Why every university student should intern in a startup

If you’re fresh out of college or feel like trading stuffy libraries for some real-life work experience, chances are you’re looking for an internship.

Usually, the first impulse seems to be applying for an internship position in a renowned company. But have you ever considered interning in a startup instead? Maybe you have, but feel like it wouldn’t give you the same prestigious and well-structured plunge into the workforce as working in an esteemed company would.

Granted, the unsung name of a little startup won’t earn you the admiring “Ahs” and “Ohs” of family and friends. And yes, the workload in a startup is heavy, the salary is comparatively low, and there might be substantial uncertainties about the future of the very company you intend to work for. Nevertheless, when consulting people who have worked in startups, the consensus persists – experiences you gain outweigh by far the disadvantages of the startup work. And here’s why.

For starters, even as an intern, you are an integral part of the (probably rather small) startup staff. Hence, every single team member is valuable and directly contributing to the success, failure, and growth of the company. That includes you, too. What you will do, will make a difference, and your efforts and actions will be visible and noticed. That entails that you will be taking on a lot of responsibility and tackle various challenges from the very first day onwards.

Since startups function within a relatively small team, you might find yourself doing all sorts of jobs that just demand to be done on that particular day, most of which will very likely exceed your current skill set. This is when you get the possibility to take the chance you probably wouldn’t get in any other working environment, and discover your talents and enrich your knowledge. Facing different challenges, you will be developing new skills as you go, get plenty of hands-on experience, and thus benefit from many opportunities to grow from.

By solving diverse tasks with different people, you will get exposed to various departments of the startup and – due to the cooperative atmosphere and the flat hierarchies startups are renowned for -, you’ll be interacting with pretty much all your co-workers and the firm’s decision-makers in no time, learning from the best and brightest on a daily basis. The relations you establish during your internship might turn out to become important business contacts in your future career. You might even get to rub shoulders with the founder of the company and let the entrepreneurial spirit rub off on you. Furthermore, you will get to know the firm from ground to top along the way, learning how a business is developed, how to set goals, and how to implement and develop strategies – in short, you’ll get insights into the inner workings of an entire company.

Still not sure if a startup is the right fit for you?

Well, here’s another bonus: Exposure to a fast-paced, creative, and innovative startup environment might actually just be the one thing to get you sorted. If you haven’t figured out your path in life yet, are unsure about what to do after college, or are simply uncertain about what it is that you’re actually really good at – testing your skills in diverse areas, having to face different tasks, and coming up with solutions by constantly acquiring new skills might help you figure out your strengths, weaknesses and passions. Fact is, you’ll never know until you give it a try.

“Startups aren’t for everyone, and the only way to know if they’re for you is to go work at one. In return you won’t get stability per se, but you will get a crash course in making the world your oyster and the experience of working on a team that has a deeply ingrained mission […] you’ll see a new side of motivation unrelated to the stable paycheck. Do it while you can!”

– Derek Shanahan, Co-Founder of Foodtree

And obviously, we have to agree with Derek Shanahan. What better opportunity than by starting out with an internship? You’ll get a taste of a startup life and if it turns out not to be your cup of tea after all, you can move on to the next project, equipped with a wealth of experiences, many practical and transferable skills, and an abundance of new knowledge that would have been hard to come by as an intern anywhere else in the business world.

Ready  to check some of these amazing startup opportunities out there? Take a look at here.

Author: Catherine Barth

Indonesian adventure | The story of Gloria

“Volunteering has always been one of my biggest dreams, something that I felt the need doing at least once in my lifetime. This opportunity arrived in April 2016, when I was elected as the winner of the contest launched by AIESEC Lugano at my university. Looking through the opportunities, I didn’t know what I wanted exactly. I just knew I wanted to go somewhere far away.

This is how I came across the project I applied for: Morning Sunshine in Indonesia. Immediately, I felt the positive vibes from the project’s name, and applied. Step after step, I went through the application process and coaching. I was mentally getting ready for my new experience, which I knew would change my life forever. I was aware that this meant going completely out of my comfort zone, so I tried not to set too high expectations. Actually, the only expectations were meeting new people who would leave a mark in my life, crossing the pre-set limits I had, and finally, enjoying every second of my time in Indonesia.

Once in Jakarta, I felt disoriented. But that was quickly replaced with warm welcoming, hugs, and smiles by the organizers Yvonne and Michael who took me to the base camp where we were staying.

17 international volunteers, 12 organizers, and 4 local volunteers. We became a family since day one. Is there anything better than feeling close with people you’ll be living with for 6 weeks?

Gloria in action: workshop with Senior High school students on characteristics and skills of a good vs. bad leader (SMAN 61, Jakarta)

“Gloria in action: workshop with Senior High school students on characteristics and skills of a good vs. bad leader (SMAN 61, Jakarta)”

This experience has been the best of my life, so far. Not only it gave me the opportunity to go to the other side of the world, see new places, meet new people, and widen my horizon, but it also made me grow, facing every challenge as a learning opportunity, while improving my skills.

The Morning Sunshine Project gave me the chance to improve my public speaking skills when going to high schools and teaching students about leadership. I was finally able to break the fear barrier when speaking in front of a public. It made me realize how much potential I actually have. Thanks to this experience I no longer underestimate myself nor my capabilities. I believe in myself and I know I can do great things.

Last but not least, it made me understand how lucky I am. I have learned not to take things for granted, because nothing on this planet is granted for us.

"Farewell party: 5 best volunteers won the award. I (2nd on the right) was nominated as the most innovative volunteer of the project. Blessed!"

“Farewell party: 5 best volunteers won the award. I (2nd on the right) was nominated as the most innovative volunteer of the project. Blessed!”

Also, I understood the value “thank you.”  After every class, the kids asked for our contacts, to follow us on Instagram, etc. I can’t describe how happy I was reading private messages from students saying, “Thank you, Miss Gloria. Your words changed my life.” or “You have inspired me to never give up. Thank you.” I didn’t believe that I could actually have an impact on someone’s life in such a short time. Only after receiving those sweet messages I understood that when I think I did little, for someone, I did a lot. Once you see with your own  eyes how a simple smile, hug, or a picture taken together can make someone’s day, you’ll value those little things way more. And these are the things that make a difference.

I would encourage everyone to go on an adventure like the one I had. It’s enriching, and you get the chance to discover and improve yourself.  After my time in Indonesia, I feel more self-confident, and my self-esteem has increased significantly. You’re in this new environment without the fear of being judged, living in the moment as it comes, and trying to make the best of it.

I build my life around memories and experiences, and my Indonesian adventure has given me a lot of those, and no one will ever be able to take them away from me. They’ll always have value, because they contributed to make me become the person that I am and will be in the future.”

Elementary kids drawing the Swiss flags and leaving messages for me on the paper.

“Elementary kids drawing the Swiss flags and leaving messages for me on the paper.”

If you want to have your own adventure, take a look at here.

Author: Gloria Mihaljevic & Melani Kalev