Real-World Learning

How One Student Turned a Canceled Internship into an Opportunity

by Erin O'Boyle

Professional headshot of Kaitlyn Spera
KEYS TO THE ARTICLE
  • Kaitlyn Spera’s summer internship was canceled because of COVID-19, one month before she was supposed to begin.
  • Realizing she still could put the skills that she’d learned as a marketing major at Saint Joseph’s to work, she posted in several Facebook groups that she wanted to help local small businesses with their advertising.
  • The businesses she has helped have seen engagement increase tremendously, through hashtags and connections with the right audiences.

When Kaitlyn Spera ’21 found out that her summer internship was canceled because of COVID-19, she admits she was pretty upset.

“They canceled my internship one month before I was supposed to begin,” she says. “They didn’t want anyone on-site, and my department wasn’t prepared to go virtual at that point. I started applying to other places for other internships, but it was too late in the spring to begin.”

Instead, Spera took matters into her own hands. “I’m part of a few community groups on Facebook, and I noticed many businesses were struggling because of coronavirus,” she explains. She especially noticed the businesses that either had a sparse social media presence, or none at all. Realizing she could still spend the summer putting the skills that she’d learned as a marketing major at Saint Joseph’s to work, Spera posted in several Facebook groups offering to help local small businesses with marketing and advertising.

She received more responses than she’d expected. “I had over 60 people reach out to me on behalf of businesses,” Spera says. “It was too much for my personal social media to handle. I couldn’t keep up with all the messages. So I created a separate Facebook page to stay organized.” That page – Spera Consulting –  along with a new email address, helped her sort through her responses and choose which businesses to work with over the summer.

Spera set up Zoom meetings with different businesses to get to know them, and to understand who their customers were, and what their values were. She picked a few businesses to work with over the summer, spending a few weeks working with each one. “I’m helping them with social media marketing, engagement, and targeting,” she explains. “Many of these businesses get their clients through word of mouth. They didn’t really have any sense of marketing. I created Instagram and Facebook pages. Then, we decide who their target market is. I’d create posts on Facebook and Instagram, and create regular marketing materials, even advertising in newspapers.”

The businesses she has helped have seen engagement increase through hashtags and connecting with the right audiences. Shannon Bickert is one of Spera’s clients, and owns a construction company with her husband. She says that her business has been positively affected through her work with Spera. “Numerous people have emailed us, and we’ve gotten new jobs just because the client followed a picture on social media that they really liked, and then reached out to us,” Bickert says. “Kaitlyn started an Instagram, a Facebook, and a LinkedIn account for our company, and updated all of the pictures. She’s thinking of things we wouldn’t have.”

Spera says that one course at St. Joe’s in particular really helped prepare her for this work. “I was really inspired by my integrated marketing and communications course,” she says. “We had to pick a brand, and come up with a whole new [marketing and communications] campaign. We had to analyze the marketing they’d already done, look at their past spending, and come up with different budgets. We had to come up with a target market that was different from the original, and analyze competition. My group chose Dunkin Donuts, and came up with a gluten-free menu that focused on millennials and Generation Z. I loved it.”

Word of Spera’s work has spread, and she has even been contacted by students from other schools who want to help her. “These students are in similar situations that I am,” she says. “They’re interested in helping me continue this through the fall.”

Spera will graduate from St. Joe’s in December – a semester early. Not surprisingly, she wants to have a career in marketing. “I’m interested in entertainment marketing and events. For now, I absolutely want to continue with my consulting work. I really enjoy it, I have the time management skills, and I like doing this in my free time. I like the positive effect it has on my community.”