Want an internship at a startup? Offer Something.

On the way to my first meeting during my sophomore year summer internship, my boss stopped me in the hall:

Boss: Neil, where are you going?

Me: I thought we have a weekly meeting…?

Boss: Where’s your pen? Notepad? Always be prepared to offer something at every meeting.

I was startled. It was only my first week at the mutual fund, Dodge & Cox. I had no real experience– what could I possibly say in a meeting full of seasoned investment pros?

Two weeks ago, Christian and I spoke to a group of Stanford freshman to give practical advice on how to get an internship at a startup. When we got the question, “What can I do as a freshman to get a job at a startup?” the answer was simple: always offer something.

We get a lot of resumes from students looking for internships. Most students say they want to work at a startup to gain experience and start their own company someday. That is totally fine– you don’t need to tell us you are going to work for our company forever. But, think about who you are speaking to. We would love to help you gain experience, but find a way to do that while accomplishing what we are doing right now.

That “something” can be big or small, whether it’s a way to measure the results of a social media campaign, a strategy to create a list of thousands of potential customers in a new vertical, or a plan to stand outside Starbucks and make everyone that goes by download an app. My point is, do your homework, think about the company’s most pressing problems, and offer something. What really differentiates you from the stack of resumes is how you are ready to make a tangible impact.

Interested in being an intern at ReelSurfer, send me an email: neil at reelsurfer.com. We look forward to hearing what you have to offer.


Discussion — 2 Responses

  • Matt 03/18/2013 on 6:52 pm

    Neil is definitely spot on with this post. If you can contribute in anyway that will always set you apart from the pack. Your contribution maybe small in the beginning, but as time goes on and you gain more experience you will soon be able to give more meaningful contributions that could help shape a company. The best part about a StartUp company is that everybody (including interns) plays an important role. It is never too early to apply and getting involved in a StartUp company in College is definitely an opportunity worth capitalizing on.

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  • Shills 06/04/2013 on 7:36 pm

    100% agree with this – you should always talk about what you can do for your potential employer…not what you want them to do for you!!

    Reply