Attending university during a tough recession, the savviest graduates are recognising the need to gain real-world experience while still studying, finding opportunities to build their portfolios.
One trend among ambitious students is participation in crowdsourcing programmes, allowing busy but tenacious Millennials a chance to contribute to companies looking to connect with the digital generation.
“When I realised that I might want to work in the public relations field, I joined Mindfire, a crowdsourcing community formed by a leading public relations firm, and as a result, I was recently hired by them for a paid summer fellowship,” says Lauren Campbell, a senior graduating from Yale University this May.
“In addition to working at a local New Haven integrated marketing agency while still a student, I found that contributing my creative ideas to challenges posted on Mindfire gave me a real taste of what a job in PR would entail, plus it gave me an edge in landing a position.”
Ketchum, the public relations firm where Campbell will join two other Mindfire community members who also landed summer jobs in the firm’s New York headquarters office, created its university-based online crowdsourcing platform last year as a new creativity engine for its clients.
“An unexpected dividend of our growing community is that it’s proving to be an incredible talent pipeline,” says Karen Strauss, partner and chief innovation officer at Ketchum and a co-developer of Mindfire. “We received nearly 700 applications for less than 10 summer fellowship spots, but the ongoing contributions by Lauren and two other students we hired, Alexandra Tomlinson of Cornell and Melanie Buford of the University of Missouri, provided our hiring committee with evidence of the way these applicants think creatively and work under tight deadlines. Students who have supplied us with a steady stream of original thinking really rise to the top of the applicant pool.”
Mindfire is an open innovation community for college graduate and undergraduate students with demonstrated creativity, communications and digital skills. More than 300 students from 22 leading universities are presented with real creative challenges facing Ketchum and its clients, which they can work on individually or collaboratively during breaks in their academic work.
In addition to getting experience to add to their CVs, students also receive career coaching, training and job alerts from Ketchum, along with prizes provided by the client that issued each challenge. Eager to give students practical work opportunities with large global corporations, professors from universities in North America, Europe and Asia help recruit creative students to join Mindfire in order to advance their knowledge outside the classroom and give them an edge in the marketplace.
How to get hired
Simeon Mellalieu, general manager of Ketchum Hong Kong, recently hired two Mindfire members as interns, and believes that the program helps the agency and, ultimately, its clients. “The open innovation community platform lets me spot individuality, creativity, enthusiasm and drive for a PR career in an instant without having to trawl through the dozens of homogenous résumés I receive each month for internships or full-time positions.”
More than 40 Ketchum clients have used Mindfire for creative inspiration, including Hertz, Wendy’s, Frito-Lay North America and others.
“Great ideas can come from anywhere, so Frito-Lay North America was delighted to tap into a crowdsourcing platform to gather inspiration from fresh-thinking minds,” says Aurora Gonzalez, senior director of public relations at Frito-Lay North America. “As someone who is often on the hunt for smart, innovative talent, Ketchum’s Mindfire is a compelling proving ground for ambitious students.”
Paula R. Rivera, manager of public affairs for the Hertz Corporation, says, “Hertz recognizes the value of tapping into a global community of creative thinkers and we have learned a great deal from Mindfire members.”
Mindfire is a free resource available to all Ketchum clients. Client challenges are confidential, and only registered members of the community can access the password-protected site. As an added incentive for participation, every idea posted on Mindfire results in an agency donation to Room to Read, Ketchum’s philanthropic partner, for the purchase of local-language books for needy children in the developing world.
The current alphabetical list of participating universities includes:
- The Media School, Bournemouth University (UK)
- Boulder Digital Works, University of Colorado at Boulder (USA)
- Boston University (USA)
- Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College (USA)
- The Chinese University of Hong Kong; College of Charleston (USA)
- Cornell University (USA)
- New York University (USA)
- DePaul University (USA)
- Georgetown University (USA)
- Leeds Metropolitan University (UK)
- Marquette University (USA)
- Mudra Institute of Communications (India)
- Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (India)
- Syracuse University (USA)
- Tsinghua University (China)
- University of North Carolina – Charlotte (USA)
- University of Maryland – College Park (USA)
- University of Missouri School of Journalism (USA)
- University of Southern California (USA)
- Washington University, St. Louis (USA)
- Yale University (USA)