Note: This post is written by Delanie Ricketts, an intern at Magoosh, a startup test-prep company.
While internships have always been known as a stepping-stone to a full-time job, today they are more integral to the hiring process than ever before. As a senior undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, I began my internship with Magoosh, a startup test-prep company, with the intention of hopefully receiving a full-time job offer after graduation. On top of eventually receiving that full-time job offer, I realized that the skills, culture, and overall experience of working in a startup environment proved to be the key to jump-starting my post-graduation career.
Broadening Your Skill Set
Since startups generally do not have many employees, interns can provide a lot of value by taking on projects that full-time staff do not have the time to do. In my own experience, I got to dabble in social media, product management, customer service, marketing, outreach, and SEO. Not only do startups kill for interns that can learn these skills quickly, these are skills that can be translated to a whole host of other opportunities down the line.
It’s this quality of startups—the opportunity to wear many hats at once, even as an intern—that can help you realize what you really like, and don’t like, to do. Startups are the perfect environment to acquire a diverse skill set to beef up your resume while fine-tuning your post-graduation career goals.
Meshing with the Culture
While interns get to test-drive a broad set of skills that can be applicable to any number of future jobs, startups get to try out interns to see if they’re a good match for the culture of the company. If you prefer working independently over working with a team, if you’re irritated by noisy game-playing, or if you prefer dressing up in suit everyday over wearing jeans, then it’s likely the startup world isn’t for you.
If you don’t mesh with a company, chances are that startup is going to find someone who does. By interning for a company, you are ensuring your employer that if they offer you a job you’ll be able to integrate seamlessly with the rest of the team
Alternatively, if you don’t like the culture, you’ll learn exactly what to avoid in your post-graduation job search.
Learning How to Stand Out
The startup world is very competitive, and getting an internship at one is likewise a competitive process. However, once you land it, you’ll know how to make yourself stand out for any future opportunities that you want to pursue.
I knew I wanted to take the GRE before I graduated, so I bought Magoosh’s GRE product and used it intensively. It was my experience with Magoosh’s product that put me above other applicants. That is the key—providing value—to getting internships if you don’t know anyone that can refer you or you don’t know how to network your way in.
Having experience with Magoosh’s product was what got me in the door. However, once at the interview, it was my cover letter and portfolio that separated me from other applicants. When applying to startups, the resume is NOT the most important part of your application. Your outstanding cover letter, your blog, or your portfolio is what really counts.
In addition to upping your chances for a full-time job and gaining skills and experience that will help you long down the road, as an intern at a startup you get to work with people that are truly excited about and committed to their work. Additionally, as one of often only a handful of employees, you get to see your work directly contribute to the success of the company.