Higher Education Internships
03132015_CampusPhilly Photo Courtesy/Campus Philly

Campus Philly was created to build connections between Philadelphia’s college students and Philadelphia.

March 19, 2015

Philly's an underrated hub for internship resources, opportunities

As the spring semester draws to close, college students are looking to lock in summer internships, which are more complicated than ever to get thanks to government labor rules and the economy.

Glassdoor.com, which says its mission is to help people everywhere find jobs and companies they love, analyzed ratings and reviews shared by interns worldwide and identified the 25 U.S. companies whose internship experiences were rated best.

"A number of the programs that we work with, like Deloitte, Comcast and Vanguard, have internships that are deliberately constructed to convert into full-time employees." – Deborah Diamond, president, Campus Philly

Leading the list in Glassdoor's fourth annual report were Facebook, Chevron and Google. Facebook took the top spot for the second year in a row with a 4.6 company rating, according to interns.

"At some of these companies interns do get paid quite handsomely," Glassdoor’s career trends analyst Scott Dobroski told Metro. "At Google and Facebook, and some of the other tech companies in particular, interns do get paid upwards of $6,000 per month. Whereas some other companies such as NBC Universal or Quicken Loans are still great places to intern, but (interns) get paid nearly $2,000 on average per month."

Large companies like Google and Facebook can afford to pay interns handsomely, but that does not mean that a smaller business, or even a startup, wouldn't be able to offer other great benefits to students.

So maybe you're not going to take home $15,000 from a 10-week internship in Philly, but there is good news: The region offers excellent resources and opportunities to prospective interns. 

Here's PhillyVoice's lowdown on all things internship in the region:

KNOW THE RIGHT PLACES TO LOOK

Glassdoor allows students to search all open internships by location. See what's available in Philadelphia, which made the site's top 20 list of cities with openings.

None

Campus Philly, a 10-year-old nonprofit that was created to build connections between Philadelphia’s college students and Philadelphia, works in partnership with 31 colleges and universities in the region and functions as an off-campus student activities and career services office. Its services are also available to out-of-state students looking to come to the city to intern.

"Other cities are known by their dominant industries, like D.C. for policy or New York for finance. Philadelphia is a little harder for college students to understand in that way, so we run a number of events each year that focus on a specific industry to educate students about that industry and the opportunities available," said Deborah Diamond, president of Campus Philly. "The challenge with the Philadelphia job market is that it’s strong in many areas, but not necessarily with a signature industry that draws students to look a little deeper."

Campus Philly accepts free listings from any company in the region on its internship matching platform, but it also has a corporate membership program with companies that, Diamond said, are really interested in growing their talent base.    

"A number of the programs that we work with, like Deloitte, Comcast and Vanguard, have internships that are deliberately constructed to convert into full-time employees," Diamond explained. "Very high percentages [of students] are offered positions in those companies."

"Philadelphia is unusual in having a company like Campus Philly that connects the dots for students when it comes to internships."

UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF NETWORKING

Preparation and networking are keys to success when it comes to landing internships and jobs, according to Rosalie Shemmer, senior director of Temple University's Career Center. 

"Meeting employers and alumni is a great way to prepare students to network and to be able to comfortably talk about themselves and engage the person on the other side of the table," Shemmer said. "One of the trends that I think is really prominent right now is the idea of storytelling. Employers are really expecting students to be able to not just answer interview questions effectively, but to tell their story."

David Silver understands the value of an internship. And he should, since he completed eight of them as an undergraduate student at Temple University.

Now, he runs his own business, while also working a full-time job. Every career-conscious step he took along the way helped him to get to this point. 

One of the many students who found success through Campus Philly's networking services, he met his future employer at a networking event.

After attending Campus Philly's Tech Start-up Crawl and winning an iPad 2 from sponsor Bentley Systems, Silver, 23, was offered a full-time position with the company.

None
David Silver started his own business, Broad Street Music Group, and began a position at Bentley Systems after graduating from Temple University in 2013. (PHOTO COURTESY/DAVID SILVER)

"Networking is obviously huge, and always being ready to network, even when you don’t think you’re going to," he said. "You never know who you’re going to meet and when you’re going to meet them. So always be ready for an opportunity and always go into that opportunity with a smile on your face. Learn how to be busy and learn how to enjoy being busy."

Along with working at Bentley Systems, Silver put his degree in entrepreneurship to work and started his own business, Broad Street Music Group, which hosted local concerts for undiscovered musicians. In May 2014, he transitioned that company to an independent record label and started a city-wide initiative to restore the Philly music industry, called RECphilly.

THE DREXEL CO-OP

Drexel University offers an extensive cooperative education, or co-op, program that allows students to alternate academic study with full-time employment in order to gain practical experience in their field of study. 

"It’s very integral to the mission the university," said Peter Franks, vice provost for career education at Drexel. "What Drexel has done for almost 100 years in terms of this model of education is fairly unique in American higher education.  We work with over 1,700 employers every year who are hiring our students. They range from some of the world’s largest, multinational corporations to medium-sized to small firms." 

Drexel senior Zach Pashko's two co-op experiences with Johnson & Johnson helped him to land a full-time offer from the organization before starting his senior year.

"Once I finished and I was given the offer, that sort of solidified that I was, in fact, working hard," he said. "I felt treated like an employee. I wouldn’t have been able to get focused without Drexel’s support. I was always thinking short term, not necessarily about my future career."

None

Pashko shared Silver's sentiments about networking.

"Start networking on day one and never stop," he said. "I find it really funny that the word networking has the word ‘work’ inside it. It definitely helped me a lot in the co-op space where I was able to nail a job and skip through certain processes that maybe a normal candidate would have to do because I had formed these strong relationships. In a very cautious way, I would say it’s not always what you know."

He added that attitude has a lot to do with career success.

"I have a little slogan that I live by, and I’m realizing that it is relevant in the professional world," Pashko said. "Obviously, CEO stands for ‘Chief Executive Officer.’ However, I’ve started to look at it as communication, enthusiasm and optimism. I think that some of the most vital skills and attitudes fall into having strong communication with each other, being really excited about what you’re doing, which in turn motivates other people, and having an optimistic attitude. Having that optimism flowing will allow you and others to be creative."

DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO GAIN FROM THE EXPERIENCE

Amanda Beardall, a 2014 graduate of Bryn Mawr College, completed three internships as a student, two of which were with nonprofits and one of which was overseas in Indonesia. All of them played a role in her ultimate decision to take on her current job.

"I think going to Indonesia got me interested more in working with people from different cultures," said Beardall, a native of Portland, Ore. "I also think that working both at home and in Philadelphia with nonprofits really gave me the skills and a sense of what a full-time position takes at a nonprofit. Just being in Philadelphia gave me a reason to stay in the city for another year."

Beardall currently works as the Welcoming Communities Coordinator at Lutheran Children and Family Service as part of her service as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Philly Fellows program.

None

Amanda Beardall interned with the Mural Arts Program during the summer of 2013. (PHOTO COURTESY/AMANDA BEARDALL)

While some students may be looking to intern in a formal program with a large company, others with a more entrepreneurial outlook are interested in startups. 

Shemmer says internships are a way for students to test the waters to see what they really want for their futures.

"They help students to decide what kind of environment they want to work in and what type of work that they’re interested in doing," she said. "It’s the perfect opportunity to go in and work for six months and just stop and start something new without anybody questioning whether or not you’ll be loyal."

Patricia Rose, director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania, agreed with Shemmer, stressing the importance of internships and work experience for students to determine their career path.

"It’s a great way for students to determine whether they would like to pursue something after graduation," Rose said. "Someone may wish to do a certain kind of job, but when they try it out for a summer, they may find they don’t like it. That’s a very valuable lesson and they can look in other directions before graduation. It’s a learning experience for the student and a great opportunity to demonstrate capability, which can be reflected on a resume.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS AS AN INTERN

Once you have a position locked in, it's important to know your rights as an intern, so that no company can take advantage of your time and skills. While not all internships will be paid, you should familiarize yourself with what constitutes a lawful, unpaid internship.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an unpaid internship is only legal if it is in the context of an educational training program, i.e., the interns do not perform productive work and the employer gains no benefit. This definition is a result of the United States Supreme Court’s 1947 opinion in Walling v. Portland Terminal Co. 

Catherine Ruetschlin, senior policy analyst at Demos, conducts economic analysis of labor markets and explores workforce trends of young adults.

"Unpaid internships are such a problem in the economy because unpaid internships are obviously not realistic options for many students, particularly those who come from low-income households, or are non-traditional students who are supporting families while they go to school," she explained.

"Firms can offer positions on a short-term, lower-paid basis to young workers whose unemployment rates are, as they are throughout the labor market, much higher than those of older workers with more experience. Those vulnerable, young workers are put in a place where an internship isn’t always a stepping stone, it’s actually just a title demotion for a job that’s just a job."

Ruetschlin said the availability of jobs for graduates directly correlates with the state of the economy.

"The labor market has been very slow to recover from the recession of 2007-2008 and what we know from past recessions is that students who graduate during a recession are at a disadvantage for the pure luck of having graduated at the wrong time," she said. "Those students start out at lower salaries than peers who graduate during an expansion or at the peak of an economic boom and those income repercussions last for decades. The demotion in both title and pay of jobs to internships can be a real problem for those students."

She added that while some employers have been willing to take advantage of students who depend on internships as a way to get their foot in the door, an internship can be a "really important part of a job ladder at a company that is willing to make an investment in the next generation of workers in order to groom the kind of employees that their looking for."

EMBRACE PHILLY AND ALL IT HAS TO OFFER

Campus Philly recently released its 2014 Choosing Philadelphia report, which revealed that that the majority of students at local colleges and universities choose to stay in Philadelphia after graduation.

Those who live elsewhere represent Philadelphia and now recommend the city to others at record rates.

None
None

"We certainly do see a lot of Penn students staying in Philadelphia, and they tend to clump in West Philadelphia," Rose said. "However, most of the students in finance are working outside of Philadelphia." 

As Campus Philly says in its report, "Great cities welcome new residents and send forth great talent, and Philadelphia has reached the stage of becoming one of those great talent-producing and talent-welcoming cities."