Say hi to Mélissa! She’s currently working for Total Marketing & Services in Panama, South America, where she is doing an International Voluntary Worker Program (VIE) assignment. This program enables French graduates to get international experience by taking professional assignments abroad.
Tell us about your working life in Panama City, Mélissa. “We’re like a family here – with just two in my team, the atmosphere is very friendly. I work on a day-to-day basis with the Deputy Director of the area or with the Executive Committee members. In Total’s head offices, it might be less common for an intern to work closely with senior managers, so I think it’s a real opportunity.
Mélissa applied for this position whilst doing an apprenticeship at Total, but says that she had to apply via the Total Careers site, just like every other candidate. “I have to admit that knowing the Group was a great advantage when it came to the selection process as I had a good understanding of Total’s position, challenges and boundaries.”
However, the first step of the recruitment process was a video interview to test her languages skills, and Mélissa was really curious to find out if this had been a success. She explains what happened next, “I had an interview with the Human Resources team in Paris, and then had an online interview with the manager in Panama. Three suspense-filled weeks later, the good news came: I was hired! Then everything moved really fast: I received the confirmation late October, I finished my apprenticeship early November and the VIE started in December!”
So what have been the highlights of your experience so far? “I competed a work assignment in Martinique, helping the affiliate use our Human Resources information system (HRIS). I spent five days there to train the team on how to use this tool. The dynamism and involvement of the group was really motivating and gave me plenty of new ideas. Leaving my comfort zone and meeting new people, it’s so energizing!”
Mélissa is enjoying the intercultural aspect of her VIE experience, and is inspired to learn Brazilian herself. “Every day I speak with people from Canada, Martinique, Cuba, Argentina, and so on… there’s a lot to learn from a professional perspective, but it is also very enriching from a cultural point of view. For example, by meeting the HR director of Puerto Rico, I now have a better understanding of the political or economic context of this part of the world. Having said that, Latin America’s countries are all distinctive and far from homogenous.”
What did Mélissa study before starting her career? “After two years of preparatory class at Lycée Hoche in Versailles, I joined Neoma Business School, where I obtained my Masters, choosing mostly consulting, information systems and human resources courses. In parallel, I completed two years at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, studying law. Today, my daily work here in Panama focuses on two main subjects: HRIS management and implementing our HR strategy in the region. This involves training courses, monitoring HR campaigns, managing high potential employees, developing recruitment strategies, and implementing Total’s diversity policy.”
Mélissa tells us about what qualities she thinks are most important for success in a VIE or internship. “It seems essential to me to be proactive, and as my team is small, it is also important to be resilient. Being in a small team involves being involved in everything - so you have to try to keep a cool head and learn how to best manage your priorities.” She also suggests that candidates should find out as much as possible about Total, “Learn about the Group's activities, our branches, our values and our history - that is how you become imbued with our culture.”