Tips For a Successful Internship Experience From an Intern's Perspective

Internship.  The word that is always in the back of most college students’ heads.  Where do I start?  How do I get one?  Is my resume good enough?  Am I good enough?

For the summer of 2019 I applied to five internships.  One out of the five was sent to me by my uncle.  Not expecting a response or interview, I said “why not” and applied to Cambridge Engineering.  Cambridge was out of the norm compared to the other companies I applied to, which were mostly advertising or public relations agencies.  I never thought I would be interning for a manufacturer, until now.  

I went through a two-step interview process involving the initial interview where I was able to record my own responses, and then the final video chat interview with the marketing team.  A few days later, I received a call from the Director of Marketing, Randy Niederer, saying I got the position.  

Initially, I was full of excitement, but as it got closer to my start date I began to realize that I know nothing about manufacturing.  Going into this position, I had no clue what to expect.  I am a marketing intern for an HVAC manufacturing company.  Now that is not what I expected to be this summer.

I assumed I would help out the marketing team with whatever they would be working on at the time and do some social media work.  What I didn’t expect was to basically shadow someone in the department.  As soon as I walked into Cambridge on my first day, Annie Krieger was waiting for me with a huge smile on her face.

I immediately felt comfortable and forgot about how nervous I was.  On my first day, Annie introduced to me every person that walked by.  We sat down, and went over a printed list of goals for me to accomplish with my time at Cambridge.  Annie told me, “It’s not what you can do for us, it’s what we can do for you”.  This has really stuck with me throughout my internship and made me realize three things: they know I don’t know what I’m doing, they know it can be intimidating, and they want to teach me, not take advantage of me.

I am now in my last week at Cambridge, and I can truly say I have learned A LOT.  Of course, I’ve learned about marketing: how to track social media analytics, create video and social media content, update the website, and develop a campaign.  I write blogs, press releases, and I even get to sit in on meetings with other agencies.  What I didn’t expect to learn about is culture and people.

My knowledge of Cambridge prior to my internship was little to none.  Now I can confidently say that Cambridge is known for their organizational culture and caring for their people.  People from all over the nation visit us just to see how #cambridgeculture works.  Much of it comes from Cambridge’s adoption of Lean manufacturing.  In a quick definition, Lean is the elimination of waste to make one’s life easier.  It also empowers employees to make their own improvements to their work routine, not instructed by their superiors.

This lean thinking will be a major takeaway from my time at Cambridge.  I learned that even in business, people deserve to be treated with respect, applauded for their successes (big or small), and that organizational health is vital for a company to thrive.  I learned how to make my own lean improvements and that this concept can be carried over into my personal life. 

When I reflect on what I’ve done so far at Cambridge, I realize I have learned more about marketing, public relations, people, and myself.  When I think about what I still want to accomplish, my personal goals are to become more comfortable and confident when I speak or write about content I may not have background knowledge on.  

So if you are an employer hiring interns, I have some recommendations on how to provide the best experience for your interns.

  1. Remember they are nervous.  Most of them have not worked in the “real world” before so clearly express your expectations of your intern.  These expectations should be accessible to your intern, so I recommend providing them with a copy.  This way, they have set goals to work towards along with their personal goals.
  2. Consider having someone for your intern to shadow.  I can imagine it would be quite confusing trying to execute an intern position without a mentor.  That’s why I am very thankful Annie took me under her wing.  She not only is there to answer any of my questions, but takes every opportunity to teach me something new every day.  By having someone to shadow, your intern establishes an initial bond and trust with one person.  This comfort they experience will most likely give them greater confidence to approach others throughout the company.
  3. Be a leader, not a boss.  The people at Cambridge guide me on what I should be doing, but I also have the freedom to make my own choices and mistakes.  This is how I learn, because in the “real world” I won’t always have someone instructing me every step of the way.  
  4. Make it a learning experience.  Use what your company has to offer and help shape the future of these young adults who are thirsty to learn from you.  I promise whether your intern ends up working full time for you or somewhere else, they will never forget what they learned from the people that took a chance on them and offered them an internship.


Remember, it’s not always about what your intern can do for you, it’s what you can do for them.

P.S. My advice for internship seekers: Step outside of your comfort zone!  Keep your options open.  It’s not where you work, it’s the people you work with and the mission you work for.

This blog was guest-written by Meg Brown, Director of HR at Cambridge Engineering. 

The goal was 10 applicants for each opening. In a tight labor market? There’s no question: this is the most difficult time to build engaged teams in a generation. There are so many interests competing for attention. From finding workers, to upskilling them -- how can we make sure we attract the right people in the first place? We’d have to be crazy to attempt it!   

Then call us crazy because we have supersized our recruitment pipelines and enabled historically low turnover. Through a combination of people-centric leadership and innovative recruiting/development programs, we have redefined the employer/employee relationship. 

Allow me to explain. 

Cambridge doubles production in the 3rd and 4th quarter, especially on our S-Series HTHV heaters, which naturally coincide with the colder weather. For many years we have surged with seasonal employees who spend 4-6 months working for Cambridge through our busy season. A few years ago we began hiring for cultural fit over experience, believing we can provide thorough in-house training. While that helped, we were still struggling to find talent quickly enough using staffing agencies to help bridge the gap. In 2018 with the crazy goal of 10 applicants for every opening the message was clear - we had to find a new approach to attract and retain talent.     

Enter Cambridge Unleashed. 

We realized there is real value in spending time at Cambridge - even if it is only for a short period of time. So we created Cambridge Unleashed, a new concept which allowed us to start telling our story - describing the value working here can bring to each and every one of us. This program is intended for anyone interested in learning, leading and launching their manufacturing career. 

Reading 2-Second Lean by Paul Akers is a conscious step we require for all full-time and seasonal workers. This continuous improvement methodology reinforces autonomy for each person to make their work processes, and by extension, their jobs better and easier. 2-Second Lean, though, follows each person home and extends beyond the walls of Cambridge. We hear time and again how someone recognized waste or something that bugged them at home and exclaimed “Hey, that’s a lean improvement!” Exposure and practice of this mentality is quick and effective, and can help a person make their own experiences better for their rest of their lives.

We’ve found that when our 20 “Unleashers” dove into the given opportunities they end up unlocking their potential, feeling appreciated and in control of their own workspace. Here are some real life examples:

  • Many Unleashers found courage they didn’t know they had and volunteered to emcee the morning meeting. 
  • Our team reached a company record breaking production level of 13 units a day.  
  • All 20 Unleashers jumped into our lean system making videos showing highlights of their improvements. 
  • Zero lost-time accidents through the entire busy season.

You might be wondering what happens at the end of the program? Where do these seasonal employees go after Unleashed? 

We realized quickly that if Cambridge Unleashed is a program for anyone who wants to launch their manufacturing career, then we had better figure out how to do it.  Many of our Unleashers came into Cambridge having never worked in manufacturing, and after 4-6 months with us they had learned the daily habits necessary to be a dedicated lifelong continuous improvement/lean maniac. What company wouldn’t want to hire them?!? We just had to figure out a way to tell their story. So we used video – a well loved tool often used at Cambridge. 

We created a launching process which allowed us to work with our Unleashers to determine their best next step at the end of the program.  Did they want to apply for our open positions and launch internally or did they want to look for a job somewhere else launching externally? Either way we were in it with them every step of the way. Those interested in internal launch applied for those openings, completed an interview process and were considered for any openings available. Those interested in external launch worked closely with us to create an introduction and highlight video they could use when they applied to other companies. We helped them update their resumes, adding a link to their video so any recruiter could see the amazing work they had done at Cambridge. Then to help get the word out we blasted their videos to our entire network, letting them know we had some Unleashed graduates who were seeking employment. 

All in all, we launched all 20 Unleashers into positions they are excited to have, many here at Cambridge and a few elsewhere. We smashed the goal – achieving an average of 20 applicants for each opening!   We are beyond thrilled with the results of Cambridge Unleashed. Can’t wait to do it again in 2019!