Interview with the Founders of Urban Interns

Lauren Porat and Cari Sommer are the ladies behind UrbanInterns.com, a place to find part-time gigs. This is turning out to be a valuable resource for recent college grads who are either still searching for full-time jobs, or simply looking to build their resumes. Lauren and Cari were kind enough to take a few minutes out of their busy schedules to tell us a little more about how they came up with the idea for Urban Interns, how it's going so far, and what we can expect down the road. They also shared some insights about their first jobs, and how they are working to help recent grads find opportunities in this tough economy.


1. What inspired Urban Interns?

Years ago when we were both working long hours in our respective corporate jobs (Lauren at IAC, a multi-brand internet company, and Cari at Bryan Cave, a law firm), we actually came up with an idea for a personal assistant concierge business – something we thought would be of great service to busy people like ourselves who needed an extra set of hands. When we were finally ready to take the entrepreneurial plunge late last summer and started working out the idea, the recession had started and the job market had started to take a turn for the worse. We realized that it was small businesses who were really most in need of this service and that on the other side of the equation, there were so many job seekers who could benefit from a resource for part time jobs and internships. And thus, Urban Interns as we know it today, was born!

2. How did the two of you meet?

We met on the board of Step Up Women’s Network, a nonprofit dedicated to training the next generation of female philanthropists, five years ago.

3. What is your long-term vision for UrbanInterns.com?

We are on the road to making Urban Interns the national destination for people seeking part time jobs and internships at small businesses.

4. What advice do you have for graduates who are looking for their first jobs?

Well of course, our advice centers around part-time jobs and internships...not to despair if that full-time job at a well known firm is not materializing, but to broaden their searching to short term or flexible gigs that can build their resumes, and to small businesses, startups or other entrepreneurial organizations that may not pay as well or have name recognition, but which offer wonderful opportunities to work with founders and get incredible hands on experience.

5. What were your first jobs?

Lauren – I am digging deep here...My first paying job was dishing out frozen yogurt at Beachwood Place mall in Cleveland, OH, but my first real resume-building job was as a bank teller at my local bank. I had no finance experience, but I knew I wanted to work where the money was!

Cari - One of the many similarities between me and Lauren….my first job was also at a frozen yogurt shop. After that I spent several afternoons in high school working for a wonderful lawyer in the town where I grew up (New City, NY). He taught me a lot and was very encouraging of my desire to go to law school.

6. Did either of you have internships while you were in school? What did you do for your internships?

Lauren – yes, I had internships during the summer but not during the school year. I worked for PaineWebber in Washington, DC as a broker’s assistant after my sophomore year, and Arthur Anderson after my junior year of college. You can see a pattern...I was building a base of experience in finance because I knew since I was literally ten years old that I wanted to work on Wall Street, and for a girl from Cleveland to get there, you had to have a rock solid resume. I was competing with a lot of East Coasters whose parents helped them out on the internship front at the big banks. I went on to land a full time job in the Media Investment Banking group at Merrill Lynch, and I think part of the reason I got that job is because employers could see a clear trajectory with goals and stepping stones.

Cari - I interned quite a bit during law school. I interned for a Bankruptcy Judge, for the Federal Trade Commission, and participated in a number of on-campus clinics. It was a great way to build experience and make powerful connections that helped me land a great job out of law school at a top firm on Wall Street. Another similarity between me and Lauren…I knew as a child that I wanted to be a lawyer. When I was an undergraduate at Cornell, I didn’t intern quite as much as I did in law school. Since I knew I wanted to go right on to law school, a lot of my focus was on academics.

7. What do you feel is the most beneficial take-away that students get from an internship?

There are two, equally as important: experience and connections.

8. What types of employers can visitors to your web site find on it?

A range of small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups. Most of the employers on our site have some internet or mobile component to their business. Many are tech startups, many are professional service companies like creative, PR or marketing agencies, and many are nonprofits.

9. What types of interns are employers looking for currently? What does the ideal intern look like?

It really does run the gamut. Some employers are looking for a college student who wants to study as an apprentice in their field, and some are looking for seasoned sales professionals with a decade-plus of experience, and some are in between or indifferent and for them, it’s all about fit.