Midland, Michigan as I write this post. This trip to Texas has taught me a few things that I wasn’t very in touch with during the rest of my internship. First, I have learned the importance of understanding, even on a basic level, what the organization makes and how they make it. Second, it has taught me that working for a Fortune 50 company such as Dow is a great experience because the opportunities are endless both in geographic location and job type. Lastly, this trip has reminded me that a valuable internship experience is much more than working on projects throughout the summer. Making your internship valuable is also about networking with new people, seeing new things, and stepping out of your comfort zone by trying something completely new.