Blog Post written by ELP Student Isabella Wash.

As a freshman looking for internship opportunities, I knew my options were limited. Fortunately, I was extremely interested in entrepreneurship and wanted to work at a startup, who are usually more open to hiring freshmen. However, I went through the recruiting process and ended up getting an opportunity to spend my freshman year interning in a large corporation. I was initially hesitant to accept the offer. I was worried I was selling out and “drinking the kool aid” of corporate America. Additionally, as an aspiring founder, I was worried my experience would negatively influence the way I form my future company. Despite that, I accepted the offer, had an amazing experience, and took away many lessons that I believe will make me a better entrepreneur. I was able to do 5 things that I feel positively contributed to my future entrepreneurial pursuits.

GIF: Well, I don't like that.

1) Identify Faults

During my internship, I was extremely attentive and critical towards the practices of my company. I made notes of what I liked, didn’t like, made me productive, and incentivized me. For example, free coffee, snacks, and products definitely incentivized me to come into the office when I was given virtual options. On the other hand, certain social aspects I felt were common in corporate organizations negatively contributed to my experience and productivity. By identifying so, I am able to actively avoid and monitor those perceived faults when I create my own company.

GIF of Michael from the office. He is holding a mug that says "World's Best Boss" and the captions reads, "That pretty much sums it up."

2) Understanding Scaling

Large corporations are made up of big teams made up of small teams made up of even smaller teams and so on. By being at the bottom of the chain, I was able to learn about structure, the people above me, and how information was lost or mismanaged from the top. It gave me an in depth picture of how companies and ideas scale properly or improperly and where in scaling loses forms of productivity. 

GIF: "Have you thought about calling in the expert?"

3) Connect with Experts

Luckily I was able to work within my company’s sustainability sector, which perfectly aligned with my interests. By working with my interests in a large company, I was able to make amazing connections within the industry internally and externally. Working with these “industry experts” for a summer helped make deep connections and gave me insights on how they think. When the day for creating my company comes, I will have a repertoire of experienced contacts.   

GIF: "That's a great idea. I like this idea!"

4) Gain inspiration for future ventures

While I mentioned I was within an industry I liked, I constantly had to do work in areas I was unfamiliar or seemingly uninterested with. To make the work more interesting, I found myself finding weird niches or intersections with my interests. Being forced to be immersed in ideas that were outside my studies or expertise opened my mind to new ideas for entrepreneurship and eventually gave me ideas for companies. 

GIF: "I don't usually bring my work to the dinner table."

5) Develop healthy work habits

Like most with an entrepreneurial spirit, I have a tendency to get an idea, grind super hard, and get little sleep in pursuit of accomplishing it. Aspiring entrepreneurs often idolize that same supposed grind. While I completely respect the grind and know it is essential to taking a company off the ground, there is the question of what you do once the initial push is over. Being in corporate showed me the importance of creating timelines, long term plans, and work habits that will last beyond your temporary assignments or projects. 

While I don’t think it is absolutely essential to try corporate for a year or two, I think being open to the  idea will certainly teach you many lessons that will provide you and your hopeful startup many benefits in the long run (and perhaps helpful job security in the future).

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