Summer Internships: Value for Leaders and Students Alike

With summer bringing a new wave of interns within companies, there’s an opportunity for learning between seasoned leaders and students alike. In a letter to the community of interns joining Pfizer, Sally Susman shares the most powerful lessons she’s taken away from her experience with interns over the years.


Dear Interns,

Summer is quickly approaching and soon you’ll begin to trickle into the office. I know you’re eager to learn a lot in the months ahead but the experience is of tremendous value on both sides. I’ve gained so much from working with interns and look forward to building on that knowledge.

Creativity: The days of making copies and fetching coffee are gone. Every summer, in fact, you come up with surprising innovations—new infographics to make a presentation sing; a dynamite social media production; a roadmap to improving employee communications. You remind us that the imagination has no boundaries. It pops like firecrackers once the group settles in.

Reverse Learning: It’s turned out to be a robust two-way street. We teach you classic business marketing and communications; you bring fresh currency to our understanding of social media. We ask you to dig deeper and be more thoughtful; you encourage us to be pithier, quicker. Career is paramount, our actions suggest; friends and family matter too, you counter. Refreshing!

Attitude. It’s hard not to get jaded by the crudeness of political discourse these days. Or the seeming intractability of larger social issues. But guess what: you’re our best hope for shifting from a default position of pessimism. You bring optimism to the table. Your generation is already leading the way on ending gun violence in schools; you were ahead of the curve on environmental awareness. You won’t take no for an answer. That’s infectious. And we appreciate it.

Energy. After a long winter, we full-timers feel a bit flattened. Your arrival brings a fresh bounce to the hallways, offices and cubicles. There’s a buzz and bustle that pushes away the gloom, like yellow forsythia in the melting snow. Enthusiasm, excitement, renewal—the ebullience of youth. We step livelier when you’re around.

Fun. Humor is a great leveler. Lest you think I’m too serious, think again. Nothing thrills me more than hearing laughter when interns and staff interact. Collaboration brings out the best in everyone. And you, our interns, have got plenty of “best” to offer.

For these reasons and more, I’m excited to meet you. I want to hear about your interests, your aspirations, your feedback.


Sally Susman


This article was published on May 23, 2018, in Forbes.


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