Mackenna Denson has always loved cars. Growing up, her dad owned an automotive body shop, and she spent the bulk of her childhood and teenage years surrounded by them. So when a recruiter at the car rental agency Enterprise Holdings Inc. reached out to her about their Management Trainee Internship Program, it felt like a true full-circle moment.
Unlike many internships, where you may primarily shadow other workers or are given busywork, Enterprise’s program allows college students like Denson to spend their last semester gaining real-world customer service and management experience while getting paid in the process. They also receive extensive onboarding, training, and mentoring so they come out of the program with a deep understanding of the business and the skills to join Enterprise full-time as management trainees and begin their growth at the company.
“When the talent acquisition specialist at Enterprise told me about the program and how it would lead to a career here, I was immediately interested,” says Denson, who started her internship in September 2021 while finishing her business degree and is now a management trainee. “I was working part-time as a server at the time, which became unreliable with COVID, and I wanted something more stable.”
Atlee Cullison, another graduate of the internship program, appreciated how Enterprise gave him a way to kick start his business career with a sense of direction, something that recent grads often struggle with. After interning in 2021, he continued on to become a management trainee and is now an assistant manager.
“The program is very well-rounded—you learn sales, leadership, communication, marketing, finance—so it’s OK if you don’t know which part of the business you’re most interested in,” Cullison says. “I came in unsure of what I wanted to do, and the program helped me figure that out.”
At Enterprise, individual coaching is an integral part of the internship program—and it’s one reason many interns go on to have success at the company. Throughout Cullison’s tenure, he has had numerous mentors, including the branch manager when he was an intern and another senior team member when he was a management trainee. They not only taught him about the business, but also provided him with the support he needed to define his career aspirations.
“We got breakfast together every month and just talked about what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what I wanted to change,” he says. “Having a mentor is a huge benefit because you can go to them with any and all questions, and they’ll help you out.”
For Denson, who was born deaf, her mentor’s one-on-one guidance made a huge difference in building her confidence in front of customers.
“My mentor helped me perfect my sales pitches and gave me amazing feedback,” Denson says. “She would watch me deal with customers and then tell me how she thought I could improve, and the impact that adjustment would make. It was great for me to get someone else’s perspective and advice, especially since she was on the career track I was about to embark on.”
Growth opportunities are all but guaranteed
One of the greatest advantages for Enterprise’s interns is that they get the same kind of on-the-job experience as full-time management trainees. Once they complete the internship, they can likely fast-track through the Management Trainee Program, like Denson is doing.
“As interns, we shadow managers to see what they do on the back end and how they deal with customers,” Denson says. “Once we feel comfortable, we start taking the reins and handling certain tasks ourselves. This hands-on approach gave me the confidence that I would be able to do the job because I already have the experience.”
Professional development is so ingrained in Enterprise’s culture that the company exclusively promotes from within, which Cullison sees as a huge advantage for his own growth. “You don’t have to compete with people outside of the company, which motivates me to do better,” he says.
Growth opportunities at Enterprise aren’t limited to working as a branch manager, though. Both Denson and Cullison say that their time at Enterprise has allowed them to build a foundation for the rest of their careers, whether they decide to stay in management or pivot to other areas of the business.
“If it wasn’t the right fit in a year or two, I could go into remarketing, accounting, or to the risk department,” Cullison says.
Denson echoes this sentiment. “You can pretty much find your own niche, and I really like that because you’re not boxed into one thing,” she says.
Although Denson’s current goal is to become an assistant branch manager, she’s also interested in exploring a future in the HR and talent acquisition side of the company, where she could help others get their big career break at Enterprise.
“I used to hide the fact that I was deaf because a lot of people would turn me down, but my talent acquisition specialist at Enterprise was understanding,” she says. “I want to be able to give that chance to other people and show them that our company is open and welcoming to everyone.”
This article originally appeared in The Muse.