Thea Hurley Bennett – An Interview With A L’Oréal Intern

Kirsty Turbott

Thea Hurley Bennett is a Psychology and Business student going into her third year at university after completing a placement year in London, working for L’Oréal. Like many, she took a year out of her studies to work in a professional environment and has gained a lot of really useful and invaluable experience. Thea was therefore the perfect person for us to interview. 

Tell us about your time at L’Oréal as an intern on a placement year?

Walking into L’Oréal on my first day was one of the scariest things I have ever done. I had been there a couple of times before but it didn’t stop ‘what have I got myself into’ monopolising my thoughts.

I lived around the corner from the office in central Hammersmith for the year. My best decision. Our flat quickly became the easiest place to get ready or meet before heading out to enjoy London’s nightlife. 

Working in the HQ was such an experience. The office is amazing, with the different divisions showcasing their products on their floors, pretty handy when you need a quick spritz of Lancôme’s Idolê on the way to your next meeting. Plus free products – yes please. I can tell you after my welcome bag my skin and hair had never looked so good.

From day one as interns we were tasked with things we all thought we would never understand or be able to do, but a couple of months later our job was becoming second nature and the year was starting to tick away. My role was E-Commerce focused, assisting my manager with running the brand website and other promotional digital activity. As we hit 2021 it became the day to day running of the website and managing our ‘big bet’ digital project for the year. That’s the great thing about L’Oréal, as an intern you are an integral part of the business, not just some admin assistant. 

I think one of the best things about my year was how I was able to influence the path my job took. I was interested in PR so I ran an event at Look Fantastic for our key product launch. I wanted to improve the customer journey on the site so I pulled some ideas together and was allowed to implement them across the site. This was definitely partly due to the amazing relationship I had with my line manager, who was a huge driver in my personal and professional growth throughout the year. Being trusted with huge responsibility gave me the push I needed to be able to believe in myself and my ability to crush this job.

Why did you want to work for L’Oréal, specifically within digital marketing? 

When I was looking for a placement I didn’t really know what I was looking for until I found the L’Oréal Internship. The description made the placement sound challenging, yet so versatile and exciting so it resonated with me in a way that others hadn’t. 

Then there is the obvious fact that it was working for L’Oréal, an absolute dream for so many people wanting to work in the beauty industry. I felt I had to work at L’Oréal for two main reasons:

  1. I’ve always been a big believer in ‘if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room’ and there was no danger of that situation at L’Oréal. 
  2. I use a huge range of their products every day throughout my whole beauty routine. It was important to me to work in an environment that I’m passionate about and where I can really connect with the product / service I’m marketing. 

I study Business Management with Psychology, two subjects I believe when used in harmony can bring invaluable insights and results. My dad was in marketing and my mum spent time working with young people and counselling which hugely influenced my interests growing up. Digital Marketing became the best middle ground for me; the marketing side offering the connection with the consumer and using my business brain, with the psychology of being truly consumer centric and analysing my work. Alongside University I completed a couple of shorter internships in digital marketing that solidified this field was for me.

What did you find most challenging?

Initially I found it hard to find my place as I sat across two teams: the Business Transformation team which worked with all brands in my division and my brand team. I felt slightly on the outside of both as I think I was overwhelmed so didn’t push myself hard enough to integrate fully into both teams. L’Oréal’s lifeblood is its super confident and passionate workforce. I also found that hard because I am slightly more introverted than the majority of my colleagues. 

Another part I struggled with was being able to let go and switch off from work mode. Things always moved at 100 miles an hour. On one hand I thrive off of the pressure and expectation to get things done to a certain standard by a certain date, however because of this I initially found it hard to detach and relax and not be subconsciously planning my next day in my head throughout dinner etc. I don’t think I ever perfected this balance, but I will say becoming aware of it and consciously making time for me was a huge help and really boosted my productivity. 

What is the most important thing you have learnt?

Being a highly passionate individual, I can sometimes take things to heart that aren’t worth the stress or negative impact. When I messed up at work I would feel like the world was ending and struggled to immediately brush myself off and keep going. My manager used to tell me I’m not a doctor and I’m not saving anyone’s life, so what’s the worst that can happen. Initially I didn’t understand this and thought how is caring so much a bad thing? Towards the end of my internship I faced a few blockers that really got to me personally. I’m so glad I had this experience because it allowed me to understand her perspective:

  • I can’t control everything and nothing is ever always going to go my way. 
  • No matter how great my business case is. 
  • No matter how much I care or wish it. 
  • Sometimes you really cannot do anymore. 

And that is okay. I learned the importance of resilience and knowing what is worth fighting for and when to put down the sword, which I think has matured my approach to business and life in general.

What advice would you give someone who is looking to do a similar placement/ internship? 

Be confident in yourself. Put your whole self out there. The year absolutely flies by and my only regrets are not building stronger relationships with some amazing people. Attend all the after-work drinks and get stuck in at workshops and team building events. 

Be humble. At the end of the day you are there to learn as much as you can because oh my god there is so much to learn. You will meet amazing people who have so much to offer you and it’s important to want to learn from them and your peers.

Be prepared. Glue your notebook and pen to your side because you never know when someone in the elevator is going to give you some game changing advice or when inspiration will strike. This is also so important in meetings as taking notes by hand is much better received than tapping on your laptop as for all they know you could be on your emails.

Be wrong. No one expects an intern to have all the answers or to pick up a job someone’s had a year too perfect and start killing it off the cuff. The best advice I can give is give things a go, test and learn, make those mistakes because it’s the best way to move forward and be at the front of the change.  

Be ambitious. This is more one for any girls / women reading this as I know not as many guys struggle with this one. For some reason we find it harder than men to go out and ask for what we want. I took a risk at the end of my internship and asked for a job thinking I’d get a ‘honey, no.’ A month later I’m back at L’Oréal working 2 contracts across 2 divisions offering my expertise. This would never have happened if I hadn’t taken the leap and asked. 

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