My Internship in Paris

At the end of the summer 2018, I was starting to feel different in a way I have felt only twice before. That is the feeling of wanting to change, not just your style, your hair or your daily breakfast routine, but to change everything. I felt I needed to change the language, the type of foods in my fridge, the music I listen to, the streets I walk on and the overall things I do every day. That is when I suddenly started to look for an internship place.

I prepared my curriculum vitae and wrote a couple of motivation letters. Every time I genuinely want the job I am applying for, I manage to postpone the writing of the letter as long as possible, and finally send my application at midnight.

Then suddenly the recruiter contacted me for a phone interview. I am majoring in French, the internship place was in Paris and the recruiter contacted me by email in French, but still some of the questions surprised me and I felt like I could not answer precisely the way I wanted. Expressing yourself can be hard when you are not interacting in your mother tongue and when you really wish to convince the interviewer.

Photo by Pedro Lastra on Unsplash

After the short phone interview, I got an invite to a second interview by Skype. This one was in English and I had two interviewers. During the interview, I got the feeling that the three of us really got along and had the same mentality. That is why I was not that surprised in the end when one of the recruiters called me the next day and said that they had decided to offer me the internship place.

However, as I was really motivated and excited for this life changing adventure, I accepted to start in just two weeks. This means that I almost immediately quit my part-time job, sub-rented my apartment to a friend and booked the flights to Charles de Gaulle.

When all the paperwork and packing was done and I sat on the plane, all I felt was happiness and excitement. What I need to tell you about myself is that I spent one year in France as an exchange student when I was seventeen and one year later worked in Disneyland Paris for the summer. Those experiences had assured me that I needed to learn more and that is how I started my studies of the French language and culture at the University of Helsinki. I consider France as my second home country, although unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to spend more years there. For me, what makes a country feel like your home is all the friends and contacts and people you can trust that you have there.

Therefore I could stay the first couple of days at a friend’s place, since I had not yet found a place for myself. The first day at the internship was interesting, as I managed to get lost and be a little late. However, I was lucky enough to have two such amazing colleagues, that they told me not to worry and to sit down for a coffee with them.

I was an intern in a quite small, almost family-like enterprise. The office was located in the very central part of Paris, in the 8th arrondissement. I was a recruitment assistant and my job included reviewing applications and exploring a lot of different profiles as I was trying to find the perfect candidate for a job in question. I did also prepare invoices and other administrative things. The most challenging but also the most interesting part of my tasks were the phone interviews that were in French.

Essentially, what I learned about the recruitment industry was that the fact that if you are not picked for one job, it does not mean that your cv or application would be badly done, nor that there is something necessarily wrong with you or with your professional profile. It can simply mean that you will be perfect for one job, but not for the other. Different companies are looking for different kinds of experience and might value something more than the other. Also, you never know who else is going to apply, and they might just be lucky and have an extra random skill or an interesting talent in something that you do not yet have. Working life can also be about being lucky - the most important is that you don’t give up and that you present your profile to as many recruiters as possible.

The other important part of my learning experience was that my language skills got better. As the working language was French, this was a more efficient way for me to learn the language than one more exchange year at a University could have been. In the working life, the language is a huge part of everything, and you are not only the listener or the reader but also the producer of it, which makes it very intense. Especially in the beginning, the change in so many aspects of life at the same time consumed my energy, but I still experienced the extreme feeling of happiness as I was living my dream.

Photo by Pedro Lastra on Unsplash

The most important thing I learned at the internship, was to never give up, although especially in the beginning you want to know how to do everything and to show everyone how you want to improve. Even if some tasks will take you longer, it is very unlikely that there’s something too complicated for you to do. You will get there, and there's nothing wrong with asking questions. It is always better to check than make a mistake or lose time. If you make a mistake once you won’t make the same mistake again. The best part about an internship is that no one is expecting you to be the best and to know everything about everything. You are there to discover the profession, take advantage of the experience, as long as you are doing the best you can.

Which brings us to the second point: Be confident. As long as you are doing your best, it should be enough. It is important to challenge yourself and try to do tasks even if they might seem complicated in the beginning. And even if you fail you should still be confident, because work is nothing personal and you might as well value yourself.

To conclude, I want to encourage everyone to apply for an internship abroad. Unfortunately, that is the only way to learn the essential skills that you need in the working life. Besides, I hear too often that someone didn’t apply for an internship as it seemed too complicated and they didn’t think they would have the guts to do the tasks. That is not an excuse since your best asset is your attitude! If you never fail, you are not trying hard enough.