My name is Saad and I’m a student at the University of Leeds doing an integrated masters in Mechanical Engineering. I have been fortunate enough to be one of the three students offered a summer placement this year at Toyota Boshoku Corporation in Japan through the Toyoda internship.
Toyota Boshoku is the leading supplier of interior and exterior parts to automobile industry; Toyota, BMW, and Mercedes to name a few. Working for a multinational company and immersing myself in new and very unique Japanese culture has been a hugely profound life experience.
Securing this placement has enabled me to obtain invaluable training of Toyota Production System including Kaizen (Continuous Improvement), Genchi Genbutsu (Problem Solving) and Hoshin Kanri (Policy Management). It is one of my greatest achievements and an incredible learning experience.
In this post, I shall share my top tips for securing an internship, based on what I’ve learnt from the process of getting an internship (and applying to many others), as well as what I think employers look for in candidates.
1. Show that you fit well within the company culture
When applying for my job at Toyota Boshoku, I related my experiences to the ‘Toyota Boshoku Way’. These are the set of values that define the work attitude at Toyota Boshoku and are expected in every employee. I particularly focused on the values that I thought would be most important for my role as an engineer; courage and creativity, finding root causes, and moving quickly to carry out plans. I also showed a strong interest in the Japanese collectivism culture and teamwork. I was told that this was a distinct point in my application.
The core values are very easily found on the companies’ websites, and in an application shows that you will fit well into the company culture. It is very important that you mention each and every value and how you have demonstrated them.
2. Show that you have the passion and dedication for the job
It is very important that you love what you will be going to do! In my application, I mentioned my passion for automobiles, that I enjoy tinkering with my car. I stated my fascination with the mechanics of a vehicle such as the use of light materials in the upper body of a car to lower the car’s centre of gravity. It was because of this that I got a job in Interior Advanced Development Division and a project in future door trim technology.
Every job has its up and downs and I think you need to love what you do. I love automobiles and hence find the difficulties of my job quite thrilling. This passion enabled me to talk about specific topics related to the job which not only showed prior knowledge but also allowed me to demonstrate my interest in and understanding of potential challenges that may exist ahead. You have to show the employer that you love the job and are able to handle the stressful situations.
3. Show that you take initiative and are devoted to pursue your goals
I knew that employers are interested in the activities you take part in in addition to the academic side of university life. It shows initiative and a commitment to pursuing your goals. Because of this, I actively sought out opportunities to get involved in a range of things during the first two years of my degree so that I could use these in my placement applications. One example was the BP Ultimate Field Trip Challenge developing a concept to charge electric vehicles using electromagnetic induction under highways. In this challenge, my team managed to reach the semi-finals where we pitched our idea to a panel of BP employees. When applying for engineering roles, this always stood out to employers. Similarly, I took part in was IBM Universities Business Challenge where I had to get into grips with the business world in a weeks time. Although daunting at first, this certainly gave me a lot to talk about during the interviews.
Some companies prefer a wide range of experience and some will prefer more focused approach. You have to demonstrate that you took your interests further and showed initiative in taking responsibility for your own development.
4. Most of all do not be put down by rejections and use it as a learning experience
Prior to getting this job, I had multiple rejections even after interviews. I learned that interview skills come after some experience and there were some things that I simply couldn’t express well. However, there were many things I worked on; for example, I studied the mechanics of vehicles after getting rejected from an automotive position. It is important to take rejections lightly remembering that the employer is just looking for the right person and that you may be more suited for another job. After being told on another occasion that team building was not one of my strongest points, I started a RoboKids society to teach school kids about robotics. It taught me the value of training others. Similarly, I joined a cricket club and started playing sports regularly so that I can learn to stay calm in stressful situations and work well in a team.
Personal development is the key here, you want to continually improve yourself, and in my experience, employers are interested in hearing about examples of when you’ve taken steps to do this. Start by setting small goals and every time you reach your goal set a higher goal. Bit of Japanese Kaizen there!
5. Final tips
Along with these points above, remember to apply early and make quality applications. The Careers Centre was a tremendous help to me when it came to applying for placements (checking CVs and applications, providing interview and assessment centre advice as well as mock interviws and more) so make the best use of it.
If you have any questions, require any help, or just want to find out more about Japanese work culture, you can contact me on my university email; firstname.lastname@example.org