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