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Intern in Michigan program helps students stay in state and build skills

In April 2012, Ann Arbor native Lauren Fendt graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in communications and political science. Like most recent grads, she was both excited and nervous about her next move in life. But due to a declining job market, immense competition, and a lack of entry level job opportunities, Fendt could not find full-time employment in Michigan. All she could do was cobble together freelance jobs in social media, copywriting, and blogging.

So she moved back home to Atlanta in August and continued her job search with the hope of returning to the Wolverine State.

"I always liked it here in Michigan," says Fendt. "I moved to Atlanta when I was 13, but I knew I wanted to move back here for school and I always intended to stay here."

In May 2013, Fendt achieved her goal of moving back to Michigan when she landed a paid internship with the Detroit-based software firm Digerati. And all it took was a few simple steps of signing up with the online career platform Intern in Michigan.

Lauren Fendt

Made in Michigan

Intern in Michigan is a free career resource that connects students and employers through a unique online matching system. Students answer questions based on their individuals skills and interests and are then matched with a variety of companies throughout Michigan that align with their profile description.

This allows students to be in full control when searching for an opportunity that specifically fits their skill-set and interests and reduces their dependence on college internship offices.

"I went on the website and filled out the information. Within a week, I had three or four interviews set up with employers and I got a job offer from all of them," says Fendt. "I was really excited about Intern in Michigan because it was such a good experience."

The website was developed by Detroit-based Digerati, which recently launched a similar program called Intern in Ohio. Since it launched in 2011, Intern in Michigan has matched nearly 250,000 students with internship positions. 27,884 internship seekers representing over 1,000 colleges and universities throughout the country are currently signed up with Intern in Michigan. Over 7,000 internships opportunities are currently posted on the site.

With such a large pool of employers attached to this initiative, the goal is to create more in-state job opportunities for recent grads, many of whom have to leave their home state in order to find employment.

Intern in Michigan not only gave Lauren Fendt the chance to move back to Detroit, but it also led to her landing a full-time job in her field shortly after she completed her internship with Digerati. She currently works for the University of Michigan as an Events Coordinator in the Office of University Development.

Kathleen Kubiak is another student who has had success using Intern in Michigan. The Clinton Township native and Wayne State senior is currently interning with the communications department of the nonprofit organization Special Olympics Michigan. Her responsibilities include contacting companies about donating to the organization, preparing newsletters, and working with SOM's Special Projects department. She recently helped the department plan the Detroit Polar Plunge, an annual fundraiser.

Kubiak says she came across Intern in Michigan while searching online for internships and was very pleased with its ease of use and speed.

"I turned to Intern in Michigan because it was something that I could do on my own," says Kubiak. "I had to find internships myself and it really gave me a lot of responsibility. I had to set up interviews and no one was doing it for me."
She recently interviewed for another internship and says her current position has helped her figure out what her skills are in a job setting.

"I feel like I have grown as a person while interning with Special Olympics because they gave me a lot of responsibilities," says Kubiak. "I had to figure out time management skills and how to be professional. I developed my customer service skills."

Employer Benefits

Employers get just as much out of the Intern in Michigan platform as the students. There are over 1,000 Michigan-based companies registered with Intern in Michigan. They range from larger companies like DTE Energy to nonprofit businesses like the Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens.

The Anton Art Center

Interns are great helps to nonprofits that have a small staffs and limited resources to accomplish their missions.

"I think Intern in Michigan is good because you can get interns from a variety of schools, so the pool is wider and everything is connected," says Anton Art Center executive director Anne Lilla, who used the online platform when searching for a marketing and social media intern for the arts center. "So when you get a student who is interested in the employer you can communicate with that student via email immediately. There is just an ease in communication."

Last summer, the Anton Art Center hired Davenport University student Josh Miller as a social media intern.
Miller assisted in some of the Center's daily operations, including updating their social media pages, designing and producing marketing material, and helping to install paintings for art exhibitions.

Lilla is now in the process of looking for another intern through the website.

"I have two leads on interns right now, so I'm hoping they pick me."

All photos © Marvin Shaouni Photo www.marvinshaouni.com
Veronica Grandison is a Detroit-based freelance writer.
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