In the right place at the right time – how I secured my graduate internship at Bayer
In November 2012, as I made my way to the Cologne graduate congress, I wasn’t sure that I would find anything in the area of corporate communications at all. Although it had been announced that several large companies would be exhibiting, the majority would be looking for engineers and scientists – at least, that was what I thought. So I set out on my search equipped with all my application documents but not hugely optimistic. My first impression was that it wasn’t just the number of potential employers that was high – there seemed to be no shortage of jobseekers, either.
Fortunately, I had already checked in advance which companies I wanted to visit and where I would find them at the enormous exhibition center. One of my first ports of call was the Bayer stand – strategically well-placed at the entrance, but also larger, brighter and more eye-catching than most of the other stands, and representing a company that was already familiar to me as someone who had chosen to live in Wuppertal. After a brief perusal of the stand, I was quickly engaged in conversation. And as luck would have it, I had found just the right person to talk to.
In the right place at the right time
While I was still studying, I had already worked in various newspaper editorial offices. I had gained press and public relations experience through many years of work as a student and later as a research assistant in the press office of the University of Wuppertal, where I also studied. Now I was looking for a graduate internship with a focus on press and PR work. And Bayer had just advertised a position of precisely this kind. Being in the right place and the right time certainly takes a bit of luck, I thought. However, my experience at the graduate congress also showed me how important it is to speak to potential employers directly, and trade fairs are an excellent opportunity to do this.
Satisfied with the information I had received on the graduate internship at Bayer, I applied for the position the same day using the Bayer careers portal, and after that things moved very quickly. Just a few weeks later, I was at an interview with the people who are now my supervisors in the Communications unit at Bayer MaterialScience (BMS). It was a long but enjoyable interview that allowed time for each party to present themselves in full, and the result was certainly positive – my internship began in February 2013.
With sales of EUR 11.2 billion in 2013, BMS is among the world’s leading polymer manufacturers. The plastics unit at Bayer produces innovative and sustainable materials that are used to make many everyday products, including upholstery, mattresses, car parts, refrigerators and home insulation materials.
Local communication in a global context
I have now completed a large part of my two-year graduate internship and am well immersed in the world of Bayer with its unique corporate culture and numerous company-specific abbreviations. Within the BMS communications department, I mainly work for the three major production sites in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). After more than a year in Leverkusen, I therefore joined the NRW organization team in the move to CHEMPARK Dormagen last spring. This is the centralized location between Leverkusen and Krefeld-Uerdingen where all the NRW management staff now work in a single building. My new workplace gives me a spectacular view over the Rhine and the ships that come by, as can be seen in the background of the photo.
What a view! From where I work in Dormagen I can watch the ships that come by on the Rhine. A few meters further on is the landing stage for the transport ships that deliver raw materials to the Chempark. These include salt for the Bayer MaterialScience chlorine production plant.
My site communication tasks are very varied, as I work on both internal and external communication. I research and produce texts for the BMS intranet and internet pages, which means that I often spend time in the production plants myself – rather like a local reporter. This not only brings me into contact with many different interesting people and stories, but also gives me the chance to get to know the production facilities – the very heart of BMS – up close. I also help with planning and running employee events and press conferences, and with the publication of press information. The focus of the work lies in supporting the NRW management team in all aspects of communication. For instance, when the NRW management makes its regular tours of the three sites to join with the Works Council in providing staff with information about current issues, we not only report on the events, but also help shape the program by collecting and incorporating staff opinions in advance, and preparing presentations for the management team. One example of a major issue in my area of work is the construction of the new large-scale TDI plant at CHEMPARK Dormagen. The plant produces flexible polyurethane foam, which is used in applications such as upholstery and car seats, and the NRW site communications team has followed progress there since the start of construction. As well as writing internal and external reports on recent construction milestones and attending to inquiries from the press, the TDI communication work also included making a film once the work had been completed and organizing the official launch ceremony.
The bigger picture
In general terms, a graduate internship at a company is always a good chance to gain a thorough insight into various areas of communication and is therefore very useful as an introduction to working life. The Group-wide graduate internship program at Bayer, with its regular professional development courses and presentations by communications experts, also placed particular emphasis on the training element, and I was quickly able to network with graduate interns in other departments. At BMS, I was supported by my colleagues from the very start, which helped me to get to grips with subgroup-specific issues quickly. Above all, thanks to the trust my supervisor placed in me, I have also learned to plan and implement projects independently. Furthermore, having a wide range of activities provides the opportunity to come into contact with many different people at Bayer and to build up a professional network. Spending four weeks at the Bayer liaison office in Brussels also gave me the chance to find out about the company’s cross-subgroup political work. Finally, in another placement at an office in Berlin, I was able to experience press and PR work from a different perspective.
Right at the industrial heart of western Germany – Bayer established its first facility in Dormagen in 1917. Some 1,200 employees now work at the 24-hectare Bayer MaterialScience site at CHEMPARK Dormagen.
This report was written by Janine Dietz. On this blog Bayer employees from different subgroups and service companies tell you about their personal experiences. So you can get a little insight into the company.
This post is also available in: German