Reflections on “The Internship of a Lifetime” by
Caelia Chung
2022 US CEO for One Month

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jul. 28, 2022 – July 28th is National Hire an Intern Day in the US. The special occasion was created as a way to recognize and celebrate future leaders of the world. In the spirit of the holiday, I would like to reflect on my experiences from the internship of a lifetime: The Adecco Group’s CEO for One Month Program.

Launched in 2015, this internship was designed to help develop future leaders and show them what it takes to lead a Fortune 500 company. What makes this experience so special is that I didn’t just “shadow” a CEO, but actually “acted” as one. Within the span of one month, I traveled to five cities, interacted with senior leaders and C-Suite executives, delivered project proposals that will help transform the future of work, participated in global challenges, and made some friends along the way.

My time at The Adecco Group has been emotional, challenging, educational, and fulfilling all at once. While shadowing staffing industry leaders like Joyce Russell, Eileen Sweeney, Mike Small, and Laurie Chamberlin, I observed uniquely different leadership styles that were just as effective. So naturally, the most valuable lesson I learned is the importance of leading with authenticity and bringing your best self to work every day.

The Adecco Group Senior Leadership

For example, Joyce Russell lives by the concept of, “Put a Cherry on Top,” otherwise known as generosity in life and leadership. She genuinely loves taking care of clients, colleagues, and candidates (the three C’s) through special experiences. The sky’s the limit for Joyce, whether it’s a handwritten birthday card to a colleague’s child or our extravagant pedicab ride to a Broadway show in New York City.

Meanwhile, I discovered that Eileen is very gifted as a musician – but not in the way you would think. She uses her talents to orchestrate her business like a symphony, conducting the different instrumental melodies to come together while being careful not to allow one section play over the others. Her ability to stay on track leading calls across three verticals in six short hours,  then compile the outcomes and end the day with an All Hands Call for 900 colleagues is a testament to her natural organizational and leadership skills.

Mike has an innate gift for leadership courage. It takes great spirit to join a company during an acquisition and transformation, but it takes true courage to lead with transparency knowing you don’t have all the answers yet. Mike does just that – he operates with a refreshing openness while expressing care for his colleagues. This was especially evident during our meeting where he helped familiarize me with P&L terminology, but asked how my family was doing to conclude. Our conversation went from, “CAGR and EBITA,” to, “My brother is going into the fourth grade!”

Laurie embodies the 4 H’s of helpfulness, honesty, human connection, and hopefulness at LHH to achieve a uniquely rich and intimate level of company-wide inclusivity. During the week I spent with Laurie, she showcased her 4H spirit by hosting a “President’s Welcome” for new hires and an all-colleague “Ask Me Anything” session, where she answered questions ranging from her stances on political controversies to inquiries about salary raises and beyond.

Seeing these leaders uniquely and authentically lead their businesses and, at the same time, foster a people-first culture left me with a lot to think about as an emerging leader. What impression do I want to leave on people? What do I want them to say about me when I am not in the room? What kind of legacy do I want to leave?

I can say with confidence that this internship has revealed to me the value I place on diversity, well-being, and a culture where people move heaven and earth for each other. During my time at The Adecco Group, I was able to contribute in ways that matter to me. I was able to bring diversity of thought to the leadership team through my age and ethnic identity, promote physical and mental welfare in the workplace with T-Talks and #WorkOutWednesdays, and participate in experiences that promote inclusivity. I am forever indebted to Adecco and the CEO for One Month Program for helping me start my journey, but it doesn’t end here! I have much left to learn about myself, business, and leadership.

In the meantime, I would like to leave you with my top 5 takeaways from this unique program:

  1. Leadership comes in many shapes and styles. The best one is what is authentic to you and similarly allows others to express their true selves.
  2. Being a CEO entails amazing and demanding work. However, you’ll never be successful unless you ruthlessly prioritize to achieve a healthy balance between professional and personal life.
  3. When it comes to strategic leadership, you need to discern when to be laser-focused versus radar-focused. For example, be laser-focused and direct when presenting a business proposal, and radar-focused making sure to gather multiple perspectives when considering a company’s future during transformation.
  4. Listening is one of the most valuable skills a leader can have. Listening (over talking) deepens your emotional intelligence and allows you to understand and unite people more effectively, and anticipate and plan for the future of your business.
  5. Take risks early. With only a year of college under my belt, I took a risk by applying to this program and an even bigger risk by outright asking for the internship during my final presentation at bootcamp. Rather than contemplating what you have to lose, consider what you have to gain from the opportunity.

Thank you, again, to The Adecco Group for the invaluable experience of CEO for One Month. It will forever standout as a defining moment in my career development.

To see the 5 cities I visited and all of the amazing people I met, check out the video below!

About the Adecco Group

The Adecco Group is the world’s leading HR solutions company. We believe in making the future work for everyone, and every day enable more than 3.5 million careers.

We skill, develop, and hire talent in 60 countries, enabling organisations to embrace the future of work. As a Fortune Global 500 company, we lead by example, creating shared value that fuels economies and builds better societies.

Our culture of inclusivity, entrepreneurship and teamwork empowers our 35,000 employees. We are proud to have been consistently ranked one of the ‘World’s Best Workplaces’ by Great Place to Work®. 

The Adecco Group AG is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland (ISIN: CH0012138605) and listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange (ADEN). The Group is powered by three global business units: Adecco, Talent Solutions and Modis.