As Spring semester approaches for Indiana college students, many will be looking for internship opportunities next Summer. There’s plenty of material out there on how to make the most of your typical internship, but what if you want to intern at a startup? How do you land the job? How do you become a great intern? How can you translate that into future opportunities?
To help solve that problem, I sat down with a good friend of mine, Miguel de la Rosa. Miguel was an Indiana State Junior when he landed an internship at an Orlando-based startup named “Your Brand Voice.” Since that time, he’s become their Digital Marketing Manager and an evangelist for interning at startups.
Here are just a few things that all college students should know if they’re interested in interning at a startup:
Not All Fun and Games
To many college kids, tech entrepreneurship harkens images of Mark Zuckerberg drinking in his dorm room, but Miguel warns that there are very real responsibilities associated with entrepreneurial life.
“Working for a startup is a lifestyle,” he says.
Despite the hard work, however, there are a few key benefits.
Miguel couldn’t speak enough about how rewarding it was to take ownership of his work. “I’ve been able to help him build his company from the ground up,” he says. By interning at a startup, you make a lot of sacrifices, but the level of pride you’re able to take in your work is unprecedented.
Many internships devolve into coffee and copies. At a startup, however, you are asked to take on many challenges that larger corporations would never ask of you.
“Anyone who has experience working in a startup can take on literally any challenge.”
While at some internships you may get the experience of professional behavior in an office, startups offer the kind of “Get Stuff Done” experience that will speak volumes to any employer.
“At any startup, the story hasn’t been written yet.”
You are on the ground level with the ability to affect change in a company. As a college student, that’s a very intimidating prospect, but making that kind of an impact can help guide a young person to be more proactive in their career, whether they’re in a startup or not.
Landing a Startup Internship
So what can college students do if a startup internship sounds like a good option for them? Miguel had a few pointers:
Build Your Network
Startups won’t be knocking on your career center’s door. By building your brand online and offline, you can find startup opportunities that you wouldn’t normally see.
Build Your Brand
“In the startup tech space, the traditional resume is dead,” said de la Rosa. If you want to be noticed, you need to build a memorable online brand that fits the culture of the world you’re entering.
Build Others Up
Positive energy and open-mindedness are a form of currency in the startup world. Make sure you’re helping others accomplish their goals. Promote startups’ blogs, share their pitches on Twitter, find ways to make the startup community more successful and they’ll return the favor.
Making the Most of Your Internship
So how do college students translate their startup internship into a job opportunity? A few tips:
Come in With No Expectations
You may fail, you may succeed, you may leave the startup exactly where you found it. Don’t expect to turn a growth stage company into an empire in one Summer. Go in with no expectations and it will be easier for you to focus on making a positive difference.
Stick Your Neck Out
Often times you’re writing your own story at a startup. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Even if they fail, you’re still showing initiative and entrepreneurial spirit. This can translate into job opportunities moving forward, or at least a shining recommendation.
Do What You’re Good At
“Don’t limit yourself to what the job description says,” de la Rosa told me. Often times, you will have skills to offer a company that they don’t even know they need. Do what’s expected of you first, do what you know you’re great at second.
Have you interned at a startup? What lessons did you learn from your experience that you applied later in your career?