There’s an “Ad” for That: My Adventures in Using Social Media to Land a Summer Internship

June 24, 2013

Don’t even bother trying, they told me.

Take the summer off, they said, and just enjoy yourself.

A summer internship in Manhattan. That was the elusive prize they told me I couldn’t have. The conventional wisdom went: They don’t hire freshmen as interns. Even more discouraging was the belief that the most highly desirable internships only went to rich upperclassmen whose parents were “somebody who knew somebody.”

This only made me more determined to fight the old Conventional Wisdom. Look, as college students, we’re bombarded with scuttlebutt on how competitive the job market is in the Real World. We’re immersed in the horror stories of crippling student debt and diminished career prospects for us future college graduates.

So in March, I set my mind to overcoming the Freshman Factor and finding a meaningful internship. But how?

As a freshman at Villanova University, I quickly learned how fiercely loyal the ‘Nova Nation is. Having met many ‘Nova alumni at various events, I always came away impressed by how passionate they were about their alma mater and helping fellow Villanovans.

So I decided to create a LinkedIn ad campaign about . . . well, about me.

The first order of business was to immerse myself in all the jargon of advertising on a social media platform.  I became conversant with things like clickthrough rates, cost per click, conversion tracking. . .   Honestly, it was actually kind of a cool adventure, learning about marketing in the new millennium.

New media platforms like LinkedIn allow the user to narrowcast and really zero in on your true target audience in a very cost-effective way.

How cost effective, you might ask?  Well, I decided to commit $200 of last summer’s lifeguarding money to my campaign, just to see how it would go.

I used geographic and education filters to narrow down the ecosphere of LinkedIn’s 225 million users down to an audience of just 14,781 individuals – all of whom were Villanova Alumni from New York and Pennsylvania working in my specific fields of interest.

The ad that popped up for the ‘Nova alumni using LinkedIn during the month of March informed them that a “dynamic, motivated, and dedicated” Villanova student was seeking an internship. If a ‘Nova graduate clicked on the link, a blog page popped up where I made the impassioned pitch for myself.

Nicolete Linked In ad

I clicked the APPROVE AD button on the LinkedIn Ads console, and drew in an anxious breath. How would the ‘Nova Nation respond to an admittedly self-promoting freshman who was shamelessly playing off their loyalty to the school?

Well, I must admit, I was blown away by the positive response.

From Day One, the encouraging emails poured into my Yahoo! email account, complimenting me for my creativity and determination.  Shortly thereafter came the requests for my resume. My current version was out of date, so I raced over to the Villanova Career Center for assistance. Not only did VCC’s Kevin Grubb help develop a sparkling, brand new CV for me, but he wisely helped me update my LinkedIn profile.

Four weeks later, when my campaign concluded, my ad had been seen more than 120,000 times. Interestingly enough, 48.4% of who who clicked on my ad were senior executives. Most importantly, I was contacted by dozens of Villanova alumni from firms such as Citigroup, Thomson Reuters, New York Stock Exchange, Bloomberg and Pfizer. I even had the opportunity to submit a short video on “The Future of Money” for MasterCard. Not all of the companies had open internships for freshmen, but all promised to stay in touch for next year.

After several interviews and offers, I accepted a summer internship with Edulence, a digital media technology and custom creative services company that specializes in financial services in Manhattan whose founder/president, Jon Tota, was a member of the Class of 1994. I’m now in my second week on the job and, yes, I’m absolutely loving it.

Commuting into Manhattan every morning from Connecticut gives me a lot of time to think about what the future holds. I’m not sure exactly what path my life will take, but wherever I wind up, I look forward to the day where I will have the privilege to provide an internship for some other hungry college freshman.

There are no shortage of naysayers who tell you something can’t be done.  Well, to them, I say my experience is proof-positive of the power of social media. It is indeed a brave new world, and it’s exhilarating to be part of it.

Editor’s Note: If LinkedIn has helped you transform your career or business, please share your story with us or write a post on LinkedIn with the hashtag #MyLinkedInStory. For more inspiration, check out more success stories.