19 Dec 2016 19:36 IST

Be a team player even when you aren’t expected to

With freedom come great responsibilities so use it wisely

Internships form the most important part of an MBA. They aren’t just opportunities to get job offers but also a glimpse of a corporate work environment. This could help decide career choices for many, to find out if they are cut out for that company/industry or not.

I interned with Asian Paints in their Mumbai and Bengaluru offices for the Sales and Marketing profile. My internship gave me exposure to a new sector: the paint and chemicals. I also learnt the basics of how to get work done and to talk my way out of situations.

The project I was assigned was to design a software for an external stakeholder. For this, I had to meet them and gain consumer insight to make suggestions. The company gave me a lot of freedom and expected good results; I had to find my own way of achieving them.

Key challenges

I had to attend approximately 50 meetings during the two months. I had to schedule them, send email reminders and be on time — all of this needed some discipline, which a B-school teaches you well. For example, sometimes, my mentor would give me the number of A, who in turn would give me the number of B. B, whose friend C would know someone else (D) who could get me an appointment with the concerned contractor, E. So one appointment involved eight to 10 phone calls and meetings with 50 members of the external stakeholder team in all. Sometimes, C would be on leave so I had to wait till they came back. Patience became a valuable asset.

Work culture

People at Asian Paints are fun and creative so I enjoyed working there. The HR policies are employee-friendly and the company values meritocracy. I was made aware of what was expected of me and had to carve my own path.

Mentors play an important role during internship. My guide was very cooperative. One thing for which I will always be thankful is that he was always available and responsive, even if on email.

Things to do in a marketing internship

It’s important, as juniors, to identify the people evaluating your work in the two months. Make sure you keep each one of them updated about your progress through email, Whatsapp or in person. Remember, the stakes are yours and not theirs.

Get your deliverable and scope of project clear in the first few days itself. Get it approved from your boss in writing. You might work really hard but in the wrong direction, exploring topics outside the scope of the project. Start by reading the company website and the work it has done in the area of your project. You don’t want to recommend things that have already been done.

Also, read in depth about your project. Do secondary research and draw a skeleton of your approach to the problem. I locked myself up in a hotel room while doing secondary research for two days. And I scheduled to finish a major portion of the work by mid-review.

Don’t forget to make your schedule and meet the right people to gain consumer insights. Keep adding this to your skeleton and update with every meeting. You’ll most likely find many things you had not come across during secondary research. Build a holistic solution that covers all aspects of your project and make a structured PPT.

You’ll need to show something new in your work. Remember, they already know the secondary research data you may have found and may also know most of the consumer insights you are planning to present. They’ve been working on them much longer than you have. You are expected to give insights they don’t have, analyse them and give a solution. There’s no short-cut to that. Keep bouncing your ideas on everyone relevant to prevent surprises on the last day.