Entrepreneur

10 reasons every college student should intern at a startup

This post was written by Fiestah intern and New School University student Danielle Small.

After my last internship at a digital marketing agency ended in May, I went to an NY Creative Interns mixer to find another one. There I met the co-founder of a startup that needed an intern to manage their social media and write their blog. I knew what a startup was, but not much else. I quickly found out that this wasn’t a traditional internship filled with coffee runs, but it was a crash course in what it takes to be an entrepreneur. In today’s freelancer economy, it’s a great idea for college students to get experience at a startup. These are my reasons.

1. They are close to your age. A lot of entrepreneurs are young, which allows for a certain rapport that you wouldn’t get in another internship. I love that I can talk to my bosses about what happened on my favorite web show, Awkward Black Girl, or that we listen to the same music.

2. Networking and travel opportunities. Through this internship I have met so many key players in the startup world and have received invaluable advice for my career and future. I even got to meet Dan Bricklin, creator of the spreadsheet, at the International Startup Festival in Montreal.

3. Constant inspiration. It’s hard not to be inspired when your bosses leave high paying banking jobs to invest themselves in their dreams. Being around entrepreneurs showed me that there can be much more than adhering to the so-called American Dream.

4. Hands-on experience. Right out of the gate I was designing their social media strategy and taking charge of their marketing plan. They give me responsibilities, and they nurture and mentor me instead of assigning me random tasks, creating a well-rounded learning experience.

5. Informal and flexible atmosphere. When I had my interview with my current bosses, I was put at ease when I saw them in T-shirts and jeans. I was able to work remotely and in their “office” (like many young startups, they work out of cafes). This meant that I could visit my family in Jamaica during the summer and still be able to work.

6. They actually listen to you. It’s unfortunate that in the Zuckerberg age many companies still think young adults aren’t worth listening to. Since startups aren’t concerned with the traditional company model or reprimands from higher-ups, they value each voice, even if it comes from a 19 year old. This makes me feel like I am apart of the company family instead of a random employee.

7. They want to grow with you. They are more invested in my growth as an employee than any employer I have ever had. Because startups are small, they know that an employee that isn’t growing with the company only hurts them.

8. No bureaucracy. In a startup you don’t have to answer to 10 different people. And nobody cares about hierarchy. That’s why my bosses left the banking world. In a startup, everyone is an equal.

9. Free food. I don’t know if every startup does this, but the free food is an amazing benefit. Since we work out of cafes, my bosses make sure we are well fed at the most delicious restaurants and cafes in town. Some favorites are Gaia’s Italian Cafe and Mission Chinese on the Lower East Side.

10. Gives you entrepreneurial skills. Watching my bosses navigate the rough waters of a young startup has been educational, and the responsibility they’ve given me allows me to discover skills and strengths I didn’t know I had. In my notebook right now I have five different ideas for startups. Before, I never thought of myself being an entrepreneur, but now I know I don’t want to be anything else.

Danielle Small is a journalism major at The New School University in New York City. She’s held four internships in the last two years and has worked since she was 13 as a paper girl, Burger King employee, amusement park attendant, customer service representative, and freelance writer. She’s currently interning as marketing associate for Fiestah. She’s also the Opinions Editor for The New School Free Press and a freelance writer and social media manager. She recently met Oprah, and it was the most significant moment in her life.

[Top image credit: William Perugini/Shutterstock]


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