Delving into the world of entrepreneurship and cutting-edge ideas was not on my list of “things to do before starting college,” yet here we are. Very few students who intend to pursue a university degree become interns before going off to school, but I didn’t want to sit around until the summer after my freshman year. I wasn’t willing to wait to embark on a journey that seemed to call me – unpaid internships.
It’s true, I felt drawn to the world of acting as, essentially, a sponge. I wanted to work with fantastic people and absorb every groundbreaking idea they voiced. Getting in at the ground level of intriguing startups was the easy part, but finding my place in them was not so simple. I spent time traveling, working on planes, in airports, in random coffee shops and co-working spaces to make it all fit. Although my work seemed tedious and unimportant at times, I knew that someone had to do it.
This has been going on since April, and in that time, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about how my work as an intern may impact my professional life going forward. Although everyone has said that making a reputation for myself as a hard worker will never hurt me, I’ve often wondered if it will stunt my growth or creativity. There is always a nagging voice in the back of my mind asking me “why bother working for a startup when you don’t have an idea for one of your own?”
Ponderings such as that are tricky. My own consciousness does beg a decent question: is it worth it to learn the workings of a brand new, yet complex idea if you don’t have plans to ever use the knowledge to create something from your mind? The answer to this question has to be found inside of every intern, but here is my reasoning on why it is still valuable to intern at a startup:
- You’re learning something: Regardless of what you’re doing, you’re increasing your skill set. I don’t care what anyone else says, the more you’re capable of the more your value will increase. You’re being taught how to communicate with people, convince them that your idea is worth a shot, and how to follow through on that statement.
- Your network of connections is expanding. The best advice I’ve read in a long time is to always ask for two introductions from everyone you meet. It doesn’t matter if they’re the CEO of the biggest company in the world or just a casual friend you go get drinks with on the weekend. It truly is who you know, not what you know.
- You are actually building your reputation. By working with startups and people who want to see the world move and shake, you’re creating a name for yourself as someone who is willing to do the hard work that gets good results. Supervisors don’t want people who were never willing to risk working at a startup, they want people who saw the risk and took the chance anyway because they had the confidence that their skills could push the company to where it needed to be.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your own idea. One may come in the future, one may not, but working as an intern doesn’t define your position for life. The only thing it says about you is your willingness to pursue a career despite any barriers or stereotypes in your way.