18 answers

What are the benefits of interning/working for a startup?

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I am a high school student and in my current search for internships, everywhere I turn, I see startups. Big companies such as Google and NASA have correspondingly big impact on resumes and portfolios but what do small startups have to offer in terms of extension and development of skill sets, work ethic and future employment opportunities? #business #engineering #career #professional #recruiting #startups #employee-relations #personal-development

Great question, Timothy! I've worked for three startups while pursuing my undergraduate and now graduate degree. They were some of the best and most valuable positions I've held. When you work for a start up, you're forced to wear many hats. You're required to show up everyday and act like an owner. You have to give 110% and operate outside of your job description and even your comfort zone. This is how you grow as a professional. Plus, start ups are more likely to embrace change than large corporations. In the roles I've held with large organizations, there's always been too much red tape and push back when trying to innovate and initiate change. There's no better time to take a risk and jump on a new opportunity than while you're young. Kathleen Connolly
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Brandi’s Answer

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The biggest benefit of working for a startup is access. You are far better likely in a startup to, for example, work with and know the CEO and learn from there knowledge. Startups also give you a place to really shine, to have a big impact in the company success.

So why do a lot of companies put so much emphasis and value on internships with big companies such as Google? Timothy O.
Because they are successful companies with name recognition. Everyone knows Google. They know that Google is a big deal. But MyStartup is not a recognized entity. It is your job to sell your experience at MyStartup. Mentioned how you worked with the CEO to develop a better system for cutting checks or whatever. It's all in how effective you are in selling yourself. Brandi Olden
thankyou....... jagan K.
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Horatiu G.’s Answer

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Firstly, great question ... and beautifully worded at that. Communications skills will get you far in career and life. On to your question ...


I started my career working for large multinationals but have spent the last 2 years working for startups. It's a whole new world. At your age, getting an internship of any kind is a coup. Interning with a startup gives you an edge over peers in so far as you'll have much more interesting stories to tell in interviews and application essays. That and the depth of your experience may be greater in a startup environment, giving you a bit more insight into the kind of work you enjoy and find rewarding. This in itself is valuable. With regard to work ethic, it seems you already have that, and with regard to future employment opportunities ... all I can say is that where you intern in high school or early in your college career has little bearing. If you are fortunate enough to intern in your first two years of college, use it as an opportunity to explore. While your junior year internship may be more relevant to your full-time job search, as a recruiter what I look for more than industry or function or company is skill-set and mindset. Your first job will largely be learning-on-the-job. Bring curiosity, a strong worth ethic, and an analytical mindset and you'll likely succeed no matter the job.

Thank you Hoes you for your honest an sincere answer.. I actually do have great work ethic and communication skills; I wonder how you knew that. As of job opportunities & Internships, I'm generally looking for opportunities which would widen my perspective and provide great learning experiences Timothy O.
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Paul A’s Answer

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Timothy look at it this way - How awesome is that? If a door opens step forward and take it Any opportunity to gain experience at your age is great. If you don't like the opportunity that in its self is a learning experience. It is more about expanding your self awareness, likes, dislikes and personal preferences and less about job experience especially at your age. If its a total bomb so what! Have fun with this. You are in H.S. Lighten up!

Thanks Paul. I am currently searching for internships which I feel would at least be worth the time but I have been having trouble finding some which do not require me to be 16 years of age (as I am currently 15). Do you have any advice on where I could find some to build and strengthen my portfolio? Timothy O.
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Paul A’s Answer

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lHi Timothy! Do you have a DECA group in your school? Google it if not. If so suggest you join. I'm not sure an intern position in H.S. is that big a deal. Read Rich Dad Poor Dad for kids by Robert Kiyosaki, Play the Cash Flow Game for kids (check his website? Google it. Read Make The Impossible Possible by William Strickland and biographies of founders of Starbucks, KFC and McDonalds. Watch some video of these names at U tube. Below is a blog I wrote
What Were You Doing At Age 17?
I was at the end of my junior year in high school. My grade point was a 1.4. That's a "D" for those who don't know. It was that high because of my first B, in school ever that year, in "bonehead" English. That meant I was one of the smarter kids among the dumber low end english students.


When people would ask me what I wanted out of school I usually would say "me".


My experience in school was not a pleasant one. I flunked the sixth grade once and was very close a second time. My dad said "when you finish the 9th grade you are on your own". That didn't hold up in reality but the mindset was because of his life experience. My perspective of who I was, how smart I was and my vision of where I was going was severely limited and limiting.


That summer I got into a screaming match with my alcoholic dad and I left determined to be on my way "somewhere". I spent three days living at a high school friend's home without a clue. Thought I might enlist in the military, then an amazing event happened.


My mother was a legal secretary and also a receptionist for a doctor who had just passed away. She was helping the widow of the doctor clean up his office and estate and mentioned me and my having left home. She didn't know me but offered to let me stay at her house until I finished high school.


The house I left was a one bedroom one bath with 4 rooms downstairs with a large space upstairs with an unfinished floor and window settings both with exposed two by fours and no insulation. An exposed brick chimney ran through that open space. Our crudely built and sparsely furnished home was heated by a cooking wood stove in the kitchen and a front room wood furnace heated the rest of the house ??. Our home was inhabited by 7 people (5 bothers and 2 adults).


In addition, my mother was overwhelmed with her life so our house was messy, cluttered and not particularly clean, a lot. At my home we had a small kitchen radio as an entertainment center, hand ringer washing machine, ice box for refrigeration and a primitive toaster. No phone, no TV and no car until my older brother bought one in 1952. Walking was our usual mode of travel. I was fifteen at that time. Neither my mother (bus) or my dad (taxi) drove. I have no idea if they even knew how. My older brother went into the service via the National Guard and I became the designated driver at age 16.


The new home I moved into was immaculate and well furnished including a baby grand piano. It included numerous modern appliances, even a mangle for ironing and a white picket fence around a huge green well kept front lawn and also a huge flower filled back lot She had a two separate entrances driveway into a two-car garage housing a 1954 Cadillac. I had my first private bedroom ever.


I thought I had died and gone to heaven!


She changed my life in many ways. She also legally adopted me at age 21. I went from Paul Davenport to Paul Coulter, and created a new persona, one I hid behind, that carried me for years. 20 years later at 37 I was a college graduate and a self employed contract Sales Training Consultant working with American Honda M/Cs facilitating 3 day workshops for their company sales reprs and their dealership sales personnel nationally with a retail sales training program I created.


This later led to consulting contracts with Schwinn Bicyles, Giant Bicycles, Harley-Davidson, Yamaha Golf Carts and Honda of Canada doing similar things. I abruptly stopped doing sales training at 47 as I started a new and different phase of my life.


If you check out my linked in profile you'll see what a humungous difference one person made in my life


My 81th birthday will be June 20, 2015. I am still working, still growing and evolving.


I am fortunate and thankful to live the life I live and love being able to continue to pay my life forward in many different ways to my family, friends and clients.


One candle can light many other candles.


May you blossom and prosper as you light others candles!

Thanks so much for sharing this ... it does my heart good to see such generosity of spirit. Horatiu G. Stefan
Thank you so , Paumuch l. You really shed lots of insight into this. I do have a DECA group at my school and I plan on joining it next year. What advice do you have for an aspiring DECA state and national champion? Timothy O.
thankyou sirr jagan K.
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Toshiro K.’s Answer

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Dear Timothy,


Having worked for a successful start up as well as working currently for a large company, I can give a few comments. These comments are based on my experiences and observations, so your mileage may vary.



  • A start up has less personnel than a large company. Thus, in a start up, the breadth of your job may be larger and also closer to the top of the company hierarchy. This means you will likely learn a broader set of skills. You will likely have longer hours at a start up. (My experience is that at any company, having a strong work ethic is a prerequisite, not something developed there.) You will also be introduced to employees that are closer to the top than at a larger company, so the chance for networking is good. Having said that, I imagine there are plenty of opportunities for networking at a larger company.

  • A start up generally has less established infrastructure, in personnel, software, methodology, and equipment. You are likely to be more on your own in learning what needs to be learned. My experience is that in a start up, there is a greater need for people to hit the ground running. As there is less existing infrastructure, things at a start up may seem rough around the edges. However, this could be taken as an opportunity to help set up the foundations of a company, depending on how early in the history you are at the company.

  • In either case, probably the most important thing for an intern is who your host/mentor is. Are they into teaching or helping out the interns? Are they going to give you an opportunity or project where you have a chance to learn a lot? This may be a very large factor in leveraging your internship experience for future employment.


I hope this helps. Best wishes!

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Paul A’s Answer

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Timothy! Thank you for your kind words! Good question! Be willing to be the "go to person". Be dependable and trustworthy! Enhance your public speaking and media marketing skills, Read up on salesmanship - the fastest route for visibility in most companies. google Tom Hopkins or check him out on U tube.

Thank you again Paul, you definitely are a bowl of wisdom and knowledge! Timothy O.
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Wayne’s Answer

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Good question. Larger companies don't typically offer internships for HS students, however there are many opportunities for College graduates in those organizations. Getting an internship at a startup offers a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor and learn the business from the ground up. An intern would most likely be part of building processes and establishing procedures. These skills can be taken to any other industry so are extremely valuable to learn and gain experience with. Assuming you have no prior knowledge of the processes, it would allow you to ask questions and build your network. Never pass up an opportunity to learn since learning should be a life long endeavor. Good luck in whatever you choose to do.

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JoAnn’s Answer

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First off I think interning or working for a start-up is an excellent opportunity. I spent a large part of my early career working for these types of organizations and it really benefited me. Start-ups are opportunities to learn many different aspects of an organization and the more you learn the more you have to offer. In addition, you may find that there is some other aspect of a business that you like more than you might have expected. My advice: if you decide to work or intern for a start-up, take every opportunity available and learn as much as you can...you won't regret it!

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bhawna’s Answer

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Hi,
It is awesome to work/intern at startups because you get the overall experience of working through many roles,unlike in other big companies where you will work only based on your designation and will get less hands around with other work..So as a whole working for startup will give you lot of knowledge and experience,you can actually make your work more lively.

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Paul’s Answer

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Smaller startups can offer the ability to see the business top to bottom because there are less layers and people. Depending on how small and how the internship is structured you may even be able to meet and shadow almost everyone in the company.
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Richard’s Answer

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Great question. I have worked at NASA and I have worked with a startup that had a successful IPO. Both experiences were very rewarding and I would not trade one for more of the other. At NASA, you are in an environment that has well established processes and procedure. The compensation is good, but you did not have that potential to have exposure to the financial upside of a startup that is successful. In a startup, you will often get options (or shares). Those can be a windfall.

Whether or not your startup is successful, I think you learn how to wear many hats. There is a lot of energy and excitement in startups. More of a “startup vibe” in the atmosphere. Many startups in the Bay Area are using newer technology that will allow you to sharpen your skill sets. Many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies look for candidates from other SaaS companies. As startups begin to grow, they look for others with experience in startups that have taken companies from a startup to a mid-size of large organization. Candidates from startups learn to be “scrappy.” In other words, they learn to “get stuff done.”

To be successful, you will need to have a great work ethic. I think having startup experience with a high-growth company really gave me an education that I was only able to read about in graduate school.

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Jessica’s Answer

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I am founder of a nonprofit startup and I can tell you that as a startup, many of our interns say that they like have a direct involvement in many of the front-facing activities and can build real world experience in skills they want to develop for their future careers, versus when interning/working for larger organizations or companies where they feel like they are just a number. Startups are more flexible and allow you to learn a wider variety of topics and skills as they often need people to wear many hats to juggle the types of work coming their way. You get better access to the executive leadership, better ability to connect with the board of directors and/or clients, and making a bigger impact during your time.
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Jonathan’s Answer

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I've had the pleasure of interning at both startup companies and Fortune 100 companies and there are a lot of benefits/perks to both but working at startups is really fun and unique because you're often wearing multiple hats since they're trying to grow and don't have enough people staffed to do everything they need. At one point I was doing everything from: sales, marketing, business development, & partner alliances, even though my internship was to be a loan specialist! Startups are also really exciting to work for because these companies have the potential to be "the next big thing" in their space and it can be really amazing to say you were a part of their growth in the early days. Finally, you'll get 1:1 time with some really smart people who are experienced professionals and often come from large and reputable companies - take advantage of networking with them and learning as much as possible because as you move up to bigger companies that exposure drops dramatically.
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E’s Answer

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Working for startups you get to wear many hats and learn ALOT - good, bad and ugly. If you are just starting out your career, it's a great place to learn alot in a short amount of time. However, there are the ups and downs of the business cycle that comes with startups so if you can ride it out, it's a great learning ground!
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Matt’s Answer

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You're more likely to be trusted with a position of real responsibility early on in your career, if you're at a start-up. These companies are usually short-staffed, and take risks. They need solutions now, and they don't have to work forever. You'll have more personal responsibility in a start-up environment, and more opportunity to make a real impact.

On the down side, you're less likely to have someone more senior available to teach/mentor you. It's unlikely that you'll have access to much formal training in processes, policies, or best practices. You'll need to self-teach a lot of skills, and generally succeed with minimal supervision.
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Kendrall’s Answer

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On the ground experience (wearing multiple hats) is the biggest perk of working at a startup. Although it's a smaller company than your Googles, Facebooks, etc of the world, your company is still a firm in business. At its core, all businesses make money and spend money. Depending on your firm, you make and spend money differently.

As an example, a fin-tech payments firm charges customers for processing transactions. With the revenue/profit gained, the leadership needs to decide how to grow that business. Should they spend more on marketing, engineering, UX/UI, partnerships, sales? All questions an owner would need to answer.

If you worked for a large fin-tech like PayPal, a lot of those decisions would likely be made at the executive level. Then the leaders and employees beneath the executives would execute the strategy.

At a startup, a lot of those decisions are still made by the 'executives', but they are likely recommended by the team based on the day-to-day experiences. Therefore, as mentioned, at a large company you are likely further away from the decision as to how your firm makes and spends money. At a startup, you'll be a closer to those decisions...and gaining that experience is invaluable as you grow as a professional.
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Monica’s Answer

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My first internship in college (Sophomore year) was a start-up. I got to work in a specialized field that is up and coming (product development) and was able to have more responsibilities than when I interned for bigger companies. I was able to pick and choose what I wanted to work on and got hands-on development in skills I wanted. This ended up helping me be more compelling to larger companies when it was time to interview for full time work. During my start-up internship I found that I loved what I was doing and was able to switch my major and eventually get my masters in the subject. I would highly recommend interning at a start-up as it is extremely valuable skills to develop at a young age.

I have found that in meetings now, I am able to hold myself comfortably around people that are at the VP level because I had direct interactions with them everyday at the start-up. It has helped me immensely with people and technical skills that were not available at my second, bigger company internship.
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Brandon’s Answer

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Working for a startup will allow you to be seen/heard. Often in large corporations it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. In a small to medium sized company what you do, who you are, and what you are capable of will be known. If you chose this route give it 100%, commit to their vision, and do all you can do to drive success. You never know where it will take you.
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