Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
You saw The Social Network and thought it was more inspirational to you than it was critical of Mark Zuckerberg. You think the contestants on “Shark Tank “ are jokers and you could wipe the floor with their ideas. You desire a work environment that is fueled by half adrenaline, half caffeine (OK – for us, there’s an unhealthy percentage of chocolate in there too). Whatever it is, you’ve got the startup bug. Now, how to break in?
The great news is that (we’d argue) every startup needs interns. It’s the perfect match between needing to get a product to market on relatively little capital, and between people who really want an incredible, hands on learning experience. Also working in your favor is that there’s currently a startup explosion going on across the country, mainly on the coasts. Finally, the roles that lend themselves to internships are definitely ones that startups need: social media, marketing, PR, research, “right hand guy/gal”. So the gigs are out there if you know where to find them. The bad news is that while every startup needs interns, not every startup gets around to hiring them. Startup founders are crazy pressed for time, and they don’t always have extra time to be finding, hiring and training interns, especially since they don’t know how long the interns will be around. They’re also notorious micro-managers, who generally go by the rule, “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done right.”
So those are the factors working in your favor, and against you, before you even find an internship and/or get an interview. With this knowledge, what can you do maximize your chances?
1. Numbers game. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Apply for a ton of internships – 20 or 30 if you have to. The competition is fierce – a lot of people saw the Facebook movie and got the bug too!
2. Convince them of your dedication. Startup founders want to know that you’re a startup enthusiast through and through. They want to know that you’re committed to working for a startup, and to working for THEM. You need to convince them that you’re dying to help them in their mission to, say, revolutionize the way people search for pens online. At a startup, the pay may not be the highest out there, but the personal fulfillment has a huge value to them, and they need to know you’re bought into that.
3. Show them why they need you – and why you won’t be more trouble than you’re worth. As we said above, your internship won’t be a piece of cake for your founders to administer. So demonstrate your new, fresh ideas. Suggest 10 ways they could streamline their current process (startups love to do things faster, better, cheaper!). Demonstrate that you can work independently and with little oversight. But do all in a respectful tone – don’t be a know-it-all, of course.
Next up in our Series on Startup Culture: Day One on the Job.