Think about the word “intern.” Typically, there are more negative connotations than positive. Some fear it means “unpaid,” “grunt work,” or “coffee-grabber.” Like a lot of college students, I feared the worst when I began my job search my Junior year at UNC Chapel Hill. I wanted a meaningful internship.
When I received a call from Scott Krewatch, the College Campus recruiter in search of a Communications Intern for Compass Group, I did what any other 21-year-old would do these days– I googled them!
Foodservice? Check! Nice office? Check! Well known, growing company? Check! Paid?? Check!
With all of those positives, I couldn’t find a reason not to be interested in this position thus I continued with the interview process. Little did I know at the time, the position I would be offered far surpassed what most people would consider the role of an “intern.”
I remember clearly the first question Canteen’s Director of Communications, Ann Sheridan, asked me. “You’re in a calculus course, right?”
I immediately thought with panic, “Since when did communications positions require calculus?” In an instant, I rethought my major entirely before she continued with the comedic relief of, “Hahaha, I’m kidding. My daughter is in calculus and is trying to figure it out! One of the reasons I like communications is because we don’t need calculus!”
Ann remediated the intense, formal tone of the interview that I had anticipated and replaced it with an introduction mid-giggle that made me feel comfortable, connected, and confident. As soon as the interview concluded, I knew that the emphasis on this internship would not only lie within the success of the company, but also be about the people I would work with. I was absolutely right!
What do you do if you work in communications? This is a question that I often received as a communications major, and could not truly answer. Until now.
Well, if you are like Ann and Caitlin O’Shea, my manager, you can run with it in the most creative ways possible.
For one, instead of sending emails or calls to communicate news and pass along information to the 9,000 associates within Canteen, the communications team decided to do it a better way– through videos. Whether it’s a “Day in the Life of a Route Driver” or a “Shout Out” for a stand-out associate, new content is constantly being added to the portfolio of over 200 videos by the Canteen communications team. Throughout my internship, I have had a chance to help edit and assist on video making to learn the best way to communicate to large teams and tell the company’s story through associates and videos.
One of my favorite experiences was working with the communications team in the production of Canteen’s live meeting with Tradecraft Outfitters, a new partner that leads the way in craft coffee, artisan teas, and cold brew. Instead of having a webinar or phone call to pass information along about Canteen’s partnership with Tradecraft, the communications team put on a live meeting and broadcast it throughout the country. Associates were able to see the CEO and other executives of both Canteen and Tradecraft discuss recent changes in real time. Viewers were able to submit questions while the meeting occurred that would then be answered during the live Q&A at the end of the meeting. This is another prime example of the communications team working to communicate in an interesting, engaging, and informative way. It’s not necessarily the easiest, but it is highly effective.
While I had many experiences that expanded my knowledge of effective communication, my final project taught me the most. I worked with our team and the HR Team to look at ways to best manage our Glassdoor page. Ann suggested I work with the Human Resources Intern and present our findings to the VP of Human Resources Julie Cobb and our CEO Peter Fetherston. I imagine that very few interns even meet company executives, let alone present to them. Caitlin worked with me for hours to make sure I was confident and that our material was relevant and meaningful. This experience helped me immensely and I am more confident in my presentation skills today than ever before.
I could not be more thankful for the opportunity and experience this internship has given me. I have learned more this summer than I have in many of my courses at Carolina and it is all thanks to my team. They in no way treated me like the stereotypical college intern, but as if I were a full time associate. Caitlin allowed me to feel comfortable and excited to learn as she worked with me one-on-one daily and gladly answered my many, many questions. She was my manager, but quickly became a friend who helped immerse me into the Canteen culture and introduce me to other Canteen associates who I now also consider friends.
I am returning to UNC Chapel Hill for my senior year, and while the idea of entering the “real world” once seemed like a tragedy, I can now say I look forward to it.