How to intern at a small company

Internships are full of firsts. Often an internship will be your first job, your first real chance to join the workforce, and most importantly your first taste of adult living. Some internships are extremely structured, with cookie cutter assignments and end-of-the-week presentations to your boss. While this has its advantages, it is not guaranteed that everything will be so methodical. You may find yourself in an internship where there are only a few other employees to guide you.

Small companies and start-ups – think 30 employees or less – have some of the greatest potential for hands-on experience and opportunities to truly advance a firm’s goals. You will be able to have an immediate impact on the progress of the firm and gain an inside look into the inner workings of how a business runs.

So let’s say you get the job. The hard part is over. But now what? Everyone tells you how to handle an interview, but what about your first day to work? How do you fit into the office? How do you make an impact? In this blog we will walk through a few key tips and tricks that will allow you to thrive from day one in your new internship.

First Impressions

First impressions are key in almost any scenario, and your first day of work is no exception. Stand tall, smile wide and most of all, be true to yourself. The person you portray on your first day will be the person your colleagues will know you by, so be sure it is representative of your personality. Whether it is the clothes you wear or the food you bring for lunch, make sure you are comfortable in your own skin.

It may be tempting to portray some grand persona in an attempt to impress your coworkers, but be wary of this. Any sort of act you put on cannot last forever, and eventually your true self will come out, so why not right away? Let your coworkers know who you really are because in a small firm, you will work closely with almost everyone in the company.

Remember Names

This tip is completely underrated. Remembering a name is one of the easiest ways to show your coworkers that you are excited about the opportunity to work with them and that you truly care what they have to say. In a small company, this should be easy – there are less names to remember, right??

Whether it’s a mnemonic trick or sheer concentration, remember the names! You do not want to be put in an awkward position stuck trying to remember someone’s name that sits less than 10 feet from you all day, so work on it early to avoid any sticky situations.

Beyond simply impressing your coworkers with your name-remembering skills, try to take an interest in the people you’re working with. An internship is all about learning and experience, and practically everyone in that office will have more experience than you!! Listen to your coworker’s advice, chances are they have been there before. Try to catch on to little things, because you never know what may come in handy years down the road. In a small company you will have the opportunity to work with some extremely driven, independent people, so take advantage!!

Be Agile

When interning at a small company or startup, you are likely brought on-board because your bosses expect you to make a genuine contribution to the company. With this comes a lot of responsibility. You likely will not have just one task at a time, so you will need to be ready for whatever is thrown at you.

The key to being agile and flexible as an intern is preparedness. Be prepared for everything, from the classic intern job of going on coffee runs to working budgets on large projects, because you never know when your name will get called. Small companies often do not have the same hierarchical structure as big corporations, so there’s a lot of room for you to make your mark on some important tasks.

Be ready for anything and make sure you are prepared to step up to the plate when your name is called.

Take Initiative

In a small company, everyone is busy pretty much all of the time. There is no time for micromanaging and certainly no room for lackadaisical attitudes. If you’re in a position in which your supervisor doesn’t really have a job for you, make one! Small companies are constantly working to grow and expand, so there is almost always something to do! This does not mean you have to constantly be working like a robot, but you must maintain a self-starter, entrepreneurial mindset when you’re faced with a little downtime.

Your coworkers will likely be busy with their own responsibilities, so create something for yourself to do! Keep your mind working, hone in your skills, and show off your talent! Internships are meant to progress your professional career and they are the perfect place for practice! You have a team of seasoned professionals around you that are more than willing to give you advice and feedback, so take advantage of the time you’re given.

Ask Questions

THIS IS BY FAR THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE, SO IT WILL BE WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS TO EMPHASIZE JUST HOW IMPORTANT IT IS!

 

ASK QUESTIONS!!!

You got your internship because the firm that hired you believes you have the skills and qualities necessary to complete the job successfully. You are not expected to know everything about everything on your first day in the office, so relax. Asking questions does not make you seem unintelligent. It is not annoying.

 

You are here to learn, so do what is necessary to ensure you understand what is happening around you. If you’re unsure, ask! I promise a little bit of inefficiency now will save you and your coworkers a lot of hassle later. Nobody likes a know-it-all, and in a small company a know-it-all can end up costing the team a lot of precious time. Don’t blow off topics because everything you learn will eventually make its way back around. The last thing you want to do when working in a fast-paced environment is make everyone pause to reteach a topic that was brought up in the past, so stay ahead of the game! Ask questions as you go and learn on the fly! It’ll come in handy down the line!

 

Of course, these tips are not universal and do not apply to every internship, but if you’re able to utilize the ideas behind each piece of advice, you’ll surely find success. Interning at a small company will come with tons of challenges, but face them head on and know that you have a team of professionals fighting on your side. Use your intuition and soak up as much information and experience as possible, because before you know it you’ll be out in the real world.

 

Well, hopefully, you’re ready for your internship at whatever small company you managed to land! This is where your professional career begins, so be sure to make it an unforgettable experience!