Whether you are reading this while applying for internships and placements, or whether you have secured your spot in a company, or are thinking about starting University, this experience I had the chance to go through will interest you.
My name is Emmanuel De Labauve D’Arifat, a 2nd year undergraduate in Accounting and Finance from the island of Mauritius. I am a School Rep of the Henley Business School and next year’s Finance Society President. I am enjoying every minute of my studies here at Henley and meeting loads of new people.
The great experience I wanted to share started the day I received an e-mail from the University asking me if I wanted to receive updates on internships and placements. Not too long after signing up I received an e-mail asking me to apply to the Undergraduate of the Year Awards. I remember that I thought I was going to apply but kept postponing thinking that this was way out of my league.
The day I finally applied I realised that there were some specific terms and conditions I had to respect in order to apply. One of them was that I had to have the right to work in the UK after graduating, which I do not have yet (cross fingers), the same reason for which I got rejected from more than half of the internships I have applied for to date. I felt this usual frustration of unfairness but still decided to give it a go a few days later. To my great surprise I received an e-mail a week after the deadline, saying I was through to the next stage. I soon got in contact with L’Oréal to clarify this matter, to which they responded by saying that I am eligible for the prize of a summer internship if I was to be successful with the awards.
It felt like a real opportunity for once and I thought to myself: ‘’game on’’.
I was invited to sit 3 online tests, which I passed successfully, and reached the stage where the sponsor of the Male Undergraduate of the Year Award, L’Oréal, took charge of selecting the best candidates. After responding to further assessment questions and speaking to them over the phone, I made the cut and was invited to the Assessment Centre in their London Headquarters.
On the day, I remember feeling like I was going through the same stress as my first day of school. 40 Male undergraduates from all over the UK had been shortlisted. I wanted to break the ice as quickly as possible and went to introduce myself to all of them, making great connections along the way.
From 9 o’clock up until lunchtime, we undertook three different assessments, starting with numerical and attention to details tests. We were then asked to present a case study we had to prepare, which was a 20-minute pitch for the new product range of one of L’Oréal’s brands.
For the last assessment before lunch, we prepared and presented a group project, pitching marketing strategies for the launch of a new product.
It was quite a nerve-wracking moment when the Talent Acquisition team announced who were the candidates that met the benchmark and were through to the final in the afternoon.
The satisfaction I felt when I heard my unpronounceable French full name is difficult to describe. At that point, sitting in the waiting room for my turn to do the final 1-hour interview, I thought that no matter what would happen next, I am proud of reaching the top 20 and to have experienced how an assessment centre worked.
For anyone planning to apply for some placements or internships soon, my greatest piece of advice is to try search and show real interest about the company. You will instantly stand out if you know something about the company that others don’t. Use this material for when you write your cover letters and résumés, which must always be tailored to the position you are applying for.
Furthermore, if you are awaiting an assessment centre, you must know that you are not here by chance. The company you are going for really likes your profile and thinks that you have the skills and experience for the job. The assessment centre is more accentuated on testing your interpersonal skills, your ability to cope under pressure and how you interact with people. My best advice is to be outgoing, and not ever think that is it awkward to go say hello to someone you don’t know or someone more senior, you will make a great impact and be remembered.
Coming back to the awards, I left the final with a great feeling, not because I managed to answer every question of the final interview perfectly, but because I got the interpersonal part of it right, managing to turn the interview into more of a conversation between the interviewer and me. As a matter of fact, we even carried on chatting to each other in the lift until 5 minutes later when she showed me the way back to the waiting room. I came back to Reading that night already feeling like I had won a prize. I won invaluable experience and met some great people doing so.
It felt like forever trying to wait for their e-mail about the outcome. I remember being in my mates’ kitchen when I got it, and I hadn’t even finished reading it before they started shouting. They really knew what it meant to me and I was over the moon!
So off I went, destination Canary Wharf in London, where I would sit on the L’Oréal table as one of the top 10 Male Undergraduates of 2018.
The venue was beautiful and TargetJobs set up a stunning ceremony as well as serving a delicious three-course meal. I am really humbled to have been able to sit amongst department executives and receive great advice for the future from them. Also sitting on our table were some current interns, who gave us an overview of the projects they are working on. This really excited me, and I was even more excited to know who the winner was.
When the moment came, I tried to think of another time in my life where I felt my heart beating that fast but couldn’t.
I was disappointed in not hearing my name, but it made me reflect on the life changing experiment which I started to commit to more than 6 months ago. As Rachel Riley mentioned in her speech prior to announcing the winner, we should be proud of being seated where we were. Thinking that I was amongst the top 10 Male Undergraduates of the UK and the only student representing the University of Reading, I sure was proud.
The ceremony was followed by a great after party hosted by L’Oréal, where I had the pleasure of speaking with Rachel Riley and where I got to know the L’Oréal team a bit better. I came back to Reading and met all my friends on the football field in the sunshine.
They were also disappointed but realised that I was very grateful to having made it this far.
So here is to this opportunity that I kept postponing, thinking it was way out of my league.
If you stumble across this blog and are, or will be, in the same situation I was in, trust me, just apply! Until the point where you have to show it, you do not know what you really are made off. This experience gave me a new insight into who I am and what capabilities I have, and I am forever thankful because it has changed my life.
The cherry on the cake is that I also received an e-mail from L’Oréal offering me a 10-week Marketing Summer Internship in their Active Cosmetics Division!
I really look forward to spending my summer with them in London and broadening my skillset, as well as learning as much as I can from their marketing department and meeting many people.
Once more and as my last piece of advice, BE BOLD and embrace every opportunity that is offered to you, worse thing that can happen is that you will fail, but you will fail better each time you try again. And one day it will pay off.