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August 8, 2019

Why I chose to intern at a startup

By: Kelsey Sullivan

Apply for the name, and the name only!

It’s almost that time of year: fall. To some people that may mean sweater weather and pumpkin spice lattes, but for a lot of college students it means recruiting season and career fairs. I think we can all agree that finding an internship is stressful and it is almost impossible to figure out which company we want to spend the next summer with. The most logical route seems to be getting an internship at a large, “brand name” corporation in order to secure a full-time offer post-graduation. 

But why do we think that? Chances are those interns are working 85+ hours a week, creating models in Excel, formatting slides, and realizing their work does not have a huge impact on the company. Although it seems like I am anti-corporate internships, I’m not! There are so many benefits, such as the training, credibility, networking, and compensation that goes with an established company. As you begin to plan for the fall, let me share my summer experiences to help the process.

Welcome to the wild world of startups

There is another option I believe all college students should consider: the startup world. Whether you are majoring in marketing or software engineering, there is a spot for you. Startups, and I don’t mean 2 people sitting in a WeWork all day, allow interns to make their own projects and act as their own manager. I am currently a marketing intern at Narrative Science. We’ve been turning data into plain-English stories for 10 years, but with launching a new product this summer, it definitely still feels like a startup. A startup with stability. I wanted to try something different, a tech company in a non-technical position. I sought out a job that seemed complicated and thought “If I can’t handle this, I can always take a different path next summer!”

Here’s what to look forward to at a startup

During my summer internship, the entire marketing team was constantly there to teach, give advice, but most importantly let me run with projects I was interested in. It’s not easy to sum up my experience of interning at a startup in three points. But for the sake of time and simplicity, I’ll give it a try.

1. I am a temporary, full-time employee

I feel the word “intern” seems unfitting for my role this summer. I think of an “intern” as someone who goes on coffee runs, creates Powerpoint presentations, and does busy work. 

Therefore, I consider myself (and am treated as) a temporary full-time employee. A great example of the opportunities I get at Narrative Science happened in my second week on the marketing team. I got nominated to go to a networking event at a nearby WeWork. I wasn’t comfortable selling Lexio, but no one seemed like it was a barrier. I talked to a few prospects and got to experience the early stages of gaining awareness of a new product. I later learned that our COO has been actively trying to create a culture of “getting comfortable, with being uncomfortable” as a mechanism for growth and innovation. This was my first experience learning through healthy discomfort.

2. I get face time with the executive board

I don’t mean Facetime call. I mean real human interaction. As interns, we had two sessions where we sat down with the CEO to ask questions and get to know him better and more personally. Additionally, we are invited to reach out and talk to anyone on the executive leadership team. I’ve done projects and had weekly meetings with the VP of Marketing throughout my internship. Stuart, our CEO, graduated from Miami and occasionally pops by my desk to talk about his college days and what has changed on campus. All of them come to us with their personal advice and encouragement to learn as much as we can.

3. Work is fun, exciting, and new every day

Fun fact: according to Google, one of the most fun jobs is to be a caretaker of a private island. Who knew that was a job!? That’s not my summer internship, but I still look forward to each of my days at Narrative Science. Whether I am having a meeting with an agency or eating our weekly free lunch on Thursdays, I am always entertained. 

Last week, my donut date, John Delay, (we have a Slack extension that pairs up employees for donut/coffee, just to get to know each other) brought a dozen donuts from DoRite. We took a picture with the box, each ate one donut, then took the rest out of the box. Then we took another picture of us and the empty box, with frosting smeared across our faces, to send in the Donut Slack channel. We were cracking up as everyone thought we had a donut eating competition. It was hilarious!

Forced…meditation?

Here’s one last story to wrap-up my experience. In our last monthly sales and marketing meeting, our COO Nick Beil, kicked it off by doing a short meditation exercise where we closed our eyes and listened to “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. The goal was to help us visualize a moment where we had to rise to a challenge and hype us up about Lexio. In a company of 100 people, it’s easier to have a tight-knit group ready to take on any challenge. You’re free to try anything and everything!

To all the students reading out there: try just one internship at a company with a startup environment. You don’t have to commit to a career or worry about losing a spot in your desired corporation. They will be there waiting for you! You will not only feel fulfilled, you’ll also get to sit in cool lounge areas, get free snacks in the kitchen, leave for a doctors appointment without question, and launch revolutionary products that the world has never known. Again, I am not anti-corporation at all. I am currently looking at consulting and big leadership programs to diversify my experiences. I believe that this startup environment has given me the confidence and creativity to excel at my next job and in my career. 

Close your eyes, visualize your success, lose yourself in the moment, and go!

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