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Five lessons from starting at a startup


Interning at most companies may seem like a constant stream of coffee runs, copying pages, and fetching documents. That won’t happen at a startup. The entrepreneurs I worked for at my internships were already adjusted to inconsistent work hours and irregular workloads. If you choose to work at a startup in the future, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the work that goes into the products you use every day. Additionally, you’ll have adapted to the working conditions and will soon see the work you’ve done in action. It’s safe to say, your work will be far more important than coffee. Here are five of the most important things I learned from starting out at a startup.

1. People genuinely want to help you: Many of the people I met at my internship weren’t hesitant to share trade secrets and resources. This isn’t to say they will be holding your hand through the process. However, important people will be taking time out of their busy day to teach you important lessons which will be applicable in whatever field of life you choose to move in.

2. Just-in-time learning: Lower school students now have a larger, more efficient access to resources than world leaders in technology had just half a century ago. Startups are some of the first companies to acknowledge this and embrace it in the workplace. No longer does a company need to hire a video editor, for example, every time you need to create a video: instead, interns might be expected to learn the basics of some of these skills through a 15 minute YouTube video. So be ready to learn unexpected skills on the fly.

3. The work doesn’t stop once you leave: Nor should it. The best thing about a startup is that there is always something to do, and work is always appreciated. I was compelled to get back in the office every break I got. The skills I you acquired were, of course, used again. And most importantly, the connections I made will opened me up to new opportunities.

4. Time management: But probably in a different way than you might think. Hours at most startups are flexible. That meant that I came in the office sometime before lunch, and went home when your work is done. Because of this, I gained a better awareness of what I could complete in a day. I went home every day with a sense of accomplishment, no matter how small the activity. Chances are you’ll be balancing the internship with classes and extracurriculars, but as long as you know how much work you can do effectively, things will turn out just fine. In the end, most stress, when channeled correctly, is positive stress.

5. You’re in need of an attitude adjustment: Once again, probably in a different way than you might think. Interns usually acknowledge the idea that their work is more of a learning experience than work that will actually be used. However, this counterintuitive mindset sends you into a never-ending cycle resulting in work you won’t be too proud of. Instead, I adjusted that mindset to embrace the changes a startup presents, work towards fulfilling my full potential. Because most startups don’t have extra time and resources to let interns do busywork, most, if not all, of the work you do, will be used.

Everyone’s experience with interning will be different. As I delve deeper into a complicated world of entrepreneurship it continues to become clear that each experience will be different. My internship at a Kickstarter-funded company in Taipei was far different from the venture capital backed reinvented education firm in Hong Kong. However, I found that both experiences taught me these five lessons.
If you’re contemplating an internship the only piece of advice I can give for would be, “Go.” No article, book, or YouTube video can give you the same experience an internship can.
Ultimately, the experience will teach you everything you’re willing to learn.

Read this article and more from Oliver at his blog,

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