5 tips for nailing your first startup internship

Internships can suffer from a reputation for dead-end tasks and making the coffee, but you’ll find the opposite to be true at a startup.

Startup interns typically take on a lot more responsibility, and enjoy the unique perspective of learning what it takes to scale up a company. Since startups are typically smaller than the average corporations, interns tend to be treated as regular employees and are given tasks equally weighted. You’ll also get to enjoy the fulfilment of being part of a startup’s growth story – how many people can say that?

Whether you’re fresh out of university or just hungry for work experience, there’s no doubt that interning at a startup offers a host of benefits to the ambitious. Ready for the challenge? Here are five tips for getting the most out of your startup internship:

Know what you’d like to achieve during your internship. You don’t need to have a fixed vision, but you should have some idea of which areas of the startup you’re interested in, whether that’s product, marketing, or HR. Similarly, it’s helpful to know the gaps in your skillset that you’d like to work on; for example, if you want to improve public speaking skills, offer to present team results at your company all-hands. In any case, make sure you let your supervisor know exactly what you’re aiming for: it’ll help them send the right opportunities your way.

But be flexible! Equally, you should be open to flexing your adaptability by taking on new tasks and working in different areas of the business. While it’s great to have a concrete idea of what you want to achieve, it’s also beneficial to keep an open mind to working elsewhere. For example, if you’re interning in the recruitment team but are asked to attend a marketing brainstorm, what do you have to lose? It’ll open up new opportunities and maybe even lead to a change of goals.

Take notes and soak up knowledge. The point of your internship is to learn as much as you can, so make sure you’re asking lots of questions (nobody will get annoyed, we promise!) and documenting your learnings. Not only is this beneficial for your development, it will also make things easier for updating your CV/LinkedIn in the future; you’ll be able to write exactly what your roles and responsibilities were, who you were working with and what you achieved.

Maximise your internal networking opportunities. While it can be daunting to stray from other interns, it’s highly beneficial in the long run to make connections throughout the company. Not only will it make your experience more fun (it’s good to be sociable!) having the right 30-minute (virtual) coffee or lunch break also exposes you to other areas of the business, ultimately steepening the learning curve. Additionally, networking means boosting your professional network, which can benefit you long beyond your internship experience.

Enjoy it! Startups have a unique environment, and while working hard is part of the experience, playing hard often is, too. Enjoy the sociable atmosphere and use that time to make connections and unwind. The days might be challenging, but make sure to revel in the experience, too. In very few workplaces will you experience the same fast pace, learning curves, and limitless opportunity for growth.