Every Sunday as a child, Elise Hunt ate chocolate chip, Mickey Mouse pancakes in bed with her dad and sister while watching auto shows about muscle cars. They would watch till lunchtime. While other families spent time together doing things like visiting zoos and swimming, Hunt says her clan built a go-cart together using their Sunday family time. And in the future, Hunt says she dreams of, building an actual car with her dad.
“I moved from Ontario, Canada, to The Woodlands, Texas, in 2001. Detroit was very close to Ontario so we would just drive across the border to the auto shows. My grandpa and uncle would occasionally come with us. Between the two of them, they had a Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette, and several BMW’s,” Hunt, an entrepreneurial management major with finance minor at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business, says. “I have always loved Mercedes-Benz. The luxurious brand mixed with the company’s reputation of valuing its employees caught my attention early on.”
From last April to December, Hunt worked as a human resources intern with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services USA in Fort Worth, Texas, after being introduced to several senior vice-presidents of the firm by her uncle who works with Mercedes-Benz in the U.K. Because of her experience, Hunt says she has realized how important networking and building connections is to launch a career.
“Building your network is huge. Add everyone in all of your classes on LinkedIn because your peers’ experiences can help you build your career,” Hunt advises. “I would also say never be afraid to ask for advice from professors, career counselors, and business professionals”
STARTING AT THE LOCAL DEALERSHIP AND MOVING TO CORPORATE
Hunt first reached out to her uncle’s contacts in 2016 via email. Her uncle had offered to help connect her to employees in Michigan and Texas after learning that his niece was interested in human resources and in love with the Mercedes-Benz brand. A college freshman then, Hunt immediately let them know that she was looking for an HR internship within the next couple of years and she says they quickly became her mentors.
“They told me to be myself,” Hunt recalls. “I was told that they could see how passionate I was about the brand and that was definitely one of my strengths when it came to interviews or networking events.”
When Hunt became a sophomore at Neeley, she began actively looking for a summer internship. After being in contact with her mentors at Mercedes-Benz for more than a year, they told her about an internship position opening. In 2017, she landed an internship with Mercedes-Benz of The Woodlands near her home. Hunt had planned to start at a dealership before moving to the corporate side of businesses the following summer, and in 2018, she did just that.
COMPLETING THE INTERVIEW PROCESS AND RECEIVING THE OFFER
To secure her HR internship, Hunt says she completed a phone interview, personality assessment, in-person interview panel, and a reference check before she received an offer.
It all began when one of the contacts her uncle connected her with passed Hunt’s resume to the HR department to inform them she was interested in working with the department. She first heard from the company her junior year, but because she had already accepted a position with another company, she told them how eager she was to stay in their network for an internship position the following summer.
“I was contacted the fall of my junior year by the HR admin at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services and this is how the process started. Everything went fairly quick, I felt like we went forward a step each week,” Hunt says. “I was lucky enough to have an internship set up going into my spring semester.”
Within two weeks of her final panel interview, Hunt says she received the call from a member of the Mercedes-Benz human resources team offering her the internship and she felt as though her dreams of joining Mercedes-Benz was finally coming true.
THE INTERNSHIP PROJECTS
As a human resource intern, Hunt says she was well prepared for her work from her experience at TCU, which was focused on the internal development of employees, as well as improving current recruiting practices at the firm.
“I utilized presentation skills when I ran the new hire program, Excel skills pretty much every day, as well as my teamwork skills since I worked closely with interns in Michigan. I was required to really step out of my comfort zone each week as I took on new tasks,” Hunt says. “I was given opportunities to meet with senior leadership and present ideas to them in regards to the future and my opinions on where the company should go.”
Hunt adds that at work, she contributed to three major projects ranging from consolidating training materials into an organized Excel sheet to working on a job description training video for managers where she created content and wrote voice over scripts with other interns.
Hunt says one aspect of her work involved planning an HR Roadmap event, where employees in the Farmington Hills and Fort Worth offices were introduced to a new digital interface.
“This project was by far my longest,” Hunt says. “I planned snacks, coordinated volunteers to work the information tables, worked with communications to develop a plan to slowly market the event, and lastly worked with IT to set up visual displays. This project allowed me to really get to know individuals in other departments and was a huge success. We received outstanding feedback from senior leaders and the rest of the business.”
BALANCING AN INTERNSHIP INTO THE SCHOOL-YEAR
As her internship continued into the fall school semester, Hunt says things got harder to manage when she was working, going to school, and competitively horseback riding for TCU. Hunt is the president of the TCU Eventing Team, as well as VP of Finance for the university’s Women’s Business Network. Instead of seeing it as an obstacle, Hunt says she saw it as an opportunity to learn how to balance her time and learned a lot about time management as a result.
Hunt’s workload at Mercedes-Benz also changed during the school semester as her boss was very accommodating and understood that schoolwork had to come first for Hunt. She was given a smaller project with longer deadlines and was able to work from home once a week. If she had a big exam coming up, Hunt says she was also encouraged to email her boss to let her know that she needed to cut back on hours.
“The challenge of balancing, school, work, and horseback riding boiled down to scheduling,” Hunt says. “I would type out a daily schedule each week so I always knew what was due for work/school as well as what time my practice was. I learned a lot about myself, and built on my previous organization skills.”
In one of the most memorable experiences during her time with Mercedes-Benz, Hunt led the planning of a software event in the Michigan and Texas offices, where employees were introduced to Roadmap, a project planning software, and taught how to use it effectively.
“I built many connections throughout this project as I needed different departments assistance,” Hunt says. “For example, I needed the communications departments to disseminate information to advertise to the business.”
AN ASSIST FROM THE NEELEY PREMIUM CREDENTIALS PROGRAM
Hunt says that one of the reasons she was able to fully grasp all the opportunities presented to her during the internship was due to the Neeley Premium Credentials program, which all students hoping to join Neeley must complete.
Neeley Premium Credentials requires students to fulfill a checklist of activities and involvements where they get to practice working in a team, creating and making presentations, developing leadership skills, and more, which Hunt says helped her be employable.
On top of that, she says that her other mentor, Dean Homer Erekson, does a great job ensuring they are always adapting to what the future of business is.
“TCU not only teaches you the ins and outs of interviewing, but they make us comfortable and prepared to endure any interview thrown our way,” Hunt says. “When it comes to presenting, I think we have a lot of school beat. I know countless of my friends became the ‘presenters’ at their internships because other students were not comfortable in front of an audience.”