The University of Delaware (UD) Career Center established the BlueHensWork Micro-Internship Program in early 2022 with the goal of introducing undergraduate students to careers in public service by participating in short-term, paid professional projects with Delaware-based government agencies or nonprofits—like Reel Families for Change.
For a Busy Nonprofit Founder, Hiring for "Fit" is Vital
When running a nonprofit organization, resources are always limited, and hiring decisions to make sure you find the “right” person for your team is crucial. When Akima Aiken Brown, the Founder and Executive Director of Reel Families for Change, learned about the BlueHensWork Micro-Internship Program, she knew that this program would give her organization the essential support she was looking for.
Reel Families for Change is a mostly volunteer-led organization that focuses on achieving workplace Justice for individuals working in American film and television. Her organization supports those who are traditionally acknowledged in her industry as underrepresented, including women, minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, those with caretaker obligations (parents, guardians, and other caregivers), and military veterans.
For Akima, who describes Reel Families for Change as a “tiny but mighty organization,” she knew that this program could provide her with an on-demand resource to support her busy team’s lengthy to-do list. Ideally, she could find a student who may be a good fit for a longer-term role, but she was less concerned about the student’s skills than their attitude.
“I’ve met seniors and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, no thanks.’ And I’ve met freshmen and said, ‘Seriously, you’re a freshman?” so I’ve opened the opportunity to everyone,” Akima explained.
“Our hope is we will find a person with the right work ethic, character, and mindset, and we will train for skills.”
Akima kept this mindset by asking some specific and compelling questions in the Micro-Internship application that not only allowed her to understand the quality of a student’s written communication skills but also whether there was alignment in their interests.
For example, Akima asked:
- Tell us about a time when you wrote something you were proud of. What kind of writing was it? What was it about? Who was the audience? What made you proud of the piece?
- How do you prefer to receive feedback/critique? How do you handle it when you don't receive feedback in this way? What do you think about your work when you don't receive feedback at all?
For Akima, these questions allowed her to understand the students’ goals and why this Micro-Internship would help both her and the student. By ensuring that there was a mutual fit at the onset, Akima knew that she was selecting a student with the mindset she was looking for.
For a Student, Mutual Interest Ensures a Long-Term Fit
After hearing about the BlueHensWork Program through the UD Career Center, Sarah Lutot ‘22 immediately applied. For Sarah, a dual Women and Gender Studies and English major, Micro-Internships provided her an opportunity to gain industry-related experience that directly applied to her classes. While she had working experience already, this gave her relevant exposure to an organization with a mission that she was passionate about. “I had no experience with anything to do with the film industry before, but I knew that I wanted to do something with writing and communications,” Sarah said.
“I wanted to do something for a nonprofit where I could combine what I cared about and what I wanted to learn more about, and do the work that I was good at for them. And this was perfect. It was a match made in heaven!”
Akima’s application for a project involving drafting “compelling emails about our work” that could be shared with their mailing list immediately drew Sarah’s attention. Not only did the project sound interesting, but Akima’s compelling application questions told Sarah that their interests were aligned.
“The initial questions set the tone and my interest in applying. I could tell there was a story in what Akima was looking for. I was interested in this and this allowed me to share my knowledge and aligned with something I wanted to learn more about. It was telling of the kind of relationship this was going to be.”
Sarah explained. “[The project] felt like what I loved about so many of my classes in that it was a collaboration. It wasn’t someone telling me, ‘Oh, do this and leave me alone.’ It was very collaborative and I just love that so much.”
Short-Term Micro-Internship, Long-Term Hire
Flash forward a year, and Sarah’s Micro-Internship has now turned into a permanent role on the Reel Families for Change team. As Akima told Sarah, “‘I’m going to find money to keep you on because I knew you were graduating and I needed to find a way to keep you on.’ She’s a diamond in the rough. She was managing a senior’s schedule, on top of looking for work, on top of meeting our deadlines above par. She was doing such extensive research that I didn't have to do any editing, and I’ve never had that experience."
"If I could get one of Sarah in every division, we’d be set. It was a no-brainer once we started collaborating.”
Sarah had accepted another FT job with another organization, but her Micro-Internship experience confirmed that Reel Families would be an excellent long-term fit. As Sarah remarked,