The Summer Job [by Richard Edelman]

Richard Edelman

Courtesy Richard Edelman

Last night was the annual party for the interns at Edelman New York. As I do every year, I spend time with them, ask questions, listen, give advice when asked, avoid beer pong and other potentially hazardous activities and do my best to fit in. Globally, Edelman currently has 532 interns working across all of our practices and departments, many contributing to the work we do for some of our biggest clients. Over the last year, 633 interns have gone on to become full-time employees.  

I thought it would be appropriate to pass along a few lessons gained from my summer jobs in the 70s, having worked in construction, at Standard Oil of Indiana as a trip planner (a primordial human form of MapQuest), at First National Bank of Chicago in the metropolitan lending group, at Bell and Howell as a financial analyst and at Swift & Company in divestitures.

  1. There Will Be Hazing — In my first week at Swift & Company, the senior team thought that I should see the kill floor, then go out for a rare steak lunch. I am not squeamish but the combination of those two activities was surreal. To this day, I only eat well done meat. Even worse, the foreman at the construction company decided that in my first week, I would be assigned to shovel out the elevator pit at the Federal Building in Chicago. Use your imagination to consider what might have been in there. I shoveled and lifted the materials over head for seven hours. The fellow riders on the subway on the way home moved far away from me.
  2. Fall in With the Right Crowd — I did that well in my first two jobs but not in the third. I assumed it was corporate culture to take off time for basketball at lunch with my colleagues. That was not the case for the upwardly mobile, aggressive MBA group. I only learned that with two weeks to go in the internship. So look around, beyond your direct reports or supervisors, for the norms. And get a mentor who gives you advice and even checks your work.
  3. Do Something Tangible/End Product — I was most proud of my work at Swift & Company, where I was able to produce a deal book on the sale of a waste water technology. I had the project from start to finish.
  4. Volunteer for Work — I got to write an article for the Amoco magazine on travel by car just by sticking up my hand and saying that I had worked on my high school newspaper. The team at First National Bank allowed me to put together a hit list of companies in construction and engineering, to expand on their expertise in real estate. Never sit around and be idle; you may get asked, as I did, to taste test small turkeys in the test kitchen (not tasty, not even close to chicken).
  5. Try Areas Outside of Your Core Competence — I knew that I was best in marketing and corporate strategy, yet two of my jobs were in finance. I wanted to test my predisposition in order to have a better set of facts for my ultimate career choice.
  6. Go To Work Early or Stay Late to See Senior Executives — I was able to see the top executives at Swift by showing up before 7 a.m. in suburban Oak Brook. I could ask them about labor issues, quality problems and other areas outside of my summer remit. It takes a bit of bravery initially, but remember that all of us were young at one time and appreciate moxie.

When I spoke with the interns last night, who came from colleges including Penn State, Boston University, Cornell and the University of Oklahoma among others, I found the conversations, their viewpoints and skill sets inspirational. I hope they will all apply for jobs at Edelman. It’s a very interesting time for the PR industry and for the college graduates trying to enter it. In the past, everything was very much seniority-based. But now, college kids and graduates are equipped with skills that are having immediate benefits for the agency and our clients. 

Richard Edelman is president and CEO of Edelman Public Relations.

Editor’s Note: This piece written by President and CEO, Edelman, Richard Edelman was first published on July 10th on Richard’s 6 A.M. blog. With his firm’s permission, we republish it here as a contributory, industry supportive piece.

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