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From intern to full-time employee

By Amy Lohmann '14
December 7, 2011

Photo by Jenna Mahr '15

It's easy to assume that the tasks of a corporate intern will inevitably revolve around coffee and copies.

But for Benjamin Leis '12, a summer internship at Best Buy included taking leadership of a project, building a network of business associates within the company, and sitting in on meetings with the company's CEO. It also led to him landing a full-time job with the Fortune 500 company six months before he graduates.

Leis says he was able to get such a valuable internship thanks to the resources he found in St. Olaf's Center for Experiential Learning (CEL). "The CEL helped me focus on the internships that they thought would fit me best and that I should spend the most time applying for," he says. "Once I landed an internship, I realized that I had become much more comfortable interviewing and networking, which was also a nice asset to build and strengthen throughout the summer."

Of the many resources available in the CEL, Leis says the OleRecruiting website and the Career Network for Oles were particularly valuable. "I was put in touch with three Ole alumni and gained two informational interviews," he says, noting that he found St. Olaf alumni very willing to help current students.

The internship at Best Buy was the perfect way, Leis says, to experience the corporate world and see the "big picture" of how businesses operate. He was given responsibilities that required him to think on his feet, be resourceful, and take in a lot of new information. "I was fortunate enough to take the lead on a project this summer," says Leis. "This meant that I had to build it up from the ground up and turn it into something that could really benefit the company."

His roles gradually changed throughout the summer as he grew more and more accustomed to how the company worked. "The first few weeks were spent understanding where the relevant data was, who on my team would be best to approach for which types of questions, and how to operate the necessary programs that I would be using to do my work," he says. "This meant a lot of textbook reading — I felt like I was in school!"

By mid-summer, Leis was encouraged to focus on building a network at the company and making connections to help extend his understanding of the business outside the roles of the staff on his team.

"Most of my networking focus was on areas of the business that were relevant to my math, statistics, and management background, but sometimes it was nice to hear about something completely different," says Leis. "My days during these weeks were spent about 40 percent networking, side projects, and other events, and 60 percent big project–related data manipulation, reporting, studying, and meetings."

While his internship at a larger corporation was certainly hard work, Leis was rewarded with some very unique experiences while at Best Buy. "We got to meet with the CEO twice — once with all of the other top executives, and once to watch a discussion between Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn and CISCO CEO John Chambers that was extremely interesting," says Leis.

And, of course, he has that full-time job as a demand planning analyst waiting for him.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or