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Senior vs. Senior: A Pfizer Summer Intern at 70

On my first day at the office, a co-worker mentioned that she’d learned I was from Omaha. 

“My grandmother lives in Omaha,” said Sarah, my new colleague.

“What’s her name?” I asked.

She told me.

“Oh wow – I dated her in high school!”

“Nooooo!” Sarah shrieked, hands to her face.

“Naw,” I said.  “But I could have!”

 

Sarah is 21 and a senior at the University of Southern California this fall. 

I’m 70 and retired from a 48-year career in journalism, government and finance.

We were both interns at Pfizer this summer.   

Last spring, Sally Susman, a top Pfizer executive, asked me to lunch.  She’d seen a popular movie, “The Intern,” starring Robert De Niro as a 70-year-old retiree who becomes the “senior intern” at an online fashion company run mostly by millenials.  When Sally asked if I’d like to become “Senior Intern” in her Corporate Affairs group, I jumped at the chance.  Bored and restless after a year of retirement, I’d been wondering “what’s next.” 

I did worry about how I’d be accepted by two dozen college-age colleagues.  As with Sarah, humor broke the ice.  And what ensued was both amazing and satisfying.  

I mentored the interns, and they mentored me.  I shared classic media relations techniques. They taught me about social media.  They taught me to be brief.  I encouraged them to dig a little deeper. I know I learned a lot from them and I hope they did from me. Contrary to stereotypes I’d held, millennials are not shallow.  They are well-informed and eager to tackle the problems of society. 

I also got to work closely with staff professionals and advise them on special projects, like Get Old, this website for a growing community of seniors interested in staying vital.  I was tickled when the editor of Get Old, Taylor Willis, asked if I’d be a guest blogger.  So excited, in fact, that I produced eight essays instead of the three she requested.  I tried to keep them brief, as taught.

On my last day, I had the opportunity to speak, along with Sally, to a group of Pfizer retirees.  I described how we – older and younger – had affected, changed and enriched each other.  That I felt refreshed and full of ideas for the future. 

And we were delighted when the first question from a man in the audience was this:  “How do I apply for that position?”

 

A native of Omaha, NE, Paul Critchlow experienced success early by winning a football scholarship to the University of Nebraska. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Army, becoming a decorated Vietnam combat veteran. After a 30+ year career in journalism, government and finance, Paul retired in 2015. This summer he joined Pfizer as a 70 year-old “Senior Intern," seeing it as another chance to contribute, learn and grow.