Our Human Resources Intern Amy tells us what working for InterNations during her year abroad has been like so far.
I’m currently in the third year of my undergraduate degree, studying German and politics at the University of Manchester. I also studied German at secondary school, and my teacher was such a great and inspiring person that she really sparked my interest in the language; so, I decided to improve my fluency and learn more about Germany’s history and culture at university. For my third year, I was expected to either study or work in Germany, and I was keen to work during my year abroad as I wanted to gain some professional work experience before graduating. That’s why I was really happy when I was offered the internship in the Human Resources Team at InterNations.
The Internship Hunt
When I started my internship hunt, I was hoping to find one in Munich since I had visited the city a couple of times and loved it — once when I was on an exchange in the nearby town of Steinhöring and also whilst I was interrailing with my friends after our A-level exams.
As I was looking for job openings, I found the InterNations career page by chance, and there was a wide variety of internships on offer. I decided that an HR internship was the right route for me. I wasn’t just looking for a role which involved working with people, I was also looking for one where I would be able to learn a lot of transferable skills for when I’ll have to look for graduate jobs. Learning more about human resources, especially the recruitment process, and being involved every step of the way, seemed like a useful opportunity to gain these kinds of skills.
After completing the application and sending off my CV and cover letter, I received a response within a couple of days with a request to complete a written assignment, so they could assess my communication skills. Again, I quickly heard back and learnt that I had completed the task successfully. Just a few days later, I had an interview with Michael, who is now my supervisor, followed by one with Christa, the Team Lead Human Resources, a few days thereafter. This was all taking place in mid-March, so the COVID-19 situation was rapidly changing every day. I think that Munich went into lockdown on the day of my first interview — it was a very surreal time!
After my interview with Christa, I received an email offering me the HR internship, and I was so happy! I’d really enjoyed getting to know the team during the interview process, and I was now a lot closer to my 2020/21 goal of moving to Germany and working during my year abroad.
Moving to Another Country during a Global Pandemic
Moving to Germany was always going to be an exciting experience, but the COVID-19 pandemic turned it into a nerve-racking one. There was so much uncertainty as to whether travel was going to be permitted and whether I’d be able to move to Germany at all. My start date had been postponed due to the travel restrictions, so I was very relieved once I got the go-ahead from my university and travel was possible again.
I moved to Munich in mid-August so I would have a bit of time to settle in and explore the city before I started working. I packed my two suitcases and took my first flight during the pandemic. The COVID-19 restrictions meant it was a very different flight experience, as everyone was wearing a mask at the airport and on the plane, and there were definitely fewer passengers than you would have expected in mid-August.
I feel especially lucky that I started my internship in 2020. Due to the new Brexit rules, combined with the difficulties of the pandemic, it is now a very time-consuming and difficult process to get a visa as a student from the UK. Relocating to Germany would have been a very different experience if I had begun my internship just a few months later.
The Role and Responsibilities of an HR Intern
A large element of my internship is recruiting future interns. I post job ads for all departments which employ interns — including Corporate Communications, Corporate Partnerships, and Community Support — on different job portals such as the InterNations career page, SmartRecruiters, and LinkedIn. Once I have screened the incoming applications, I remain in contact with the candidates via email throughout the recruitment process, sending them tasks and organising interviews. These tasks vary from department to department and focus on different skills, such as written communication or analytical skills.
I am also responsible for answering any questions they might have about the hiring process or the internship they have applied for, which can be anything from questions about moving to Munich to their day-to-day tasks in their role as interns. The final step of the recruitment process is offering the internship to the candidate, which is often met with a very happy, enthusiastic response and is always something I greatly enjoy. I also shadow my colleagues whilst they are hiring for full-time positions, to increase my understanding of the recruitment process further and to learn more about interview techniques.
Onboarding and offboarding interns is another important part of my job. When a new intern is starting with us, I need to make sure their start is as smooth as possible, ensuring they have all the information they need about their first couple of days and that all the relevant introductory sessions have been scheduled, such as their IT setup and their admin session. And when an intern is leaving, I need to make sure their last few days are as smooth as possible, too, by sending them their reference letter and helping to arrange the return of their company laptop, for example.
Remodeling the Internship Development Program
InterNations has an internship development program, and as the HR intern, I am responsible for organising and scheduling the different sessions. Before COVID-19, they all took place in person, and now that we are all working remotely, it has been my responsibility to revamp the program to work well in a remote setting.
There are also interns’ projects, where all the interns meet weekly to work on a project together which aims to benefit a specific department or the entire company. The last project we completed was creating and sending digital holiday cards to our colleagues. We are currently working on a blog article about our remote internship experience.
I arrange the interns-only training sessions as well, where a full-time employee hosts a training session about a topic they are passionate about or that is part of their job. So far, the training sessions have involved various topics from recruiting to conducting interviews, as well as sustainability. The final section of the development program is the so-called department exchange, where an intern will host a presentation about their department and their day-to-day tasks, so everyone has a better understanding of what all the other interns do. This year so far, we have had presentations from Corporate Partnerships, Public Relations, and Community Support.
During my internship, I’ve learnt and improved on lots of different skills, including my communication skills, especially in relation to job interviews, creating presentations in PowerPoint, and using HR software, such as Personio. The initial adjustment to remote work was a bit of a challenge, as I had been onboarded and started working in the office. However, InterNations has so many tools for keeping in touch and collaborating. Once I had gotten into the “home office” routine, working remotely was no longer so difficult.
Life in Munich during the Lockdown
I’ve really been enjoying living in Munich, as it is such a beautiful city! I’m really looking forward to the lockdown being over — just like everyone else, I’m sure — so I can explore more of Munich, especially its many museums and art galleries, such as the history of science and technology at Deutsches Museum and the contemporary art at Museum Brandhorst.
Fortunately, there are so many parks and lots of green spaces all around the city. Currently I’ve been going for lots of walks with lots of takeaway coffees, exploring some of my favourite areas, which include Westpark and Café Gans am Wasser, as well as Maxvorstadt and the English Garden.
I’m so excited to travel again once it is safe to do so. I hope I’ll be able to visit my friends who are also spending their year abroad in Germany, studying or working all across the country. I’m particularly looking forward to visiting my friends in Hamburg, Heidelberg, and Leipzig.
My internship with InterNations finishes at the end of June, so — COVID-19 permitting — I’m going to make the most of my time here in July before I head back to the UK to finish my degree. The internship has definitely increased my interest in a career in HR, and this will be one of the areas I’m going to look into for graduate jobs next year.
Image credit: InterNations / iStockphoto / private (Amy Mulford)