Interns absorb everything

Nikolaj’s internship with MT Højgaard generated a full-time job.

One way of making yourself more attractive with future employers is by doing an internship while you are still a student. Not all studies allow for this, but if at all possible, this is an obvious way to learn something new. You can spend your internship finding out how to apply your theoretical knowledge, but it is also an excellent way to find out what it means to hold a job in your field: Is this the right way for you to go? Ought you to choose a different direction once you return to university? While studying for his MA in Management in the Building Industry, Nikolaj Christian Pedersen got a 6 month internship with MT Højgaard, a contracting company responsible for the concrete construction of the new super-hospital in Aalborg.

This is his experience with finding a relevant internship: “I received a list of internships from the university. Not all of them were relevant for my specific studies, but it made me draw up a CV and I wrote some uninvited applications to some of my favourite companies which never generated any interest,” says Nikolaj who found the Aalborg University Careers Centre very helpful in terms of completing CV and cover letters. One day MT Højgaard sent out a notice about internships, and Nikolaj adjusted his CV and cover letter before emailing it to the company. He was granted an interview, and as it turned out, there were three different internships, which meant that much of the interview was spent discerning what really interested him.

Nikolaj Christian Pedersen.

Nikolaj ended up working in production alongside a foreman and a production manager. His tasks included ordering armouring using technical drawings. “As an intern, you are often given routine tasks to do, yet this does not mean that you cannot learn about other parts of the job such as finance and schedules or attend contracting meetings,” says Nikolaj.

MT Højgaard interns often work with concrete and armouring, and since Nikolaj continued to work with the company as a student worker while writing his thesis, he was given a more secluded role. While he was an intern he received a monthly salary but as a student worker he was paid by the hour and worked less and less as he neared deadline. He sensed that the company would like to hold on to him after he handed in his thesis: “This was obviously a dream scenario for me. To think that you get to show your worth, while doing an internship and making your employer realize that you are indispensable. During the entire first half of 2016, they kept asking me what I was going to do after summer vacation,” Nikolaj, who is originally from Hedensted, explains. When he made it clear that he would like to stay in Aalborg, he had an interview with the head of department and a project manager, and before he knew it, he had signed a contract to start working in a real engineering job by August 1st 2016. “Now I’m the production manager and I have an intern working for me,” Nikolaj laughs.

Name: Nikolaj Christian Pedersen.
Age: 26 år.
Programme: Civil Engineering, Contracting (BA). Management in the Building Industry (MA).
Job: Civil Engineer, MT Højgaard in Aalborg.

A Reality Check
Like a number of other civil engineer students, Nikolaj was uncertain of whether he even wanted to work in the contracting business when he embarked on his internship. “In our part of the engineering world it is more “distinguished” to become an advisor,” says Nikolaj who is unable to account for why this is so: “I suppose it might have something to do with the amount of heavy duty theory we learn during our studies. It makes more sense to be a consultant or advisor once you hit reality. The contracting business is far more practically orientated. This makes it hard to know beforehand if you will like it or not. I asked my production manager a lot of stupid questions along the way because I needed to learn everything about finding practical solutions to any problem.” Nikolaj is hooked on concrete – there is no doubt about it. It is clear when he enthusiastically describes the shell of the new super-hospital which will be finished by 2020:”I was the first intern on the project, and back then it was just a huge hole in the ground. Now we have cast two basement stories and we are working on the ground floor.” Nikolaj has just attended an introductory week in Korsør along with other recently employed members of staff from across the country.

Nikolaj believes in doing internships with relevant companies and remaining open in terms of trying something new: “I discovered that there are so many things I know nothing about and I absorbed all the information I could get. It was pretty spectacular to watch concrete castings that lasted up to 22 hours! We would come in at 3 in the morning to watch 2,400 cubic metres of concrete, and all the logistics behind it, being poured into one giant hole. I found it so cool, but it’s okay if you find out that all your practical knowledge will make you a better advisor later on in your professional career.”