Summer internship as a Marketing intern in a pharmaceutical, home and hygiene company.
You’re in an interview for the role of a marketing intern in a Pharmaceutical, Home and Hygiene Company and you understand that there is only one position but about 50 other candidates applied for the job. You are a pharmacy student and you are applying for this position which is at a foreign company. How would you stand out against the other 50 candidates and bear in mind that you have no marketing experience?
That was exactly the dilemma which I encountered during my application process for Reckitt Benckiser summer marketing intern and I was a 2nd-year pharmacy student from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. I was applying for a role in a multinational company where one of their branches are in Malaysia (where I am from). I have no experience in marketing nor dealing with stakeholders which are of an international level. Hence, the question repeats itself, ‘How do I stand out against the other candidates?’
During the interview, (3 of the staff vs 1) I was asked the basic question of introducing myself and what are my expectations working with their company. This included where do I see myself progressing in my future career and for me to run through my CV (I brought 3 copies of my CV despite them already having mine at their hand, highlighted and tagged. Imagine the pressure!). Then, they asked me the golden question: “What is a pharmacist like you applying for this role?”
The time immediately stops for me and what might seem like 5 seconds was like a 5-minute pause for me. I immediately answered “That is a good question. Let me articulate my words and think for a bit to answer it”. Hence, my internal monologue* begins:
Immature Felicia: “Oh Goldilocks, I wasn’t prepared for this. Bye bye summer internship.”
Mature Felicia: “Calm yourself. Why did you want to join or apply for this in the first place when you know that you are lacking the experience of a business or marketing student?”
Immature Felicia: “I guess I really want to understand how consumer behaviour and their choice is affected by how the products are marketed and advertised to healthcare professionals and the general media. I am also interested in starting my own business next time hence I am here to learn invaluable skills from the team.”
Mature Felicia: “The young caterpillar has become the butterfly. You have the answer now, my child. Say it and don’t *Ru Paul appears* mess it up.”
I answered the question quite coherently and I received approving nods from the panel of interviewers. To be honest with you, I have no idea why I suddenly experienced a surge of adrenaline and this further fuelled my enthusiasm in this discussion. I informed that given my clinical knowledge as a pharmacist, I believe I will bring a new perspective in the team and I am generally enthusiastic in being able to learn transferable skills from this internship as I am interested in starting up my own business in the future.
After the interview, I felt really defeated because it was an hour worth of hard-core brain workout. However, things worked in my favour and I immediately got a call from the office that I got the role. We immediately discussed the salary, working hours and also the starting date of my summer internship and my end date.
Little did I know that this was the start of a never-ending challenge of adaptation and flexibility in accomplishing tasks as my role include liaising with the country’s biggest media company as one of our stakeholder along with local universities and the Ministry of Health for a local CSR campaign against the dengue fever which is widespread in Malaysia.
In addition to that, as a marketing intern, you have to work with the legal team as well as the supply chain team in liaising with headquarters of the company in other countries since it is a multinational company. I liaised with Indonesia, United Kingdom, France and Singapore in terms of bringing a new product to market. Therefore, coordination of the supply side has to be constantly updated within the whole team, new marketing plans, and product preference surveys were conducted during my 3 months in Reckitt Benckiser.
As a pharmacist, I believe our advantage in a more business-aspect of a pharmaceutical company was that we would break down barriers between the STEM background and the business background. As pharmaceutical companies have the formulation team, transferring the understanding across to the business team can be quite a challenge due to them using a rather complex explanation. Hence, what I did was broke down the large chunks of scientific jargon into layman terms while clarifying with the scientist themselves to ensure I communicate the right message. I believe that was the highlight of my experience in Reckitt Benckiser as I really felt that I really added value to the meeting.
Hence, if you ever doubted yourself of what you can do as a pharmacist, I would advise you to believe in yourself and try different types of roles within and outside the clinical setting. It is alright to not know the ‘right’ answer to everything you do in life but never be afraid to try because you might not know what you might learn from the experience. Good luck!
This article was Written by:
Felicia Yew Hui Chuin
3rd Year Pharmacy Student
The University of Manchester