10 Things You Need To Know Before Interning at a Startup

Are you an intern, looking to be an intern, wish you could be an intern again? Well look no further, startups in the D.C.-metro area are r...

Are you an intern, looking to be an intern, wish you could be an intern again? Well look no further, startups in the D.C.-metro area are ready to hire, but do you know what you're getting yourself into?
Startups are an intricate mess of amazingness. Their innovative ideas never seem to stop developing. Any student would be lucky to intern for a startup, but there are some key items you must know before applying.
Working for a startup is in no way a simple task, but worth every second that you spend with them. I may poke some fun at my suggestions, but they are all completely accurate and worth considering prior to filling out an application.

10 Things You Need To Know Before Interning at a Startup
I am a HUGE fan of startups, so note that I'm biased. Though these characteristics of startups may seem slightly overwhelming, you are entering into a family with open arms. They will help you out along the way.
  1. It's not a 9-5 job: Working for a startup is not a traditional internship in any sense of the word. Startups are making their way from the bottom up so any time is worthy time. As an intern you aren't required to stay for an abnormally lengthy amount of time, but do you really want to miss out on networking opportunities? I think not. Working over 8 hours a day may seem exhausting, but the knowledge that you walk out with isn't comparable to any other internship out there.
  2. You will be hit on: I can't speak for the fellas here, but ladies, prepare yourselves. I've been told to invest in a brown burlap bag outfit, wear a name tag labeled "INTERN", or simply have a sign hanging that reads "I am 22-years old, stay back." For some reason an intern seems just out of reach for the entrepreneur folks so therefore enticing? I really don't get it. Interns, be ready to entertain the people that approach you, but learn to say no. Also, never give out your phone number even if it is for work purposes. Just leave your email accessible. It's better that way.
  3. Must be open to networking: When startups develop their description for internships they should include a section that dictates "the quiet need not apply." If you are shy, anti-social, or just not willing to meet new people, then the startup world is not for you. Yeah, the startup realm is full of geeky nerd types, but they know how to slip off their large thick black rimmed glasses and get down with the crowd. Networking is comparable to hunting. You sniff out your future alliances while avoiding those that are looking to prey on you.
  4. When 5pm hits you usually drink: This is not to say you can't be a sober sally intern, but startups enjoy a good beer come 5pm. If you are an athletic intern, be sure to go to the gym in the morning before the workday begins. A buzzed workout is not very productive.
  5. Gchat is your new best friend: I'm in a relationship with Gchat. I'm just going to go out and say it. As an intern, this is your new communication method. Learn to love it.
  6. Must understand technology: Technologically illiterate? That's a problem. You don't have to be a coding wizard to be a part of a startup, but you do need to have a grasp of the technological advances happening around you. My advice? Have a Twitter and blog flowing. Get your name out there and follow those most applicable to the company you intern for. The more information at your fingertips, the more prepared you will be.
  7. Will learn to cozy up with venture capitalists: VC's want to help your company succeed, so the second you meet one, start up a conversation with them. Make sure they know who you are. In order to warm up to venture capitalists you must have already perfected your elevator pitch. If you don't know what an elevator pitch is, then get yourself acquainted with it. Thirty seconds of sheer brilliance that highlight the most amazing parts of your startup. Know it. Say it. Be enthusiastic about it.
  8. Computer will be open 24/7, so have charger on hand: The biggest mistake you can make as an intern is forgetting your computer charger. My computer currently only has a life of about 4 hours before dying. That's not even half of the day. Computer = life, which, by the transitive property, means computer charger = life. Have it stashed in your purse or backpack just in case of an emergency.
  9. You may be given an unfortunate nickname: I could be wrong. This could just solely apply to my internship, but my bosses really enjoy dealing out nicknames to interns. I have been designated as "Momo." Yes, swish that one around in your mouth and spit it out again, "Momo." I sound like a clown. I have even been introduced as "Momo" to people I don't know. Ugh. Really? As an intern, you can't choose your nickname, so just roll with the punches. At least I'm not "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" or "Roly Poly Moly" or "The Conqueror of Bellatrix Lestrange." See, it could be worse.
  10. You will not be paid, they are a startup: It's true, there are some startups out there that will pay their interns, but don't expect to be one of those lucky few. A startup is starting up, what do you expect? Though the position of intern is usually unpaid, the knowledge that you gain from your experience is invaluable. Let's just say your sole responsibility will not be to cater coffee and order lunch. Your responsibilities will far exceed your expectations.
Interning at a startup is a priceless experience, so send out an application today to a startup near you. They want you, so want them back.

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