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Linking Young Minds Together
  Volume 6 | Issue 28 | July 15, 2012 |


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The 20 interns selected at the Unilever Internship Programme, 2012.

A Time to Learn

Promiti Prova Chowdhury
Photos: Md Ata Islam Khan Mojlish

'Internship' -- the term has different meanings in different schools in different states. But to speak in the context of Bangladesh today, it is typically the last 3-4 months of undergraduate programmes at universities when the students find placement in organisations related to their field of study and undergo a supervised practical training. On one hand it is their first learning experience while entering the career path and on the other, they have to submit reports on this experience to their supervisors at their universities, which are then evaluated and added to the CGPA.

It is definitely a cumbersome process for students, starting off with finding a suitable internship at a suitable organisation and then smoothly getting through it by gaining invaluable soft skills and practical knowledge. Some even get disheartened at the thought of spending three to four months in an unknown environment, doing nothing but making photocopies and taking out prints. Besides, students also go through the endless worries of making proper links to get into an internship, making things worse if their CGPA is not up to the mark. Let's not even talk about the students who frantically search for 'How to write a CV' on Google, right at the end of his or her last semester!

The first session at NSU. Courtesy: Unilever

At a time like such, the leading marketing company - Unilever Bangladesh Ltd - has moved beyond organisational boundaries, visiting campuses across the country with the banner 'Unilever Bangladesh In Your Campus!' to have engagement sessions with students. Recently, UBL developed an internship programme with the objective of engaging with students and pre-selecting the top performers.

The Internship Programme of Unilever created a buzz at different campuses. Courtesy: Unilever

This Internship recruitment session for potential graduates started in June, 2011. This year, North South University (NSU) was the first to get a visit from UBL on June 19, East West University (EWU) followed on June 20, BRAC University (BRACU) on June 24, Jahangirnagar University-IBA (JU) on June 25 and University of Dhaka (Marketing Department) on July 8. Khulna University students were asked to send their CVs to Unilever via email. A total of 800 students participated in this programme. The sessions included an introduction to the company, Unilever, how to prepare for a recruitment season, video on internship experience at Unilever and a question-answer session. The vital part of the session, which made the events different and unique were the recruitment tests, through which 20 students were confirmed internship spots at Unilever almost a year before their commencement!

Leadership Development Manager of UBL, Tanvira Choudhury says, “These top candidates will be deployed on key projects, giving them an opportunity to develop their skills and testing their readiness for potential roles at UBL.” Clearly, the internship is going to be much more than photocopying and printing!

The programme also invited former Unilever interns to join the sessions in their respective universities and share insights of their internship projects with the participants and respond to questions. Tanvira Choudhury was the speaker at the sessions. In the discussion on 'How to prepare for recruitment season,' she described pros and cons of an internship experience to the students candidly. She described the different challenges that an intern has to face and the different roles that he or she might have to play.

Students attending the recruitment test.

Leadership Development Manager, UBL, Tanvira Choudhury speaking at a session.

For example, one intern can have two supervisors and many tasks to do at a time. The intern has to be smart and diplomatic while performing. She also shed some light on how to prepare for an interview and stand out. “Remember, you'll be different but not weird. You should thoroughly study the company before facing the interview. There can be two interviews. If you get a call for the final interview, remember that the interviewers are different, unlike in the preliminary interview, where the audience were the HR managers. Do not be nervous, just prepare a bit more. If they ask you about the weakness of the company point it out gently. They actually want to know your views as a consumer!"

She further spoke about the importance of a foreign degree, whether or not CGPA would be a factor in the selection process and much more. "The CGPA will always be a factor in the selection process everywhere. It is an indicator of how sincere and committed you were during the four years of your undergraduate programme. However, if you do not have a high CGPA, we look at your extra-curricular activities, which show where your involvements have been. We want to see whether you have utilised the time at the university to develop your skills.” At the end of the sessions, students were given 20 minutes to solve real life cases on Unilever products like Vim bar, Lux and Knorr soup as a part of the recruitment test.

When asked why Unilever has started the programme, Tanvira Choudhury says, “To create a talent pipeline. We are going to the key universities and filtering out the cream of the cream for next one year. We are also getting the roster of potential Business students. We want 'Unilever' to be the first choice in their mind. Along with that, we are giving them valuable tips on preparation for getting jobs, in general.”

Ulfat Jahan Howlader, a fourth year student of Business Administration at Jahangirnagar University is elated to be selected for the internship next year at Unilever. She says, “In the last four years of our undergraduate studies, we studied merely theories. An internship is the time when we get to apply what we have learnt practically.” MD Infitar Al Saba, a 10th semester student at the Department of Business Administration at East West University says, “In the beginning, I had a plan to go for a project rather than an internship programme. After seeing the announcement of Unilever, however, I just took a chance and now I am selected amongst 200 students! I am very much looking forward to it.”

Unilever goodie bags were given to all the participants.

The internship programme organised by Unilever, has carved out a path for young minds in Bangladesh, through which they are not only getting an opportunity to a probable future employment position, but are also exploring their abilities to work and communicate. Such initiatives will help students weave a successful and prosperous path in their respective careers.

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