Landing an internship is a great way to develop your skills, bulk up your resume and explore your career options. However, getting one of these coveted placements can be incredibly competitive – especially when you’re vying for a spot with one of the country’s top employers.
Last summer, over 2,000 university students across Canada applied to the L’Oréal Canada Summer Internship Program – only 26 were successful. One of the successful candidates was Paulina Aksenova, a 4th year Bachelor of Commerce marketing student from the Sauder School of Business at UBC.
Now back in Vancouver for her final term at Sauder, we caught up with Paulina to find out about her internship with L’Oréal and discover what it was like to work on one of the world’s largest cosmetics brands, Maybelline New York.
What influenced you to apply to the internship program?
Going into my last summer as a BCom, I wanted to gain work experience that would deepen my understanding of brand marketing and help me explore the different opportunities available in that career path. I was drawn to L’Oréal’s corporate culture, which prides itself on being fluid, entrepreneurial, innovative and open to employee ideas. I came across the internship posting while searching their website and submitted my resume and cover letter on an open application form. After a phone and Skype interview, I was offered the position of Marketing Intern for the summer of 2012 and eagerly accepted.
What do you think set you apart from the thousands of candidates?
Over the past few years at Sauder, I have had a number of resume coaching sessions with BCom Career Managers at the Business Career Centre, who taught me to write a strong resume and cover letter, and tailor it to the position requirements.
Allowing a large window of time to edit and refine my resume and cover letter was key to my success. I spent about three months getting my resume into a good state–with the help of proofreading and recommendations from my peers. I relied heavily on numbers and included concrete details of my past experiences, which I was then able to support with stories and examples during my interview.
What was it like to move to a new city?
Though there was an initial culture shock, I quickly settled into my new apartment and adapted to the Francophone culture.
I found Montreal to be a vibrant city with warm people and lots of things to do in the summer months and I took advantage of its location on the east coast, traveling to New York and other cities.
What projects did you work on during the internship?
My position fell within the Maybelline New York brand’s $16 million lip makeup portfolio.
I was tasked with finding a way to improve Maybelline’s lipstick market share in Canada. To do this, I conducted a shade analysis, where I took each shade from Maybelline’s lipstick portfolio and matched it up with shades that are similar under competitors’ shade portfolios. I then analyzed sales differences and causes for these differences. The shade analysis enabled me to identify which key shades should be added to Maybelline’s portfolio, and which shades could be taken out. In completing the analysis, I removed certain shades from the market and added new ones, as well as recommended a wider distribution of some existing shades.
Retail Distribution Strategy
Another accomplishment involved increasing the expected sales of lipstick (the largest category in Lip Makeup) by 13%, through adjusting the retail distribution strategy. This was based on in-depth SKU sales analysis and competitive benchmarks. I also adapted other products to the Canadian market, helping launch a new lip makeup product (a cross between a stick and a balm), which provided me with real, practical experience in product marketing. I recommended 10 out of the 20 existing shades to be launched nationally for tinted lip balm, Colour Whisper. This was based on an in-depth demographic analysis and an understanding of Canadian consumer needs.
Retailer Space Reduction
My other projects included coming up with an innovative approach to lip makeup space reduction at Canadian retailers, the result of which could save the company $106,000 a year. In addition to space reduction, I gained experience in retail expansion and produced calculations to determine appropriate wall space expansion for Maybelline products in Shoppers Drug Mart retailers.
What made this internship so great?
L’Oréal Canada deserves its place as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2013 and one of Montreal’s Top Employers for 2012. I really loved everything about the people and the culture at L’Oréal and the flatness of the organization was great, as I had a lot of opportunity to meet with upper management. Through interactive lunches, I was able to speak with the CEO, as well as two Senior Vice Presidents, who were all happy to answer my and other interns’ questions.
I was also really fortunate to work closely with some very inspiring supervisors, including my manager Cammie Guest, Group Marketing Manager, and my mentor Laura Delahunt-Devlin, Senior Product Manager, who helped me make the most of my position. Laura offered me a lot of support, but also challenged me to reach my full potential. The guidance provided by her and the other supervisors really helped me to learn quickly and excel in my role.
My favorite thing about working at L’Oréal was that my ideas were valued. The organization thrives on innovation and entrepreneurship, so everyone's opinions and thoughts are appreciated–whether you are a VP or an intern. During my time at L’Oréal I also met some amazing people who I have become close with, especially a couple of the other interns who I have kept in touch with since the summer.
At the end of my internship, I was offered a full time, permanent position. It is a fantastic opportunity and one that I have accepted; I look forward to continuing my work with L’Oréal upon my graduation from Sauder.
What advice would you give to other BCom students looking for internships?
Make a list of companies you’d be interested in working for, do some research and just reach out. Many opportunities are not marketed so you never know what you may find.
It’s important to love what you do (those 8-12 hour work days really catch up to you) but make sure you’re also open minded in your job search. Be adventurous and don’t discount cities or companies that may not immediately interest you.
Overall, your internship is your chance to experiment with your career choice so have fun and take advantage of every opportunity you can.
To find out more about Paulina’s experience and the experience of L’Oréal’s other summer interns, check out these videos:
Paulina’s Experience Video
L’Oréal Intern Video