Stephanie, from Germany, did an internship with H&M for 9 months in 2015 with the Intern USA program. She is now a store development manager for H&M in Zurich, Switzerland. We recently asked her to reflect on her time in the U.S. and how it affected her career. Here is what she said.
Describe your internship in the U.S.
As part of a global talent program of H&M, I was sent to New York for 9 months. During this time I was trained in Store Development and Expansion, which entails designing the optimal commercial stores and building a strategic and profitable store portfolio.
What are some of your most memorable experiences from your time in the U.S.?
It's hard to pick a most memorable experience, when your nine months were full of fantastic local experiences: foliage in Upstate New York; watching the Yankees, Rangers, and Nets live; celebrating 4th of July and Halloween; exploring the beaches of NJ and NY; traveling to Miami, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, and Alabama; experiencing spring, summer, and fall in the city of dreams; endless Sunday brunches; the list just goes on…
Workplace related, I must say that the opening of our Herald Square flagship and a Christmas boat party on the Hudson River were true highlights.
What did you like most about your internship and overall experience in the U.S.?
Next to living in one of the most phenomenal cities on earth and being amazed by it every day, I have to say that I really enjoyed the very professional and efficient working culture in the U.S. When it comes to retail, NYC really is the number one location to learn the craft.
Since completing your internship in the U.S., have you adopted any aspects of U.S. culture in your personal or professional life?
On a personal level I still cultivate the art of Sunday brunches, and on a professional level I am trying to maintain the same straightforward, honest, positive, strategic, and efficient approach to doing business.
What is your current job and what are your responsibilities.
The training in the U.S. organization fast tracked my career within H&M. I am now Store Development Manager for Switzerland, responsible for optimizing the layouts of our Store Portfolio and heading a team of 3.
Do you use any skills you learned during your internship in your current position?
My current market is very different from the U.S., but I still use the strategic approach and the same professional skill set every day.
What effect did your internship have on your career path and future employment prospects?
As explained, the training program fast tracked my career within H&M. The U.S. being one of our biggest and toughest markets, with the most competitive retail landscape, trained me well for any other market. Also, the extremely strategic and professional approach and the fast pace of our U.S. organization prepared me for any global market.
How was your overall experience with InterExchange as your program sponsor? What advice do you have for prospective interns/trainees about participating in the program?
My interaction with InterExchange was very positive. The application process can be quite long and administrative, but InterExchange made it quite smooth. Looking back I feel like I received a great, quick, and personal service, and the amazing experience during my stay in New York clearly outweighed the effort to get the visa. You just need to plan enough time to secure the visa in time. And remember that you are quite dependent on the host organization filling in data as well. If you don't want to stress out your prospective manager too much, allow for enough time.