For La Jolla High School students, summer internships are common at local scientific institutions, retail shops and business enterprises. And the benefits are many — experience in the field, productive use of time, and a resume boost for college, to name a few.
But for some students, getting an internship has hurdles, made that much more frustrating knowing the benefits are there, but one just can’t get to them.
Incoming senior Isabella Zeng was one of them. A summer internship changed the trajectory of her high school experience, but it almost didn’t happen.
Facing difficulty getting internships due to her age, experience level and lack of an easy platform, she helped create The Internect, an online meeting space that connects high school students with local companies seeking summer interns.
“I wanted to be there for students who don’t have connections or opportunities. And hopefully, founding a platform sets me up to be a better entrepreneur,” she told La Jolla Light.
Started two months ago with Zeng and five other San Diego students (Zeng is the only one from La Jolla), The Internect has approximately 100 participants — both interns and companies — and has successfully paired 10 students with internships. The other founders are Mille Wang, Hannah Zhu, Gavin Yuan, Matteo Seldon and Iniya Muraari.
Here’s how it works: Students seeking an internship upload a “resume” listing their skills, passions and experience (as a baseline, it’s recommended students be proficient in coding, software, marking and design; be multilingual; and able to collaborate and adapt); complete an interview with one of the founding students; and get paired with a company.
Companies choosing to partner with The Internect must list desired qualities in their potential interns, so the best match possible can be made.
Once the preliminary interview is complete, the companies complete a follow-up interview and confirm the selection.
“With other companies, you have to go online and search the different sites, scroll through all the listings and it can take time,” Zeng said. “With ours, we pair the students with a company that matches their passion based on the information they provide.”
For Zeng, having her summer internship gave her purpose, and she wanted to give that to others.
“I lived in three countries before my family moved to the United States. I was born in Singapore, lived in China and Mexico then here,” Zeng said. “My parents had never been to college, so the pressure was on for me to go to college. That’s why my first few years of high school, I did everything I could trying to be the perfect girl.”
Soon, the pressure got to her. “I lost myself and didn’t know what I was doing,” she said. Things “went down” a bit and her grades dropped. Sophomore year, she decided to explore an internship for some direction.
“I e-mailed hundreds of companies and got one response,” she said. “But that one company lit a spark in me.” Purpose was restored and her high school experience improved.
That’s when she and a friend came up with the idea of an online platform to connect students with internships.
“Because of the summer, it’s a full-time thing for us now,” Zeng said. “If things go well, we might run it full time going forward.”