By Kate Hohenstatt
If someone told me one year ago that I was going to be spending my summer working in Arkansas, I wouldn’t have thought twice about that out of left field statement. Most DePaul students in their junior year work hard all year in hopes of earning a coveted summer internship located in Chicago. I was one of those students until last October when I was offered an internship at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Deciding to work for the largest employer in the United States was a difficult choice to make, but it was ultimately one of the best and rewarding decisions I could have made for my career. Coming into the internship program I was nervous about the learning curve I would face because I was not a student pursuing a degree in business. I actually came across the internship by having a friend connect me with the Manager of Student and Alumni Engagement for DePaul’s Center for Sales Leadership. Through this, I was given the opportunity to pass my resume along and interview with Walmart.
As a category and modular development intern for Walmart’s baby department, I was given a summer project to research toiletries in the Walmart Neighborhood Market format. My goal was to create a category strategy and assortment proposal, which involves adding and deleting products on the shelves and collaborating with other merchandising functions. By the end of the summer, I met my goal by developing a project to exceed customer needs and turn profit. The most rewarding experience during my internship was presenting the project to my team and hearing that some of my recommendations would be implemented. As an intern, I felt like I was able to make a difference for the Walmart customer in over 300 stores.
Mining big data, communicating cross-functionally, and learning more than I ever knew about the retail industry are all transferable skills I was able to take away from my experience. Although the internship was not in a communications field, understanding the importance of consumer behavior and trends are crucial for anyone interested in industries that are evolving (which is basically every industry thanks to rapid advancements of technology.)
Through my time at Walmart I was able to network and meet with some of the smartest people I have ever met and hear their stories while also receiving advice for my future. Walmart’s InternOne Program even had an Executive Speaker Series, so I heard Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, Sam’s Club CEO John Furner, and other C-Suite level leaders from Walmart, Inc. speak. All of the executives talked about Walmart’s family-oriented work culture and further demonstrated this by participating in the Execs vs Intern softball game at the end of the summer intern celebration, which I was selected to play in. People from all of the country come to work at Walmart’s headquarters, so I became friends with interns who studied at schools across the nation.
If there is one piece of advice I can give to anyone looking for an internship, it would be to reach outside of your comfort zone because you never know what you might find. Now is the time to ask questions and try new things. I can say that it was I did and I do not regret stepping outside of my box in order to learn more about myself and the world of business.