NBCUniversal's iVillage established an internship program for college students this summer to give them an in-depth understanding of how the company works. Here, iVillage President Jodi Kahn discusses the program, its success and where it's headed in the future.
Ad Age : Describe your program and how it's set up?
Jodi Kahn: Our goal was to create a really meaningful experience for interns -- one in which they would learn the ins and outs of our business, have a seat at the table and, in turn, challenge us to raise our game. So we launched the iVillage Internship Program to encourage growth and foster learning among college students. Thirty students from various universities took part in our 10-week summer program working across ad sales, marketing, editorial and tech.
To help them develop a voice, we introduced internship mentoring, pairing senior management from across iVillage with interns, where they would receive career guidance and valuable information about business strategy.
Also, we had a great perks to help them develop skills to look for jobs -- given that 's what's on their minds. Beyond the actual work, our staff and human resources worked extensively to help them prepare for the real working world with a Brand Yourself Workshop, which included a tutorial on interview skills, job interview coaching and resume evaluation.
Part of their summer job with iVillage was to create a campaign, based on a mock RFP from Coca-Cola. Four teams developed and executed incredible media programs, with a formal pitch finale their last week. From video and graphics integration, complete with characters, logos and taglines to smart marketing, communications plans -- we were blown away by the quality of their work.
Ad Age : What inspired this program? Why did you create it?
Kahn: I'm incredibly proud and inspired every day by the staff we have at iVillage. I work side by side with a fun, smart, energetic and fearless group of individuals who believe that great internships shape great future leaders. So many of us serve as mentors throughout NBCU and also throughout outside organizations we belong to. We really created a homegrown program that reflects not just summer learning but provides a greater takeaway for interns who are looking for their first job out of school.
Ad Age : How did it work out? What did students take away with them?
Kahn: We welcomed their feedback every step of the way, and we heard from each of them directly. They shared with us that the two areas of greatest value [to them] were the intimate understanding they received about the digital business and the development of their skills to better prepare them for their next career step. When compared with previous internships, the iVillage experience ranked higher.
Ad Age : Why is this important to you personally?
Kahn: Internships serve as the career road map for college students. Throughout my own career road map, I've enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to have mentors in every job and have served as a mentor myself, as I still do today. The learning doesn't stop simply because you graduated, and the mentoring shouldn't stop simply because you reached your career goals. I have personally experienced how one connection can foster growth from the start of your career and extend for years to come.
Ad Age : Where do you see this program going in the future? What have you learned?
Kahn: We see this program growing, both in size and in what we offer students, and [we] are excited to continue expanding it this fall and spring semester. The feedback from this summer's pilot program has been overwhelmingly positive, both internally at NBCU and with the interns who took part. Each of our interns is going back to their colleges and/or entering the workforce with a better knowledge of what it takes to run a successful digital business and affection for the essential women's digital brand, iVillage.