Startups from a Recent College Grad’s Perspective
At the end of my college experience, I had the chance to get experience in the startup world; a lucky encounter after years of toying with the idea of law school. My first internship began at a startup incubator: a business program/co-working space that was a startup itself. As a marketing assistant/event coordinator/social media intern (typical with startups, I took on a lot of different roles), I was able to get exposure of the startup world, and the amazing individuals that call themselves entrepreneurs. After the first taste, I was hooked: I knew that my future lay with startups, and hopefully someday, starting one of my own.
Getting Into the Startup World
Many college grads know, from the beginning, that their goals lie with the ever-growing startup culture. But take my case as an example: it’s never too late to get involved. Regardless of whether you’re a student or a recent grad, the following tips can help you get involved with the local startup culture:
Get Involved with the Community
Certain cities, such as San Francisco and New York, have a stronger startup culture than other areas. But with the growing number of entrepreneurs, startup cultures can be found in various cities throughout the country. Through a simple online search, college students and grads can find meetups, foundations and startup communities in their area. Speaking to local business schools and professors can also start individuals on the hunt for the community.
Once students learn where the startups are located, the next step is to get involved with the members. We all know the mantra that networking is key, especially true for those in the startup world. By demonstrating interest and passion, the grad can draw the attention of a startup community member.
Unless the startup happens to be funded by angel investors and the like, it’s likely that the average startup will have a very tight budget. Therefore, internships are a common way for startups to find and nurture talent. An internship can be a valuable way to get experience and applicable skills. In addition, an internship can connect you to other members within the community, providing the grad with contacts and connections. However, that being said:
Know What You’re Getting Into
Unfortunately, there are a fair amount of employers that are simply looking for free labor or an extra pair of hands. But an internship should be more than just getting coffee for the higher-ups. A great internship provides the individual with a learning experience and a long-term relationship with the employer. It’s reasonable to take an unpaid internship, as long as you’re getting valuable experience, learning useful skills, yet still understand the risks.
In an internship, the startup does have responsibility to the intern in providing a valuable experience. However, the responsibility does not lie solely with the startup. In order to make a good impression or secure a further position, the individual must work hard, show initiative and go beyond the normal boundaries. Remember, unless you have a written contract or verbal agreement, the startup is not obligated to give you a job. Taking an internship with a startup is essentially a gamble, as the individual is relying on the hope that the startup will become a success in the future. But working for a startup can leave the individual with experience and contacts that extends well beyond the end of the internship.
Have you ever worked at a startup? What was your experience like?
What else should startup interns/employees be aware of?
Do you think a startup or a large established company gives recent professionals better job experience?