Andrew Willett, recent Mars Wrigley Confectionery intern: What is the greatest value a communications team can bring to a business?

Allyson Park, global vice president of corporate affairs of Mars Wrigley Confectionery: At Mars Wrigley Confectionery, our corporate affairs team guides, advocates and represents the business – within our walls and out in the world. We have a responsibility to look at our business holistically, keep a pulse on external pressures and opportunities, and then bring that perspective back to our leaders. The role we play is broad.


AW: What qualities make an intern successful on a global communications team?

AP: First, a great intern isn’t afraid to dive into the work with enthusiasm and curiosity. This is a student’s time to soak in every moment and demonstrate a willingness to learn.  In my experience, our interns also set themselves apart by asking questions that others are too timid to ask. Fresh eyes and an eagerness to bring new perspective makes an intern invaluable for companies like Mars. And, an intern should raise their hand and go beyond the job description. Volunteering for stretch assignments can bring tremendous long-term learning.


AW: How can interns stand out and prove themselves within the workplace?

AP: Being an intern is about more than just doing what you’re assigned to do – it’s about making an impact. I judge the work of my team based on our impact to the business as opposed to our ability to complete a to-do list. From a skills perspective, pay attention to detail. I believe this is a skill young professionals should learn early on for the betterment of their careers.


AW: Tell me about an internship experience you had when you were first starting out, and what you learned from it. How did that lesson shape your career?

AP: Many people don’t know that I started off my college experience studying food science. When I transferred into the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications my junior year, I knew getting real experience would be important. By taking on the role of public relations director for the university’s Gator Growl, an annual homecoming event, I learned what it was like to lead a team and bring an event to life for thousands of people. From managing my first “crisis” when a comedian changed last minute to placing a story in USA Today, I learned so much from that experience.


AW: Was this an experience you talked about in post-grad interviews?

AP: Definitely, it was one of the experiences I would bring up. Before I graduated, I made a portfolio and mailed it to public relations executives around the country. Every executive responded. If the agency didn’t have a job vacancy, the executive took the time to share career advice with me over the phone. It was pretty amazing.

Barbara Hunter, owner of Hunter PR, told me that while she had an account executive role open on her team, I needed to gain more experience first. She told me and others that my persistence led her to hire me. That was my first job out of college.


AW: What’s your token of advice for college grads?

AP: Don’t settle. Be diligent in your search for the right job because it will kick off your career.

AW: I was thrilled to see the opportunity for a Confectionery Connoisseur at Mars, and thought it was a cool way to put a new spin on an internship. Why should companies reimagine internships to attract talent?

AP: Mars Wrigley Confectionery employs more than 34,000 Associates around the world and about half of our workforce are millennials. Based on that data, my team was inspired to think about how we wanted to attract, grow and develop young talent. When a senior manager on my team came to me with an idea for a ‘Confectionery Connoisseur,’ I loved her out-of-the-box thinking. In less than five minutes, her enthusiasm and creativity compelled me to support the idea.  

Internships are no longer about fetching coffee and filing paperwork. Students are looking for rich experiences and opportunities to make a difference. They want to understand what’s behind the company and brands. And, companies can get much more out of their interns by encouraging them to focus on impact.


AW: What do you think is the value of hiring millennials and Gen Z to an in-house corporate affairs team? How can recent grads help shape the future of our industry?

AP: We have five generations working within our business right now. The value of bringing recent college grads into a company with more than a century’s history is fresh thinking, new perspective and tough questions. I also think there’s something to be said about making an impact on someone’s career early on in the industry, like my experience working with Barbara Hunter. I ask myself, “How can I help make a difference in someone’s career today to unlock opportunities for them in the future?”

AW: I knew I’d have a fun summer learning about candy when I accepted this position. I didn’t know that I’d learn so much about sustainability and the importance of having a corporate purpose. In your opinion, why is it important for a company to define its purpose?

AP: Well, you came at a great time! Mars has always been a principles-driven company. With the integration of our Chocolate and Wrigley businesses, there was a renewed opportunity to further define the role our business plays in the world. We believe that Better Moments Make the World Smile. We’re not just making treats. We’re creating the products that people use to bookmark special moments and celebrations in their lives.