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Jan 16, 2017   |   Edward Chen
No two startup internships are the same. You will hear a lot of different stories about people working at startups, but rarely will you find two similar stories.
Each company will have a unique culture, unique individuals, and ultimately, a unique experience. Sure, you may have read somewhere that people working at startups only drink Soylent and grind 24/7, which is what I thought before I worked at a small startup this past summer, but there is more to it. Whether you are just in 1st year or 3rd year, these 5 tips might help you get the most out of your summer startup internship – they definitely helped me get the most of mine.
Your title may be “Digital Marketing Intern” and your responsibilities may include “creating and executing marketing plans”, but don’t think that’s all you’re doing. Startups need interns who are versatile and can wear many hats. You can be managing their social media one day, but the next day you could be working with the business development team. For example, I worked with the marketing team using Hootsuite one day, but found myself learning how to mine data using Kimono the next day. It’s a lot of work and it can sometimes be tiring; every day can be a surprise, so be ready for that.
Startups love creativity. They’re constantly seeking new ways to build their image and acquire new users, so don’t shy away from any ideas you have. Even if they are not the best ideas, your manager or CEO will be happy that you are not sitting around waiting to be told what to do. A common misconception with interns is that they can’t do much or they are simply given menial tasks. Oftentimes, interns at startups will actually be tasked to come up with their own ideas to tackle certain issues and have the freedom to take it in any direction they see fit. Your responsibilities are big and you are a valuable asset to the company, so don’t think for a second that you can’t make an impact.
As mentioned in the first tip, you will be doing a lot of work interning at a startup. With that said, it’s okay to not like everything you do. You might think this is a problem because you were told you should love your job, but that doesn’t always happen immediately. Stick through the tough and dirty work, find the things you like, and don’t stop doing it. For me, I wasn’t the biggest fan of social media. However, I was introduced to the product management side of the company and was instantly drawn to it. Do more of the things you love, and the tasks you once thought were terrible won’t seem too bad after all.
Perhaps this seems obvious and straightforward, but, at first, I did not ask many questions. I simply executed some of their existing tasks, but after a while, I became more curious about the work and other teams in the company (web development, product management, etc). Working in a startup is an amazing learning opportunity and a great environment to soak in all the knowledge. The group of people you work with will definitely be supportive, so ask all the questions you may have – you never know what that can do for you in the future.
Despite what Rihanna says, not everything’s work, work, work. Get to know your coworkers – see what kind of music they like or what sports they watch. Grab a beer with them after work and just wind down. True, working at a startup requires a lot of work and takes up a lot of energy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find time to relax. Startups always take into consideration your personality and see if you fit with their culture, so if you were hired, there was a reason. There are a lot of unique personalities in your workplace, so take the time to get to know them.
While I’m sure there are many more ways to get the most out of your startup internship, these were 5 big ones for me. Regardless of which startup you end up working at, remember to keep an open mind and have fun.