Startup ≠ Backup

Guest blog from ELP student: Jennifer Yang
Sophomore | Ross School of Business

 

I remember speaking to a friend about summer internships. We shared possible plans for the summer and she concluded hers with: “…and if I can’t find anything, I’ll just work at a startup.”

I wondered at the time: Why ‘just work at a startup’? Startups are very different than corporate. Working at a startup is hard, and shouldn’t be thought of as a backup.

After my experiences recruiting this year, I can say that startup recruiting is a different game. It’s very different from corporate recruiting and takes much more dedicated effort.

 

First, startups have uncertainties.

You never know what may happen. For instance, one of the startups I was looking into had recently done a budget review. And to my dismay, that meant they would not be bringing on interns that summer. Most startups are running on a limited budget — both money and time.

 

Second, startup recruiting is not as structured.

Very few small startups have a Human Resources department. When I visited Detroit companies, or talked to individuals involved in startups, they either were a founder themselves or knew someone in the startup. This makes sense. With the main focus on efficient growth, hiring someone with a stamp of approval from an existing employee is a more strategic use of any startup’s time.

 

Third, even fewer startups have a rigid internship program.

The most noticeable similarity between all the startup internships I applied for is that there is no set group of tasks to be completed on a day-to-day basis. One retail startup’s role description page summed it up nicely: “one day you might be coming up with the next cool bundle, and then next, you’ll be helping ship them because you sold too many”.

 

Fourth, they try to hire efficiently.

Startups rarely have the extra cash to hire an intern and have them hang around all summer. There will be work involved; they want to see tangible skills you can bring to the table.

 

startup-photos-medium-attachmentWhat do all of these things mean for us as students?

Startup opportunities are out there, and it takes real effort to get one. Talking to people involved in the startup community and reaching out to companies are ways to get involved. Learning useful skills and programs is another way to position yourself. Additionally, programs organized by the school that pair students up with startups (such as ELP) are a great way to get involved and connected. Startups aren’t impossible, and they’re not routine.  Startups offer challenging and dynamic ways to apply yourself. Who’s up for it?