20 year-olds are eager to work for Elon Musk, less so Mark Zuckerberg

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Elon Musk

Saying Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has had a tumultuous last year would be a massive understatement. There was his infamous tweet suggesting he had financial backing lined up to take Telsa private, resulting in a $20 million fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission and being banned from holding the dual role of chairman. Musk was then sued by a British diver who helped rescue a group of youth soccer players trapped in a Thai cave after calling him a “pedo” on Twitter. He also went viral by appearing to smoke pot during a podcast interview. Add in scrutiny over worker safety and potentially false production claims and you’ve only hit the highlights. But despite it all, the next generation of tech talent is dying to call Musk their boss.

More than 13,000 students just rated Tesla as the fourth most prestigious internship, behind only Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to a new survey from Vault. What’s more, the car maker’s ranking jumped two spots from a year ago, when it finished 6th. After all the headlines, Tesla is more popular now among the next generation than it was 12 months ago. In fact, Musk seems to be one of the reasons for Tesla’s surging reputation, according to yet-to-be-published comments Vault sent to eFinancialCareers.

“Anything with Elon Musk on it sounds great,” one student told Vault. “Elon Musk is changing the world,” added another. “I love what Musk is doing,” said a third. One respondent appeared to question Telsa’s direction, saying “change is necessary,” but also added that the car maker is still “the future.”

Perhaps more eye-opening is the fact that SpaceX, Musk’s private space transportation service with the ultimate goal of colonizing Mars, ranked as the 9th most prestigious internship, according to the survey. SpaceX didn’t even make the top 50 a year ago. Again, there was praise for Musk, with one student saying they’d pay money to intern at SpaceX. “Elon Musk! Love the idea of private space travel,” said one. “Almost every engineer wants to work here,” noted another. “The culture at SpaceX is amazing; there is nothing else like it,” said one student who just wrapped up an internship at the company.

Most of the complaints from Musk's interns were what you’d expect: long hours and the stress that accompanies tight deadlines. While Musk’s erratic behavior has invited plenty of media scrutiny, the vast majority of young prospective employees don’t seem to care. Despite the negative headlines, Musk is still very much a selling point rather than a detriment.

Meanwhile, interns surveyed by Vault aren’t as high as they used to be on Facebook, which has also seen its fair share of controversy over the last year, highlighted by its privacy scandal and claims of being used for election tampering. Facebook fell from third to fifth in this year’s intern survey. The drop seems directly related to recent news, with every negative comment sent our way attacking Facebook’s public perception rather than its work environment.

“I don't trust them after all the scandals they've had this year with transparency,” said one student. “Steals private information from everyone and their grandmother,” according to another. Even mixed reviews mentioned the social network’s teetering reputation. “Good on resume but slowly ruining [its] name.” Facebook has also recently faced claims of a politically divisive work culture.

Lesson learned. You can get in Twitter wars, smoke all the pot you want and take on the SEC and the media. Just don’t mess with people’s privacy.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: btuttle@efinancialcareers.com

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