Guest author Noemi, the current editorial office intern in our Content & Communications Department, reports on an essential part of her internship experience at InterNations.
The interns’ project has been created for us to be more courageous and to take more responsibility.”
During their journey at InterNations, interns have the chance to take part in at least one interns’ project and make an impact on the company. Being an intern myself, I have been working on a charity program recently, and I would like to tell you in more depth what the interns’ project in general — and our most recent one in particular — is all about.
How the Interns’ Project Was Born
We all have very busy months during our internship, but then there are weeks when our schedule is a lot less crowded. This must also have happened to some interns back in late 2016: they wanted to be more involved in fresh new projects, to become truly part of the company, and to work on something on their own.
In order to avoid those empty(ish) schedules, the HR Team came up with several ideas on how to help interns profit as much as possible from their experience at InterNations. As Senior HR Manager Ira explains: “Full-time employees have the chance to participate in workshops aimed at boosting their development. So, we thought it would be a good idea to give the interns a chance to develop their skills, too, by proposing something similar just for them.”
As a result, HR decided to kick off this initiative with a series of training sessions for interns. During these sessions, team members can talk about a work-related subject they are particularly interested or have some expertise in. Topics might range from “How to Deal with Stress” or “How to Boost Your Confidence” to “Cross-Cultural Effectiveness in Communication” or “Microsoft Office in the Workplace” to “What is User Experience Design?”
In addition to the training sessions, the HR Team also decided to give the interns a new mission to accomplish — the first interns’ project, which was called “Christmas in a Shoebox”. It was all about supporting the charity Geschenke der Hoffnung, helping those less fortunate celebrate Christmas by filling a shoebox with presents. Team members could drop off a box full of small gifts at one of the donation points in the office or give some money to the cause.
Since then, interns have invested their time in different projects, for example, creating a video presentation of intern life at InterNations, analyzing the way our “brand heroes” Lufthansa and Starbucks communicate, or making social media quizzes based on Expat Insider, the annual InterNations survey on life abroad.
From Collecting Ideas to Getting Started
First things first: The HR Team collects ideas from different departments across the company, with the main aim of identifying various initiatives that both InterNations and the interns’ personal development can benefit from.
At first, Malte, one of the InterNations founders and co-CEOs, was the one giving his approval and suggesting new ideas, but everyone is now free to share their own ideas. Both regular employees and interns can come up with a potential project, share it on Confluence — the corporate wiki — and then wait for the interns to start working on it.
Once a project is chosen, the interns receive an initial briefing to explain the idea behind the project, and then they are left to their own devices. They can work independently and organize the tasks among themselves. After setting deadlines and a timeframe, it’s also time to choose a project leader.
What Does a Project Leader Do?
Like every effective leader, a project leader has to provide direction and instructions, making sure that everyone keeps the common goal in mind.
Nick, an online marketing intern, led the “Appreciation Project”. Its aim was to come up with a new appreciation scheme for employees in the workplace and to share team members’ successes, for instance, by sticking post-it notes on the walls around the office.
The “Appreciation Project” gave Nick the chance to develop his leadership, time management, and intercultural communication skills, which he thinks will come in handy in his future career in hospitality management.
“I think being a project leader puts you out of your comfort zone. I didn’t have much experience in managing a project. As soon as I got the opportunity, I hesitated at first —but then I decided to put myself forward because I knew this could be helpful for my future career. It’s great that interns get to learn new skills,” he adds.
Roshell also had a successful experience as an interns’ project leader. She’s not only the first product management intern to work at InterNations, but also opted for heading the latest volunteer program. This time, the goal was to help a charity called Teranga, by raising awareness of the organization’s hard work and spreading information on Senegalese culture.
The “Teranga Project” was divided into three chapters: an event in May, another one in June, and one in July. Roshell led the second part, which consisted of throwing an office party, where interns got the chance to talk about the charity to the other employees, introduce Senegalese culture through typical snacks, and help raise money for the organization.
As a project leader, Roshell did her best to get everyone involved according to their capacities and interests. Though she describes herself as a shy person, she opens up: “I had to make my voice heard in a big group, which helped me become more confident when it comes to speaking in front of many people.”
Based on her own experience, Roshell can confirm that “the interns’ project has been created for us to be more courageous and to take more responsibility. You learn a lot about yourself, and it makes you more self-assured for when you have to handle a project in your first ‘real’ job.”
An Opportunity to Grow
Of course, the role of project leader gives you the best opportunity for personal growth. But every intern can benefit from the project, and so can the company.
Marie, the current social media intern, has been actively participating in the “Teranga Project” and got the chance to develop her teamwork skills, by joining a group of people from different countries and backgrounds. Moreover, this experience helped her overcome the fear of speaking in public and gave her the courage to stand out from the crowd.
When our current group of interns first started the “Teranga Project”, we went to each department in the Munich office and explained to our colleagues what it was about, letting them try African snacks while doing a quick fundraiser and giving a short presentation. Even though she felt nervous about it, Marie got rid of her misgivings to introduce the project to our fellow team members, pushing herself and successfully dealing with one of her fears in the process.
Working on these projects does not only help interns develop new skills, but also provides the chance to get to know more people from other departments. As Marie puts it: “I’m part of the Content & Communications Department and wouldn’t really know what a person in the Product Management or Online Marketing Teams actually does. Gathering together for the interns’ project creates more awareness of what is going on in the rest of the company.”
Just like for Nick, Roshell, and Marie, my experience with the interns’ project has been very rewarding. I have been working as an intern in the Editorial Office Team for three months now and had the chance to take part in the “Teranga Project” and get creative in various ways. As I’m currently trying to learn calligraphy, hand-lettering, and graphic design, I seized the opportunity to put my passions into action.
For the second part of the project, when we threw an office party to introduce Senegalese culture, we also wanted to showcase different quotes from Senegalese literature and traditional proverbs. I suggested creating and decorating a big mood board with all kinds of quotes from influential Senegalese writers, such as Léopold Sédar Senghor. I found it very satisfying that the board was still there the following Monday morning and that you can see it every time you go to the “Team Lodge”, which is one of the main recreation rooms at the Munich office.
For the last part of the project, we planned a scavenger hunt around Munich. Every team of attendees had to solve a riddle and move on to the next station, located in another part of the city. Marie invented all the creative riddles that served as clues, and I helped her illustrate and customize them, which was a lot of fun!
To the Benefits of the Company
Last but not least, the interns’ project also benefits the company. The HR Team is the perfect example.
Interns created the “InterNations Internal Housing Group”, a space for internal use to assist future interns and full-time employees with the stressful search for accommodation in Munich. Ever since this page went online, HR has been sharing it with every newcomer before their arrival at InterNations.
Moreover, another group of interns worked on several manuals that are now sent to new hires. As Ira explains: “Interns created the internship manuals, one for candidates and one for universities, where it is possible to find every detail on doing an internship at InterNations. These manuals are very helpful for us in HR.”
So, if the original goal of the interns’ project was for interns to take on more responsibilities, it seems to have been a resounding success!
Image / video credits: InterNations