How to Succeed at a Startup Internship
Blog post by ELP Student Emily Tumminia (Organizational Studies [intended] | Class of 2021) Interning at Cahoots in Ann Arbor
Starting a new internship can be scary, whether it be at a large company where you are one of many, or a startup, where you are the only intern in a company of merely three people. Even though startups are usually much smaller and more casual than a typical company, it does not mean the work you do is less important or shouldn’t be your best effort.
While the idea of starting an internship somewhere unfamiliar may be daunting, here is a list of five things you could do to start on the right foot.
Names are hard. Throughout your internship, you will most likely be introduced to several people, a lot of whom can have a big impact on your summer experience and overall future. On my first day, after sitting down with my supervisor, I met about 10 other people and immediately forgot everything about them, as I was frantically trying to remember so much information. From that point on, I made it a goal of mine to have a list of the people I met and a couple of bullet points of information about them. Each day, after I talk to someone new, I add them to my list, and work to remember their name for the next time I see them. While this may seem obvious, you never know who you will meet or what kind of an impact they may have on your life.
Unload the dishwasher.
Let’s be honest. As an intern, you are going to be asked to do several things that may seem like a waste of time or that simply won’t align with your ultimate career goals. No matter the task, if it is something relatively reasonable, you should not only complete it, but do it with a smile on your face. You never know when the little tasks will turn into big tasks, and your willingness to help in any way will not go unnoticed. Being committed to your internship and company means completing every task you are assigned to your greatest potential. If you enter your internship with this can-do, team-like attitude, you will immediately be set up for success.
Find a mentor.
Having a mentor is one of the most important things you should try to do during a startup internship. Startups can be very confusing and having someone who you can go to with any questions or concerns will allow you to have a much greater experience. Not only will a mentor help you while you are an intern, but they can become a great connection to have throughout your career and overall life. It is important to find someone who not only cares about the work you are doing during the internship, but who cares about you as a person and wants to see you succeed and grow. If you can find that person, you are golden.
Don’t be afraid to ask for more.
Working at a startup can be tricky. You never really know for sure what the next project or task will be, and honestly, I bet no one really does. Startups grow at rates different than typical companies and are constantly learning as they go. There will be times where you have a lot on your plate and others where you really just do not have much to do. It is crucial to be able to talk to your supervisor/mentor and ask if there is anything you can help them with. They may not always know if you are finished with a task or if you want to work on something else. It is important to be able to speak up and ask for more work if needed.
When it comes to an internship, everything can seem scary and confusing at first. However, it is important to remember why you are there. While it is meant to help you determine what career path you want to pursue, internships are really meant to be fun learning experiences. You should make the most out of every opportunity and be sure to talk to the people around you. Finally, make friends and connections not only for the summer, but for years to come.