And there it went – 8 weeks at Sephora, 3 weeks at Tatcha – it all just blew by so quickly. And what came of all of it? Amazing beauty products? Sure. Fantastic new friends? Absolutely. But given all the effort and agonizing that came with the internship search, surely I expected something more. So, without further ado, the 7* lessons that made this all worthwhile for me:
- Winning is not easy: It’s easy to look at an industry leader like Sephora and imagine a seamlessly polished machine cranking out innovation after the next. Not so. The competition is hungry, the consumer is savvy and just getting technology to work can be really, really hard. Seeing the struggle and the ambition from inside-out has been really eye-opening and makes me appreciate the results in a whole new light.
- Eavesdropping is critical: It’s often heard that in consumer facing businesses, you have to connect with that consumer. Some people do it through focus groups, others make it up as they go along. But there is a fierce legion of people who understand that the best place to know what she wants, needs, is delighted by, is to be right there with her. Some of my favorite and most enlightening memories of the summer involve me casually / awkwardly standing pretending to examine a shade of lipstick while eavesdropping on conversations around me.
- You don’t know product-love until you’re always around it: I was a semi-product junkie pre-Sephora. I ooo’d and ahhh’d like many girls, but as you can see from my earlier posts, being at Sephora has really taken my product-mania to the next level. And in many ways, I think that’s a good gut-check for how well you’d fit into / love a career or company. Can you be obsessed.
- Networking is such an ugly word: But the only way you’ll truly get a feel for the culture and values of a company are to meet with and talk to as many people in as many different roles as possible. You’ll be amazed by how open and thoughtful people are, and you’ll walk away better being able to answer the ultimate question: “do I fit in here?” What I’ve learned is that people here are incredibly smart, have short attention spans and just want to get things done.
- People work for people: This is not a new one, but it’s one that gets hammered in with each new job experience. When looking for a job or internship, don’t just go with the company/brand/project that is most exciting: really know who your direct manager will be and make sure they are someone who will support and champion you. It makes all the difference.
- Be uncomfortable: This one was actually my own personal goal when starting my MBA but has continued to ring true. For your one (and possibly last) internship experience, go do something totally new, totally uncomfortable. As for me, between working at TATCHA, the small e-commerce beauty brand where I started the summer, and Sephora, I’ve definitely stepped outside my familiar zone, but in hindsight I wish I pushed that even further.
- Just ask: At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as crafting the perfect experience. So I say jump in once you’re sure you’ve found a team you want to spend time with. Then take the projects they have proposed, rock it, and ask for other things that you are interested in. I started off with A/B testing and found my way to online cross-selling in Merchandising, and even did a group project on Women of Color. 8 or 10 weeks is a lot of time to shape your own experience and I challenge you (and myself) to keep doing that. Be proactive, be eager and just ask.
Love, beauty and fearlessness,
Emily Wang, MBA 2014
* Why 7? Well because I wanted to channel Ms. Coco Chanel and her obsession with numerology, because it’s my favorite number, and because I thought you’d stop reading before #8.