The job market is shit. You spend a good 16 years busting ass for a piece of paper that says you’re good at a thing, and then you get a job in retail.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed in jobs a high school student could do. Combine that with the fact that the cost of attending a state institution like USF as a resident can be about $24,000, and you’ll see why it’s important to be creative when hunting for stability in the post-scholastic life.
And when hunting for good employees. This summer, two burgeoning Bay area businesses created a reality contest for college students in the communications field in which the winner would get a paid position with one of the partner companies.
Maria Alithinos, senior account supervisor for Media Fusion, an Ybor-based marketing and public relations firm, and Cindy Kelly, the company’s CEO, wanted to find a way to make internships different, challenging — and interesting.
“We were brainstorming ideas and thought, ‘Why not do a challenge like The Apprentice?’” Alithinos said.
A short while later, while attending a meeting with Ybor-based events and branding network UNation, the pair met Kate Nafe, UNation’s head of visual media and UTV. She liked the idea for the show and decided to make it work.
Alithinos contacted several area academic institutions to find contestants for the intern challenge and wound up with a group of seven USF students, all majors in various mass-communication tracts. She wanted to challenge them in ways different from any other internship they could find, so — given the two companies’ connection to Ybor — it was decided that all challenges would revolve around staples of the area, like King Corona Cigars, and relative newcomers like frozen yogurt specialists Yo Boys.
The interns were randomly divided into two teams every day for four days and sent out to perform various challenges around Ybor with a judging and elimination at the end of each day. (We agreed not to spill the beans about the nature of the challenges, or who survived till the end.)
Before the final challenge, three interns had been eliminated and were offered the chance to either go home or stay on to help with production and challenges. Not a single one left.
“It shows a real strength that they didn’t care [about elimination] and came back for the experience and to work more,” said Nafe.
The production crew and interns worked 12- to 14-hour days throughout the week of the show.
“It was a great list of diverse challenges,” said one well-dressed male intern. “We were given challenges to complete in a few hours that you would normally have at least a day, if not weeks to complete.”
Not one intern complained, said Nafe, Alithinos, and director Tim Paul. These students weren’t drama-crazed reality stars, but budding media professionals looking to gain an upper hand in a competitive job market.
“Yeah, winning is the ultimate goal,” said a female intern. “But the opportunity to network, and work with a production team, that was big, too.”
The only unexpected drama arose when one of the show’s judges decided to participate in a challenge she wasn’t scripted for; and when police attempted to hinder a challenge involving frozen yogurt samples and some murky Tampa vending laws.
“You can’t just stop and say we’re not gonna film anymore,” quipped Alithinos. “We had to readjust.”
The same resilience was evident in the teams. During one challenge that involved interviewing streetcar passengers, the contestants were running out of time. Instead of waiting the 20 minutes for another car to arrive, they looked for someone on the street to interview instead. For another challenge, one team conducted an uninformative but highly entertaining interview with a statue.
The sense of teamwork was almost instinctual, according to the interns. Only two of the seven had ever met before, but by the fourth day they were joking around like old friends.
“Just say, ‘The ditzy blonde said …’” joked the well-dressed intern after asking how the interns would be identified in this story.
“Hey! I was just gonna compliment you,” retorted the ditz … er … bubbly blonde.
At the end of the fourth day, the interns lined up nervously to hear who won. Palms sweaty, feet anxiously tapping, they presented their final case to the judges, who announced that the person who proved most worthy of the highly coveted paid position would be …
Eh, just watch the show.
The Interns will be premiering on UTV through UNation.com this fall.