In this blog, I am going to help you decide what internship you should apply for, based on your interests and professional goals. I will talk about my internship at SmartBill, and why I thought it was the right fit for me. If like me, you have a keen interest in startup culture and entrepreneurship, it might be worth applying to positions within startups and SMEs, rather than positions in large, corporate companies.
I decided to apply to SmartBill for a digital marketing and social media management position. My work has been focused on engaging with users and followers on social media platforms, writing blogs and encouraging people to become new users and part of what we want to achieve. On top of this, I also adopted a hands-on role, learning about user needs through focus groups, strategy and planning through business development, and fundamental skills such as effective communication, working in teams and taking initiative and ownership of projects and tasks.
I believed that I would be able to adopt a more fluid role working at a startup, rather than a corporate internship, and this has given me the opportunity to test more potential professions and positions I might be interested in. For example, by no means do I consider myself a marketing or social media guru, however, I have become increasingly interested in business development and strategy, moving forward and looking to the future to grow and scale businesses.
Some factors are worth considering when choosing what internship suits you best. These include money, autonomy, responsibility and flexibility.
Money can be a deciding factor when deciding where to do an internship. It is generally believed that internships in big corporates pay and pay well, however, this is not always the case. The rise of voluntary internships has resulted in companies of all sizes adopting these as commonplace. As a consequence, the perceived large paychecks at corporate internships aren’t always present.
Startup internships can be both paid and unpaid, full-time and part-time, depending on the needs and circumstance of the startup in question. If the internship is part-time, you can often supplement your income with another part-time job. I did this by balancing on average 20 hours a week of working in a restaurant, with a few hours a day working remotely for SmartBill, as well as a one-day-a-week trip to London for team meetings. This gave me the chance to work in an industry relevant to my interests and keep my bank account in the positive.
A final money-related point worth discussing is that many companies will offer to reimburse you for your travel and your food which really can add up in a place like London, so do remember to take this into account when making your decision!
Responsibility and autonomy
In my case, what I noticed was that I was given a great deal of responsibility and autonomy to set and achieve my own targets, with some general guidance and support. This is frequently contrasted with a narrower scope of responsibility and autonomy of tasks and goals that interns in corporate positions are given. For me, this was key.
Although this is obviously more challenging, and at times, more demanding, it is worth noting that having an internship position on your CV means virtually nothing. What matters the most is being able to discuss with future employers and interviewers both what you achieved, and what you learnt during the course of the internship. Thus, taking ownership of my targets will allow me to have more talking points in future interviews.
This doesn’t mean you can’t, or won’t learn anything during a corporate internship, however, taking ownership of your own work objectives within a startup can offer greater potential to discuss in more detail what you learnt on the job.
Whilst interning at SmartBill, I experienced a great deal of flexibility within the working week. I could essentially choose my own working hours, set reasonable targets to achieve, and decide, with some consulting and advice, my own strategy.
Not only did this allow for greater trust and transparency between myself and the team, but it also gave me the opportunity to make my own mistakes and learn from them. Although some support was necessary every now and then, the general hands-off approach contributed to me having a more enjoyable time whilst working with the team.
The flexibility also allowed me to manage a healthy work-life balance, which was essential to me. This is because, as previously mentioned, I was working in a restaurant job simultaneously. Perhaps within a more rigid structure at a corporate internship, I would not have been able to enjoy such a rewarding and healthy balance during the summer.
If you’re interested in doing an internship or placement at a startup, here’s a list of useful sites which should help you find a position relevant to your skills and interests:
Way Up is for college students over the pond. Way Up helps find internships and jobs at top companies such as Facebook, Unilever and Starbucks.
Work in Startups – Does what it says on the tin. Helps startups find employees, and helps employees find work. With 19,000 positions open, surely there’s something for you?
Angel List – Swipe right to this site, and you could land a job at Tinder! Choose from 70,000 jobs, or even invest in a start-up.
Enternships offers a wide range of internships and jobs in the UK, and mainly in London.
GoThinkBig doesn’t just offer lots of opportunities, but also has some killer blog posts and features on the website, as well as advertises for events which can help boost your CV!
So where does this leave you?
To summarise, it is important to remember that you have a wealth of opportunities available to you that match your skills, goals and interests.
Factoring in what is important to you, such as money, flexibility, autonomy and experience in a specific industry is a quick and efficient way to narrow down what might be applicable to you.
My internship at SmartBill had both positive and negative aspects, but considering what objectives were important to me, I feel like I made the right decision when deciding on a summer internship.
I’ve learnt a great deal, had some fantastic experiences and met some incredibly motivated and interesting people. As such, if you love entrepreneurship and startup culture as much as I do, I would heavily suggest taking on an internship at a startup over the next year!