Why Aspiring Entrepreneurs should still Consider a Summer Internship

You come up with million dollar ideas on a daily basis. Your idol is Steve Jobs/Sergey Brin/Larry Page/Mark Zuckerberg/some other groundbreaking tech entrepreneur. You hate the idea of working in an office for eight hours a day. You’ve practically memorized “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and implement it in your daily life. Sounds familiar?

Congratulations! You are a millennial!

As a fellow millennial I understand the temptation to skip out on summer internships and just pursue some high potential personal projects instead, but here are five reasons why you should consider a formal internship (or even dare-I-say a 9 to 5 job) first.

1. Your experience could end up teaching you more than entrepreneurship advice columns ever could.

The amount of time I’ve spent reading articles and books about entrepreneurship each week is comparable to the amount of time I spend at work. I’ve probably read about the jumbled mess that is the idea creation and validation process a hundred times. I’ve seen several graphics that look something like this:

However, nothing I’ve read compared to experiencing the confusion and hard work first hand. In addition to putting what you’ve read about into action, there are tons of essential things you don’t read about. For example, nobody details the intricacies of validating your idea through user interviews. “Would you use this? Why or why not?” does not make for a informative interview. There are strategies to indirectly get answers to questions where direct answers are not reliable.

2. Summer internships give you the chance to sample an industry.

Do you want to throw yourself into the world of tech startups? Is consulting actually your calling? Do you actually care enough about your cause to stay motivated through the moments where your nonprofit is on the brink of failure? Guessing where your passion lies doesn’t usually work out. One of my most insightful moments at Made by Many was in our early stages when we were contemplating pursuing political engagement as an area of interest. One of the founders, Stuart Eccles, said “Someone should do it, but not us.” Before you follow through on your million dollar idea, make sure you’re the person that should be following through on that idea.

3. It’s important to develop connections outside of higher education.

One of the perks of going to a liberal arts college is that you’ll probably know or have access to someone in just about every field. However, professor and peer recommendations only go so far. Creating a name for yourself in the professional world will be far more effective when establishing a trusted reputation for your future startup.

4. Mentorships can stem from your work relationships.

As a student, there are many opportunities to get involved in mentorship programs. However, in my experience, it can sometimes be hard to form a natural connection through organized mentorship. Instead of just being paired with a mentor based off a survey or picking one off a profile, you can witness the work that they do, interact with their personality, and ask them questions about their experiences. If someone does end up trying to take you under their wing, you will know whether you want them to.

5. Convincing investors is difficult. Earn expendable resources first.

The majority of successful entrepreneurs will tell you about how difficult the beginning of their journey is. Typically you’re not going to run into someone willing to invest millions, or even thousands, without some proof of worth. They will tell you about the days that no one believed in them. They will tell you about the number of times they had to pitch their idea before someone was willing to give it a chance. They will tell you about their penny counting moments. Without resources to fall back on, their companies would’ve failed and their hard work would’ve been a waste.

I’m completely satisfied with my decision to pursue an internship this summer. Have you chosen to pursue an internship over a personal project this summer? If not, why? Are you doing both at the same time? What do you think the benefits of your decision are?

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