Running an internship program is hardly an exact science given the numerous factors businesses must consider when assembling an intern class.
Yet year after year, pharma organizations and medical marketing agencies are faced with cultivating an ample amount of qualified prospects in an increasingly competitive talent pool. Additionally, there are still the significant repercussions from 2020 being felt today.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd, employers are more thoughtful than ever about what their intern class composition looks like and where their prospects come from.
With these considerations in mind, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Real Chemistry joined forces last year to forge a new path forward on talent recruitment. The organizations partnered on a hybrid internship program, giving four interns a unique opportunity to experience both sides of the business.
As part of the offering, interns got to work at Real Chemistry on the Takeda account but then also spend the other half of their time interfacing with the Takeda creative team. Elyse Margolis, president of Real Chemistry, also noted that the interns were compensated for their time in the program.
The internship partnership was deemed such a success that both organizations have agreed to do it again this summer. Real Chemistry is even exploring options to collaborate on similar programs with other clients.
Carrie Fernandez, head of communications and the global oncology business unit at Takeda, said that intern programs often serve as a feeder system for corporate structures.
“If we’re not changing or doing something to impact the talent that is in the agencies, then we’re never going to impact the talent in corporate,” she said.
In conversations with Real Chemistry before the launch of the partnership, Fernandez said both sides agreed that the ultimate goal was to attract “different people with different points of view from different backgrounds” into the world of healthcare communications.
Margolis elaborated that Real Chemistry executives discussed the fact that some of the brightest and most influential leaders in the agency space come from non-traditional backgrounds. This meant that Real Chemistry would have to be deliberate in going outside its usual wells for talent collection and seek out candidates who may not fit the stereotypical profile for a marcomms employee.
The agency found that the pool was geographically expanded by the availability of remote working options during the pandemic but also was bolstered by key partners who have championed the tenets of health equity.
“One of the things that we had going for us was that we have a lot of our employees come from HBCUs,” Margolis said. “When we started to think about what could be an immediate opportunity, it became clear quickly that partnering and working with the HBCUs who have talent, whether or not they’re in the communications school or marketing, could develop an interest in looking at healthcare as a potential route. That was what we leaned into and we’re fortunate that when we brought it to Howard University, they were thrilled to partner with us.”
Once the interns were onboarded, Margolis said the next step was to break down their expectations for what an internship could be and empower them to take on additional responsibilities that would prepare them for a job either with the agency or somewhere else in the labor market.
Ultimately, at the end of the internship, two of the four interns were hired full-time at Real Chemistry, including Askia Hamilton, who joined as an account associate and detailed his internship experience in a video and blog post.
Margolis said she hopes the Takeda partnership leads to other marketing agencies to follow Real Chemistry’s lead on the internship front.
“One of the great things is that we’ve had some great learnings to carry forward, the interns were very forthcoming with feedback on how we can continue to make the program successful,” she said. “The reason we’re promoting the internship is that we want not only other clients of ours to become part of this, but we’re hoping that our agency peers also become inspired and start these types of programs as well.”