25 Things to Expect From a Startup Internship

Over the past year I’ve been on a startup internship adventure that has taken me across the globe. I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of two early stage companies on two separate continents, each with their own unique of values, goals, and culture that I really dig.

Both of these experiences have changed my life drastically in their own ways. I think both companies have great missions to be the change they want to see in the world and I’m happy to have played a part in that change.

My first internship was with my favorite blog, Postmasculine. Globetrotting entrepreneur Mark Manson had just pivoted his brand and was looking for a few loyal readers that were interested in learning about Internet Marketing and the startup lifestyle to help push his business to the next level. Having helped boost his traffic numbers for a few months prior to the offer, I was a shoe-in and ended up landing a spot on the team. I moved down to Medellin, Colombia to our new “main office” which was a 4 bedroom penthouse with a hot tub and a roof deck and got to work.

I learned a so much at Postmasculine. Mark gave us interns room to work and a lot of trust to experiment with his company from the start. The truth was this was uncharted territory for him. We were learning things he himself did not even know, so there had to be that element of trust or it wasn’t going to work.

We accomplished a lot down in Medellin, but it didn’t translate to a full time job. Although at the time not turning the internship into a full time world traveling gig was disappointing, I learned so much it was absolutely worth it. Not only did I get my first experience traveling the world, but I learned some valuable lessons about startups that I don’t think I would have if I had not been a part of an early stage company with huge goals. Also, I got some great friends. 

When I came back home I was looking for a job, but I ended up landing myself another internship (Program Associate) here at the Startup Institute in Boston. Although the environment had many differences, such as no sunny roof deck or room for my preferred bat-like life/sleep schedule, there have been many similarities.

Much like at Postmasculine, I’ve been given a lot of freedom. Many of the things I’m working on I’ve thought up myself. Many of the projects given to me are almost completely up to me. When I ask a question on what to do, usually the response is “YOU decide and tell us what you are going to do”. This has helped me feel more confident in my decision making skills and makes me think harder about my time management and my process. Again, there is a lot of trust and I think it has helped me grow and learn more than an environment where I am just told what to do.

Because one of the main things I learned at my last two startup internships is that “time is valuable”, I’ll save both yours and mine and cut the rest of this down to a bullet pointed list of things I have learned

Takeaways

  • You have the opportunity to learn from great people who want to invest in your success

  • You feel the pressure of deadlines and see it in the faces of your co-workers and the CEO

  • Mistakes are for fixing and learning, not hiding or crying about

  • You get hands on experience, thrown right into the fire. It’s do or die.

  • You have to carve out your spot, sometimes with little direction.

  • Your co-workers are your family.

  • Sometimes the office is home, both literally and figuratively.

  • “Hours” don’t always exist, it’s more like a get as much work done as you can free-for-all

  • You have to be able to change what you are doing on a dime

  • You learn to make clear asks and points, or suffer the awkwardness of wasting time

  • You have to accept full responsibility for your actions, time, goals, and learning

  • Others are there to help, but you have to ask for it, it won’t just come

  • Action is more powerful than words

  • Growth Mindset- everyday is an opportunity to learn and grow

  • The willingness to take risks, make decisions, and deal with pressure

  • How to manage your own time and be accountable to yourself and your duties without someone watching over you

  • The value of emotional intelligence in the workplace

  • The value of coachability and willingness to accept feedback

  • A get shit done attitude is paramount.

  • Functioning within a team and team dynamics

  • Failure is not a reflection on your character - Max Thayer

  • Value yourself and your skills

  • A hunger for doing things that have not been done before

  • Don’t lose site of the mission or your values

  • Most importantly, be a human being

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Zac Champigny is the Program Associate for the Spring ‘13 Startup Institute class. Coming from a coaching background, he dove head first into startups and world travel back in May of 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. Zac loves the Internet and thinks it’s the best tool we have ever had to help make the world a better place and come together as human beings.

You can follow him on Twitter, add him on Linkedin, or read about his adventures on his blog