For this week’s article, we ran up to the Unilever Benelux HQ to interview one of their interns, who also happens to be a former MAEUR member. Linn Huijsman (24) talked to us about her experience as an intern at the Food Solutions department of one of the biggest FMCG companies in the world: Unilever. Keep in mind people, this internship spot is currently recruiting (Dutch-speaking students only). So, let’s start the interview and hear more about what this internship has to offer!
What is your position within the organization and what type of work-related activities do you do?
The department that I work in is called Unilever Food Solutions (UFS), which is the B2B division of Unilever that mainly targets professional chefs in the market. By offering relevant concepts and solutions to them, we aim at helping them to manage their everyday operations in the kitchen in a more efficient and enjoyable manner. Chefs at leisure park and restaurants, for example, require different products than consumers cooking at home, which is why all of our products come in larger quantities. Some of the brands that we work with are Hellmann’s, Knorr and Lipton. My specific function within UFS is Operator Marketing Intern and it means that I am a part of the team of Operator Marketeers – a team of 5 marketers who develop marketing activities and campaigns for our operators (the chef). More specifically, I work closely together with the Operator Marketeer for the segment “24/7”. This segment entails all of the consumption that happens on-the-go, such as in leisure parks, hotels, and casual dining chains. The latter refers to chains like Happy Italy, Vapiano etcetera. Together with the Operator Marketeer, I am looking for solutions and concepts that could help the chef within our specific “on-the-go” channel. This can vary from inspirational recipes to thinking out concepts around a product.
Concerning the internship itself, how does the recruitment process go?
I don’t know for sure if Unilever always does the recruitment process themselves or if they hire an agency for that. As far as my experience goes, I applied through Young Capital. The reason I knew about this internship is because of a fellow MAEUR member, Roos. She was doing this internship before me and we got to talk about her experiences during one of the MAEUR drinks. She told me she was having a great time and that her position was becoming available soon, so I took my chance and applied for her position! I had one interview and heard relatively fast that I got the internship. I believe currently Unilever is using a different agency than Young Capital, but the recruitment process is still the same.
Was it difficult to adapt to such a powerful company?
It is definitely challenging at the beginning because you don’t really know what they expect from you. Besides, working at such a huge company can be a little overwhelming. However, the people at UFS are so nice, they made me feel at home instantly and always ensured me that I should not be afraid to ask questions - and I quote: “you can never ask too many questions”. My colleagues help me with anything, which made it a really smooth transition from overwhelming to a home-like feeling. UFS really encourages interns to gather valuable insights and learn new skills over the course of their internship. At my interview, they told me as I was helping them out as an intern for six months, in exchange they want to help me grow as a person and learn new things.
What aspect do you enjoy most about working at Unilever?
I think... the responsibility and, at the same time, the freedom. To give an example, a while back, one of our culinary advisors and I made short “how-to” videos that account managers could use during sales meetings with (potential) clients. It was really nice to see my “tangible” end-product being used in practice and to hear that even clients were enthusiastic about it! Also, from day one my colleagues made me feel like I was part of the team rather than being the intern. In fact, my supervisor hates the word “intern” and told me “yes, you are doing an internship here, but you work just like everybody else, you are not just the intern”. This motivated me, even more, to get the most out of the internship.
How would you describe your experience working for Unilever so far?
It has been a really nice one! The thing is, at an internship, you do not only learn things about the job or how the company works, but you learn things about yourself as well. Mostly, you learn new skills. You learn what you are good at and what you are not good at. You learn what it’s like to work in a team, what aspects of working you like or don’t like. All of this is super helpful for when you finish your studies and start looking for jobs!
What are the most valuable skills you learned during your internship?
I would say how to work in groups on big projects. Well, maybe even how to work in teams generally. I have done a lot of group work at the university and it may have been naïve to think it would be the same at Unilever, but now I know that group work in a company works way different. Here, we work in bigger teams with team players who each are an expert in their own field. This really helps in creating the most effective and efficient team. In this way, you also discover your own strengths and weaknesses and how you can contribute to the teamwork. Due to the many projects I work on simultaneously, I also learned how to manage my time more efficiently and to prioritize.
What would be your advice for future students wishing to do an internship at Unilever?
Just do it! It is just half a year of your life and you are going to learn so much. You’ll discover so many skills that you don’t learn at university. By doing an internship, you are getting hands-on experience and insights into how big companies work rather than just reading about them. It shows you how the “real world” actually works.
Lastly, do you want to add anything?
I would like to add that I work for a very specific part of Unilever. A lot of people don’t know about it, which is also why my manager was happy that you guys were coming to do this interview! A lot of people, when they apply, just know Unilever as it is and they have never heard of Food Solutions, but I think this department is really different. Not just because of the B2B market, but also in general, the way the people are and how they interact with each other. It kind of feels like a big family of 60 employees working together. Additionally, we do a lot of fun stuff in the office: the interns have hosted some lunches (we are the foodservice department after all) and we even went on a 2-day get-away with all the employees. So definitely don’t hesitate to apply, you’ll love it!
This internship spot is open for applications! If you would like to work or apply for this internship at Unilever, you can send an email to Michel Bröker at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jocelyn Marelis at email@example.com. Again, this internship is only available for Dutch-speaking students.