Internships.com Leverages CSR & Social Media for the Student Job Hunt

A year and a half ago, when I was an undergraduate, I knew of two ways to find a summer internship: networking and on-campus recruiting. As a result of the resources that I was lucky enough to have, I had some amazing experiences: I worked with the California prison system, assisted published business reports, and even started a free health center in a New Delhi slum. I shifted between the non-profit sector and business world, and by the time that I graduated, I had developed a strong understanding of my values, preferences, and strengths.

When I learned about Internships.com, I was so excited to learn that companies are actually leveraging new technologies (social media) and concepts (CSR) to connect employers with undergrads. While networking and on-campus recruiting are wonderful, they are also inhibiting because you’re limited to your immediate sphere. For students who want to branch out from their immediate surroundings, the internship search can be a challenge that leads to many dead ends.

By leveraging social media, Internships.com is leveling the intern playing field and connecting students with substantive opportunities that go beyond paper-pushing. In my opinion, they are developing an important social-media tool for the next generation of interns.

Meg Busse, Communications Director at Internships.com was kind enough to share some insight about Internships.com. She is passionate about helping students find opportunities, especially in today’s economy when internships are crucial steps toward the best full-time opportunities. Having created and co-directed Nonprofit Career Program at Idealist.org, she’s more than familiar with the importance of CSR & social entrepreneurship. Here’s what she had to say:

1)What distinguishes Internships.com from similar job boards for college students?
Actually, there isn’t any other site where college students and recent graduates can go to get resources tailored to their needs, as well as easily search 23,000 internship opportunities with over 10,000 for-profit, nonprofit, and government employers. We’re not only the largest internship marketplace, but because our sole focus is early careers, we also have some of the best career prep resources for college students.

2)Given today’s economic climate, why do you think Internships.com is an important career planning resource?
I read a statistic in the Wall Street Journal the other day about PricewaterhouseCoopers: of their approximately 1,450 summer 2010 interns, they extended full-time offers to 90% of the eligible interns before the students even got back to campus. That boggles my mind. Those full-time jobs will never be posted, and the only way to get them is through an internship. For many employers, internships are the new interview.

3)What steps does your team take to ensure a strong connection with your target demographic? How do you assess and respond to the professional needs of today’s college population?
Great question! One of the ways we do this is by having a lot of young people on staff. Not only does this make for an exciting, innovative workplace, but because we all geek out a bit on the latest tech, social media, and career trends, we’re able to stay pretty current with what’s cool with college students. It’s also interesting that while we’ve got a very young staff, we recognize that our college interns are often the real experts in the room. We tap them for a variety of big projects and brainstorming sessions.

4)How does Internships.com plan to leverage social media to help prospective interns find work?

This actually ties in well to the last question, as social media is the best way we stay in tune with what college students want, and is what we rely on to respond quickly. Getting something up on our site requires a bit of time and dev work, but posting resources, tips and great new internships to Facebook and Twitter can be done immediately. For example, we currently have 21 internships with the Livestrong Foundation. We tweeted about this the other week, and Lance Armstrong retweeted our post. Needless to say, that got us a ton of buzz and is a great example of how social media allows us to facilitate real-time connections and conversations with employers and students (not to mention 7-time Tour de France winners!).

5)Why are your services available for free?
We get this question a lot! It may seem counterintuitive to allow employers to post internships and students to search and apply for free. However, we want to change the model for how employers get connected with great students, and how students learn about and get great internships. In the past, most students got internships through family connections or their college career service office. But what about students who don’t have great family connections? Or what if a student’s career service office is small or doesn’t have strong employer relationships? Think about the internships with PricewaterhouseCooper: students without access to opportunities such as those are already at a disadvantage. We’re aiming to democratize the system.

6)What are Internships.com’s CSR objectives?

This is such an interesting question. Our company is, in essence, a social venture startup, as we have a scalable social impact mission integrated into the core of our business model. Our focus is on creating systemic change by providing greater access to opportunity for students, employers, and educators. To this end, the majority of our services are free, but we’re also mindful of building a sustainable revenue model to ensure that our company is able to grow and scale over the next few years.

7)What is the “big picture” for Internships.com? (for students & employers)
It’s funny…our site is exploding right now with new internship opportunities and students, so for us, “big picture” feels like the main internship search season of January through May! But longer term, we’ve got exciting plans for new features, apps, and pretty revolutionary matching technology that will allow us to stay on the cutting edge and provide the best experience and services to students. Even further ahead, I’m excited to hear from graduated students about how their internship impacted their career path. I have a sense that in two years, we will have lots of recent graduates who will be able to say, “I got my job because of Internships.com.”

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