Why every entrepreneurial student should intern in a startup
Startups and big corporations are different creatures. They are different in the ways they operate, hire, solve problems, prioritize, and more. Therefore, working or interning in a startup is an important hack in your entrepreneurial journey. That “taste” can make all the difference for you. When you work in a startup, all the entrepreneurship concepts you have learned, such as the importance of testing, MVP, customer development, and pivoting will suddenly come alive. There is no better way to learn than direct experience.
Before my senior year, I had a great internship experience at MasterClass, a two-year-old company that is revolutionizing online education by giving people access to learn from the “best of the best” in different fields.
First and foremost, the culture at MasterClass was amazing. In contrast to the typical bureaucracy, the culture is very outcome-driven and collaborative. People have the freedom to achieve key results, regardless of methods or time input. As a result, I saw many mission-driven people motivated to accomplish the results and beyond. In addition, each person has the opportunity to make a difference because of the team size and culture. No one felt like a cog in a big machine. Instead, people are always thinking about a better way of doing things and discussing those ideas, because every idea had the potential to make a difference.
The organization is intentionally flat, meaning there was not a strong sense of the difference in ranks. This enabled collaboration and interaction between the senior directors and new interns like me. This reinforced the culture of being outcome-driven and collaborative. It was cool to be able to sit down next to the COO, CEO, or other senior management people at lunch and ask questions.
It was extremely cool and eye-opening to experience the philosophy of “test everything” was. At MasterClass, we took “test everything” literally. We tested to get feedback on potential instructors, trailers, classes, advertising, website design, and more. Whenever an important question arose, the default thinking was “let’s test this,” instead of arguing who’s right or simply listening to the managers.
As icing on the cake, there were unlimited supplies of healthy snacks and drinks, many fun social events, and free catered meals.
In summary, I learned a ton from my time at MasterClass about entrepreneurship and marketing. Better yet, I made some great friends and worked with some of the most amazing managers. In the end, I felt like a part of a big family.
After my time in MasterClass, I also got to experience a startup at an earlier stage of the startup growth cycle in DC. This company had about ten employees on the corporate team, and about 100 part-time staff. The corporate team was a lot smaller than MasterClass and there were even fewer regulations. I was surprised to be able to propose to change the website homepage and marketing slogans as a new intern. Being able to experience the thinking process behind pricing changes, product pivot, and addition of new product lines on the frontline was a unique and valuable experience.
Go experience the startup world with your own eyes. You won’t regret it. By the way, a lack of internship positions on the career page should never stop you from reaching out to a startup that you’re interested in working with.
Now it’s time to take action. Identify 20 startups you would like to intern with. Reach out to the startups and ask about internship opportunities. Do not leat the lack of public posted internships discourages you from reaching out.