7 Ways to Maximize Your Experience With Startup Internships

We may be biased, but startup internships are an excellent choice. It’s a great way to get a glimpse of what it takes to run a young company, and chances are, you’ll be given more important responsibilities than you might at another office. But even if you’re not at a startup, all internships are a rite of passage, y’all. Love them or hate them, they’re an excellent way to get work experience, beef up a post-college or mid-college resume, and actually figure out what kind of career you want. Basically — it’s a way to dip your toes into the workforce pool, and figure out what does and doesn’t work in a professional setting.

Internships should always be taken as a learning experience, but some lessons are much better learned before you even step foot in that office. Because all of us on #TeamPlanted made our start in our careers as interns, we compiled a list of lessons we learned along the way so you can take advantage of the opportunity your internship provides!

Be a little picky during your search

The best internships are the ones where the supervisor really values their interns’ time and wants to pay them in mind gems (yes, that’s a real term). While you’re interviewing, try to distinguish what the internship/company/supervisor can offer you, and how it’s different from the other places you’re applying to. Bonus points if you can find a supervisor who seems like they’d be an excellent cheerleader!

You’re gonna want someone who’s really on your side. Via Giphy.

Know what you deserve

Remember: the company needs you, or they wouldn’t have brought you on! So your work is worth something. Don’t operate under the assumption that you’re providing free labor; the company is paying for your time/work in experience, contacts, and access to professional brains! So you should feel comfortable asking questions and picking people’s brains.

Say less, listen more

Even if you think you know everything, nobody like a know-it-all, especially one that’s not even a “real” employee yet. Definitely feel free to give input when you feel it will contribute to the conversation, but always pushing to put in a word, just to show off how much you know is kind of off-putting. Just be mindful when it seems like the conversation is shifting towards a monologue.

Make a good impression

This is a big one. Don’t forget that this internship will very likely help you take your next professional step. It’s important to have a good attitude — this is more of an audition than a college class. People notice when you’re actively participating in the office culture. Ask questions. Be excited. Offer to help on everything (but know your limits and don’t overwhelm yourself). It’ll pay off, we promise.

You wanna give off the right vibes. Via Tenor.

If you get invited to work functions, go

Whatever your team ends up inviting you to, there’s a lot of value in hanging out with them after hours! Even if it’s just heading to the bar and you’re either not a drinker or you don’t want to spend the extra cash on overpriced beers, you can just order a water and still have a good time. Not only does going to work functions build your camaraderie with the others, but it also gives you the chance to build meaningful connections with them. Be friendly and engaging, because the most valuable thing you can gain from an internship is the contacts.

Ask people about what they do and how they enjoy it

Consider it an encounter with a new culture, and you’re an anthropologist. Interview everyone informally and ask them about their job. Maybe they do something you’ve never considered.

It’s a completely different world in the startup space. Via Giphy.

You can also ask to join others for lunch, even if it’s just for all of you to sit together (waiting for that one microwave to get your leftovers heated up).

Also — ask your boss to help you with informational interviews (if this is a new term, it means what it sounds like). They can introduce you to their professional contacts and ask them to coffee, so you can pick their brain about what they do and how they got into their current job. Talking to strangers is sometimes an uncomfortable experience, but it’s an amazing way to learn about your options. And who knows what new opportunities will pop up based on these conversations!

Keep investing in the internship, even when it’s over

On your last day, write personal thank-you notes to each person on your team, especially to those you worked closely with. Or at the very least, write a nice email addressing the team (don’t forget to include links to your LinkedIn or AngelList profiles!). You know these people now, and a few words is a great way to make sure they remember you and have your contact info!

Remember that you can “get paid” after the internship is over with recommendations. So make sure you keep in touch, let them know what jobs and companies you’re applying for, and ask them to send recommendations so you have them ready when companies ask for reference checks!


Like with any opportunity, you’re only going to get as much as you want out of it. No one can force you to be proactive, so it’s up to you to step it up make the most out of your internship. If you leave a lasting impression on your team, you’re opening up so many more doors for yourself in the future.

If you’re ready to take on an internship or your next job, create your profile on Planted and we’ll match you to some of the coolest, fastest-growing companies.


Yoshie Manaka is a part of the Partnerships team at Planted. She is an East Coast implant — after studying English and Studio Art at University of Redlands in California, she moved to New York to pursue a career in publishing (until she heard the call of the startup world). Yes, she did write her honors thesis on Harry Potter. She prefers adventures to vacations, and spends her spare time painting, intermittently updating her website, and reading Young Adult Fiction.

Original version of featured image by StockSnap.


Originally published at www.planted.com.