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Unpaid internship: How one Tampa student took summer experience and ran with it



Stephaniegurtmanlaurengruunsteininternshipratings Wake up and good morning. If any of you are parents of college-age kids, or students yourselves trying to build a resume, it's been hard during this recession not to talk about the unspeakable: The unpaid internship. After all, some experience beats no experience -- if you can afford the experience in the first place.

Take heart from this tale, buried in a recent Wall Street Journal story.

Three summers ago, Boston University student Stephanie Gurtman pursued a hometown internship at the Tampa advertising agency Pyper Paul + Kenney. There were none, but Gurtman asked for, and got, an "informational interview" with the public-relations director while she was home on spring break. Gurtman pitched her writing skills and self-starter attitude and made it clear that she wanted to be involved in Pyper Paul work that gave her hands-on understanding of how an ad agency works. The firm created a position where she could do those things and also help to write and distribute press releases, conduct market research and assemble press kits.

The internship was unpaid, the Journal noted. But Gurtman left with with three letters of recommendation that helped her land future internships.

InternshipRatings Here's the clincher. Six months later, Gurtman and friend Lauren Grunstein (see photo, above) launched, a site where people can rank internships. (She's now in an internship in Chicago.) Says the InternshipRatings website:

"We created to give students an outlet to reveal and critique the intern world. We know first hand that being an intern is thrilling, overwhelming, challenging and stimulating. That's why we created a place for interns to find out the real deal. Whether or not your experience involved coffee runs and filing papers (like ours did), your internship story will help others determine if 'it's worth the coffee.'"

At the website's page on Tampa internships, six experiences are reviewed, ranging from gigs at Moffitt Cancer Center and the PeakBiety ad agency to the Lakeland Ledger newsroom and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here's the link.

Want more insights on internships? Gurtman and Grunstein have a lively blog right here.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

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