From Late-Adopter to Content Writer

This summer I served as a Marketing Intern for mySidewalk, a Kansas City govtech startup. It has been an incredible summer gig, which is turning into a part-time job for the coming semester. Here are five of the lessons I took away from the summer:

5 Things I Learned from my Summer Internship

One. Applications are Your Chance to Stand Out — Take them Seriously

Not my actual hand. Source: Green Chameleon, Unsplash

I applied to a couple of internships at mySidewalk (see Two) and both applications were more intense than the other positions I had applied for around the country. They required me to walk through what I would do on the job in order to access how I thought about each step.

The effort was worth the payoff. First, the intense applications weeded out some competition, letting the talent team know who was serious, and second, they got me started on the right foot at work.

Before I arrived, my supervisor knew my strengths and weaknesses, my writing ability, and my twitter-game. That helped them best use my talents and challenge me where there was room to grow as soon as I started. I credit my thorough marketing application and writing sample to the cool projects I got to work on later.

Two. Don’t be Afraid to Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone

If someone would have told me I would be writing for a tech start-up this summer, I would have quickly dismissed the idea. ‘Tech’ is not my thing- I am ‘late-adopter’ as we say in marketing. I couldn’t see myself writing for a living either. Professors tend to like my ideas, but not my hastily written papers.

I spent months internship hunting, seeking a spots on political campaigns, lobbying, and in summer policy programs. Everything was an almost. I applied for a research position at mySidewalk, hoping it would embolden me to write a great senior thesis.

After the final round of interviews for the research internship, I got a call asking me to apply for the marketing position. It was a relief to take on more creative work after a semester of researching immigration in the European Union.

Now I am thrilled to be writing every day, my team values my work, and I can’t wait to get better at it!

Three. Soak it In

Source: Mia Domenico, Unsplash

My first couple of weeks did not feel very productive, but I learned a remarkable amount about marketing, sales stages, and data visualization that laid the foundation for the rest of my work. Through participating in brainstorming sessions and asking lots of questions, I received guidance and mentorship about which of my ideas worked, which were weak, and why.

This taught me how to revise my ideas before I put them on the table, freeing my mentors up to do more of their own work, and increasing my value to the team.

Four. Cross Department Lines

MySidewalk is a company of around 45 people, which feels massive to me, but in the grand scheme of things is probably very small. Everything we need to accomplish is taken care of internally in a wide open-office layout. That means I got to share a few hundred square feet with the Midwest’s best and brightest developers, data-scientists, salespeople, talent team, and geo-spatial professionals along with my marketing team.

I not only gained a broad understanding of how a start-up functions, I learned that your best marketing advice will often come from other departments. Our company employs the same kind of professionals to whom we sell our product, so their input is invaluable to our customers.

Five. Have Some Fun

Your internship should be about more than boosting your resume and tricking your company into hiring you, although that is a large part of it. Get to know people. Try asking people questions that are completely unrelated to work everyday. That is how you discover people from your adopted state of Arkansas, people with four-year-old daughters who are better dancers than you will ever be, and people who transition from fellow interns to close friends.

Interns are in a strange social position. Your job is temporary so you may feel unmotivated to get to know people. Do it anyways. You will never regret having the connections. By working-hard, staying curious about the work, and building relationships with your team, you can do more than trick your company into hiring you — you can prove they were right about you all along.
To learn how you can become of the mySidewalk team, visit our careers page.

About the Author: Michelle Stockwell is a senior politics major at Hendrix College and a perpetual intern. She looks forward to spending her Fall semester writing for mySidewalk.