My summer interning at The Estee Lauder Companies (ELC) was incredibly rewarding, as the experience both challenged me, furthered my existing skill-set, and promoted the development of new, highly transferable skills. This experience has fostered my growth both personally and in the workplace.
As I highlighted in my Personal Plan paper, I initially struggled to hone in on a career field because I have several diverse interests, all of which I would be interested in pursuing in one way or another. While career paths are typically not completely linear, my internship at ELC has made me considerably more confident in the field that I hope to pursue. I genuinely enjoyed most of the projects that I worked on throughout the summer; it was fulfilling to have a passion for my work. Throughout the internship, I also realized the versatility of the marketing and communications field. One individual’s career in the field could look completely different than that of another in the same field. This level of flexibility, because of my widely varied interests, gives me more opportunity to pursue several areas of interest.
When applying to internships, one of the first elements that attracted me to ELC was the company’s strong focus on ethical business and use of its far-reaching platform to do good. I was specifically inspired by ELC’s work with its Breast Cancer Campaign (BCC), which I addressed in my Site Description & Personal Contribution paper. I gained an immersive learning experience in terms of ethical business by working in a company that put such a priority on ethics. Even better, I had the opportunity to be at the heart of many of these ethical discussions because I was in the Global Corporate Communications department, where a lot of these conversations about morality take root.
My initial interest in the company’s Breast Cancer Campaign, became a passion by the end of the summer, as I actually had the opportunity to work with members of the BCC Team. Throughout the internship, I worked with the BCC Team on several long-term projects to help prepare them for the upcoming Campaign in October. My work with this team allowed me to understand the enormous level of effort that requires bringing a global campaign like this to life. It was extremely interesting to see all the moving parts that constituted the preparation for this campaign, including preparing content, reaching out to media, creating a budget for donations, and bringing the campaign to life in a way that would resonate with a variety of cultures and people.
My experience with the BCC Team also helped me to grasp further the immensely positive impact that work like this can have on the world. In addition, I realized the importance of using the successes of companies like ELC, with a large pool of resources and finances, to give back to the world. This experience has inspired me to put a strong priority on working at a company with elevated moral standards in my future job search. This principle of ethical business is largely connected to the many discussions we have had in Jepson about ethical leadership.
Additionally, my internship at ELC has allowed me to work towards several of my goals and bring the skills that I have learned in the classroom to life. One goal for my internship that I cited in my Site Description & Personal Contribution paper and Learning Contract was to improve my writing skills in a corporate setting. This goal took on a new life after a week or two at my internship site when I realized the importance of effectively utilizing the corporate voice when crafting any company documents. ELC has a specific writing style that it uses and, no matter if it is a company press release or a caption on Instagram, it is essential to leverage the corporate voice. My more tailored goal then became to improve my writing skills, specifically to master writing in the corporate voice.
At the conclusion of the internship, I had, for the most part, achieved my aforementioned goal as I was able to effectively leverage the corporate voice in numerous different situations. For example, I drafted copy for corporate social media posts, a few of which were subsequently posted, and I wrote several articles for the Internal Communications Team, two of which were published! A highlight of my internship experience was this progression as I worked to master the corporate voice, finding that it came much more easily to me with time and practice.
Another major goal that I had for the summer was to further exercise my creative side. At the beginning of the summer, I hoped that in the ever-changing beauty industry, there would be some intriguing creative projects to work on. Throughout the summer, I certainly had the opportunity to let my creative side flourish. As I discussed in a previous blog post, one of my continued intern projects was to create engaging, digital content to serve as the “cover images” for several new series on the company’s internal app. I really enjoyed the fact that I was given considerable freedom with this project and was encouraged to let my own design visions come to fruition. Throughout this process, I learned a significant amount more about graphic design and digital content creation, skills that I had been hoping to work on this summer as they are extremely applicable to the marketing industry.
Finally, in my Site Description & Personal Contribution paper, I highlighted that one of my main objectives during the internship was to discern the manner in which a large company functions, specifically in terms of leadership. Considering that ELC is a very large company, my leadership studies courses strongly aided my understanding of how the organization functions and the best way to approach my work. This internship experience was an invaluable opportunity to apply my knowledge learned in my leadership studies courses because I gained an inside look into leadership at an extremely successful company. Throughout my time at my internship site, I tried to analyze what it was about these company leaders specifically that has propelled ELC to success.
This leader analysis evolved throughout the summer, where my leadership studies courses prompted my realization that there was something unique about the leadership make-up of the company. This unique element which translated into major successes for the company, was the incredible amount of transformational leaders at ELC. Nearly all of the leaders that I met at the company, and the internship program gave us the opportunity to meet a fair amount of leaders, embraced this transformational leadership style. Notably, the transformational nature of these company leaders, seemed to foster a great deal of respect between leaders and followers at ELC. It also served to keep employees extremely motivated, not by the promise of contingent reward, but rather by the company’s overall mission and the bigger picture.
One unforgettable moment of my summer was the opportunity for the interns to meet a truly exceptional transformational leader, Leonard A. Lauder, son of Estee Lauder. Mr. Lauder’s position as a leader is particularly powerful to the company as he has seen and contributed to the business’s growth from the ground up. One key lesson about successful leadership that Mr. Lauder stressed to us was that no one’s ideas should be overlooked or discounted, despite their position or level of power in a company. Whether it is a senior executive who has worked at the company for twenty years or an intern on her/his second week at the company, Mr. Lauder asserted that the way ELC has grown and gained success is by respecting everyone’s ideas and never underestimating any employee’s opinion. Mr. Lauder’s advice bears many ties to lessons about power and leadership, discussed in several of my leadership studies courses.
Along with transformational versus transactional leadership, another leadership theory that was particularly applicable to my understanding of my internship site was Social Identity Theory. From my experience at the company, employees seem to strongly identify with the group, and consider their presence at the company a major part of their identity. In tandem, Social Identity Theory is applicable to leadership emergence at ELC because company leaders seem to embody the archetypal group member in many ways. It seemed that these leaders similarities to the group allowed them to gain respect among peers and transition into higher positions. That being said, however, Social Identity Theory did not run completely through the process of leadership emergence at the company because some leaders, while similar to the group by many means, also had evident differences from group members that they did not try to stifle, but rather, embrace. As I emphasized in a previous blog post, this embracement of individuality rather than homogeneity is rooted in the company’s DNA, which places strong value on the power of having individuals from different backgrounds with different interests and opinions in the company.
Finally, while each of my Jepson courses truly enhanced my performance and were applicable to my summer internship, the skills learned in my “Critical Thinking” course were immensely helpful. Because I worked in the Global Communications department, the other interns and I were constantly writing. The elevated ability that the course gave me to fully think through and articulate arguments was strongly enhanced my writing skills at ELC. When my internship program began, several employees in my department, particularly department leaders, emphasized how any company, but especially a company that has such a global platform, like ELC, must be immensely careful in any assertions that it makes and any statements that they release because there is always push-back. That is why it is essential to fully think through arguments, when crafting them, and to know how to effectively respond to any points of rebuttal. The process of “argument mapping” and argumentative debates in “Critical Thinking” made an impactful difference in my ability to think through arguments at the company and articulate my thoughts effectively.
Overall, my summer at ELC completely exceeded my expectations. I have had the chance to vastly improve my writing skills and work towards mastering the corporate voice. I have been able to develop creative, digital content and to garner a deep understanding of internal and external communications at the company and how they work together. My leadership studies courses were extremely applicable to my experience at ELC and helped me to better understand the company and its leadership intricacies. My intern experience this summer is one that I’ll take with me in all of my future endeavors and I hope to explore what I learned further in my upcoming Jepson courses.