Give a city kid an internship—you might end up with a CEO
My career in advertising began with a summer job. Now I’m paying it forward
By David Sable, Global CEO of Y&R
Some 40-plus years ago, I walked into New York Telephone for a summer internship. The people there took mentoring and their interns seriously. So seriously, in fact, that when I graduated the following year they asked their advertising agency, Y&R—where I am now CEO—to hire me full-time into their training program because they wanted me to work on their account. (I remained close to my mentor at NY Telephone until his death decades later.) It was 1975—heady times, not unlike these—and the agency soon felt like home.
Within weeks, I knew that advertising had everything and everyone that would keep me engaged: wildly interesting people who spent their time solving a wide range of problems and challenges with ideas. And there were all kinds of people with all kinds of skills and experience that showed me the many faces of creativity and innovation.
Being in the training program at Y&R back then was like being admitted into the best graduate school for the industry. There were bona fide courses on different aspects of the business. We worked on real client assignments. And we spent our days side by side with some of the giants in the business, whom we looked up to and revered, and who were not only open and inclusive but seemed to genuinely relish hearing what we thought. At least they made us feel so. Whatever it was, I was sold.
Marketing is intrinsically about the future, and perhaps that’s why Y&R has always been dedicated to finding and nurturing the next generation. But, especially in our times, every business is affected by the swirl of technological change, the seismic shifts in the way commerce is conducted, as well as different goals and values the up-and-coming generation holds.
That is why, just around this time of year, we are making tough decisions about which students will be spending the summer with us. And while we source our interns from multiple places, we have a particular love of the Ladders for Leaders program that is part of NYC’s Summer Youth Employment program. We have participated in the program since its inception 11 years ago. Close to 60 students have come through our doors and five ultimately joined the industry, three of them working at Y&R at different points.
If it is gratifying to help young students find their way in the work world, it is particularly pleasing to pool from the best and brightest students in New York City’s public high schools and colleges—a diverse and dynamic group of young people.
Ladders for Leaders gets 6,000 applications every year for 1,500 positions. I can’t imagine the tough calls about which students to turn away, but New York’s business community can make these decisions much easier with a simple action: by joining the 500 businesses that have already signed up to have Ladders for Leaders interns.
More businesses will create more opportunities. In fact, today, March 13, Mayor Bill de Blasio is launching a citywide advertising campaign that we created pro bono to encourage participation.
Hiring interns will make your business better—not simply because you are planting seeds in fertile young minds about the virtues of your field. Not simply because they bring fresh eyes to your purpose and processes. And not simply because it’s important to give back to the New York community that gives so much to us. But because with internships, everyone wins.
In the end, we are all responsible not only for the moments we occupy leadership roles, but also to make sure that our businesses are well set for the future. We need to be ambassadors to the young. We need their energy and enthusiasm to attract them to business careers. We need their diversity and youth to help us understand our customers and future customers.
What I am trying to suggest is that when you hire Ladders for Leaders interns, you are not only creating opportunities for city kids who would not have them otherwise—though that is admirable and to be fully encouraged—you will find that you are doing right by your business, too. Every year we at Y&R feel uplifted by our interns. They are capable of amazing insights, and you will find that inspiration is a two-way street.
Article originally posted at Crains New York.