Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Six Rules for Startup Internship Success

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the chance to learn a lot about how to work successfully at a startup during my internship at Arist. Here are a few of my takeaways:

1. Always communicate. With the advent of tools like Slack, the modern workplace is not necessarily centralized around one physical location. No matter where team members are located, it’s important to stay in touch when collaborating. Since our team can be located in four or more different locations at once, we use Slack and email to keep in sync, and Airtable to manage data in real-time. 

2. Ask for direct feedback. When I’m assigned a task, I ask questions to make sure I understand the scope of what I’m about to take on, and then check in when I think I’m halfway and three-quarters done. Getting actionable feedback from a supervisor means I can use it to improve my work and make sure the end result is something that I’m proud of and that the team can use to move the company forward.

3. Take breaks. I have found that productivity tapers as time goes on, so it’s important to get up and take a walk, grab a cup of coffee or a glass of water every half hour or so. I sit back down more focused, and this helps because returning to a project with a set of fresh eyes can help me notice areas to improve.

4. Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond. Especially with a small team, everyone has their hands full, so stepping outside your job description is normal at a startup. Whether that means jumping on to help with another project or finding ways to help automate repeated tasks, I’ve been able to learn a lot from working on projects completely unrelated to my designated role.

5. Share your inputs (respectfully). Even as an intern, it’s possible to offer a different perspective on how to complete a task or change a workflow. If you’re respectful while doing so, most people will appreciate your thoughts and may even incorporate your suggested changes or ask for more details.

6. Make the most of your commute. I like to listen to entrepreneurially-focused podcasts during my long Commuter Rail ride into Boston, including HBR IdeaCast, This Week In Startups, Marketplace, and How I Built This. These podcasts help me ignite my entrepreneurial mindset on the way to work and inspire me to do the best job I can, no matter what I end up working on that day. 

These are six takeaways that have helped me succeed in my startup internship, and I look forward to learning more as I continue to work with Arist.