Student blog: My experience working for a start-up

Most students specifically apply for internships at big names. We tend to apply for the likes of JP Morgan, P&G, Google and others. However, it is easy to forget or neglect the world of start-ups: a very different world to the big corporate employers that many of us will one day join. It is a very different but great alternative.

I currently work for a start-up called Plum Fintech, as an Operations and User Happiness Intern, which marks a great difference to my previous internship at Morgan Stanley. I have also gained work experience in several different organisations, both in the charity sector and private sector, developing vital experience and skills.

Plum is a personal savings butlers, and it all happens whilst speaking to Plum on Facebook Messenger. My role involves supporting and ensuring that new users are correctly set up onto Plum, and if not, I am tasked to solve and diagnose the error — i.e taking it up with stakeholders or messaging users. I also make sure that the company links correctly to users’ bank accounts (securely and safely of course) to analyse potential savings, using a very smart algorithm. It automatically makes these savings for you. The application allows you to get on with your life, as Plum makes very intelligent savings for you.

If you are considering applying to a similar role or want to work for a start-up, here are some tips:

  • Apply early — start applying ASAP. Some websites to check include JobOnline, AngelList and LinkedIn — and keep applying. When applying, you really need to show your passion, understanding of the company (i.e. who are its competitors, the market it operates in and who are its users/customers) and any skills you possess.
  • Determine if you have a specific kind of start-up in mind, for example, you may be fascinated by scientific start-ups and apply for those. I think this is key, as this passion and motivation really comes across in interviews and the actual role. I decided Financial Technology was for me, due to my background and interests, and I was able to portray this in my interview.
  • Lastly, write a unique cover letter and sell your experience well on your CV. The more unique and punchy your cover letter is, the greater chance the employer will remember you, and for a great reason too. And now you’re set to go.

How does my experience at Plum compare to Morgan Stanley?

  • At start-ups, there aren’t structured and long training programmes typically found in big employers. Instead, you hit the ground running as you get immersed into the company and its operations — you learn on the job.
  • You often take ownership of certain aspects of the business or processes. For example, at Plum, I took ownership over supporting and validating new users. This experience allows interns to gain a great micro understanding of the business/industry.
  • You gain exposure to high level staff, founders and C-level staff, as you are naturally onboarded onto all aspects of the company. For example, at Plum, I was included in many meetings that included the CEO/Co-Founder, where my ideas carried the same weight as the other team members. Hence also gaining a macro understanding of the business.
  • There is also a culture difference: start-ups are often far more relaxed in their outlook and culture. Where at Morgan Stanley, I would dress in suits or very smart, Plum’s culture is casual (I wear jeans to work). Communication is more clear cut and simple, replacing the long formal emails typically found in larger organisations. Instead, at Plum, the whole company (7 of us) are all in talking distance of each other, so there’s no need for emails. Also, the office at Plum is really entertaining, with great additions such as a ping-pong table, a barista coffee machine and regular company-wide breakfasts/lunches.