Shonda Rhimes Among Mogul Mentors of New Intern Sushi Program

Courtesy Tom Korbee/TCK Photo
Intern Sushi founder Shara Senderoff

A professional networking program from co-founder and CEO Shara Senderoff's LinkedIn competitor offers users chances to sit down with industry power players such as the "Scandal" creator and showrunner.

Ever wonder how the top industry players got to where they are today? A new feature on networking website Intern Sushi gives users a peek behind the curtain of such media heavyweights as Scandal's Shonda Rhimes and WME's Charles King.

Started two years ago by co-founder and CEO Shara Senderoff with co-founders producer Mark Gordon and digital media entrepreneur Richard Gelb, Intern Sushi, which links interns to employers, launched its Industry Influencer program on Wednesday. The program works to create a deeper connection between potential candidates and employers. The Intelligence Group's Jamie Gutfreund, ESPN sportscaster Linda Cohn and Philadelphia Eagles minority owner Christina Weiss Lurie are among those who will build individual digital profiles for the site, detailing their career journeys, education and job history offering advice along the way.

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"It's wondering about what Shonda Rhimes was doing when she was 20," Senderoff told The Hollywood Reporter. "We went to these influencers to tell us what are the stories about them nobody knows."

Senderoff, 28, began as an assistant at the Mark Gordon Company after moving to L.A. from New Jersey with no initial connection to the entertainment industry. Now, as director of development of film and vp of new media with the same company, she wants to give those looking to break in a more beneficial way to network. "The goal is to have a way in to connect with these major moguls," she said on the importance of networking. "How do we ask that person, 'What did you do?' and 'What do you think of what I'm doing?'"

Each influencer featured on Intern Sushi, including Rhimes, will host a 30-day competition during which users enter their profiles for a chance to earn a one-on-one meeting. The winner is personally selected by the influencer, and 15 others are granted a badge on their profile, noting the influencer's acknowledgement of their passion and enthusiasm.

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"As we reached out to each influencer, they unanimously said they love mentoring and want to give back, but there was no real organized way to do it," Senderoff said. "The goal here is credibility."

Some influencers even have asked to host the competition more than once a year, granting more one-on-one sessions. Intern Sushi now has 10,000 participating companies on its site and 80,000 users. By the end of the year, Senderoff hopes to have 150 industry influencers participating and granting young career hopefuls a chance to peek inside.