Do You Have What It Takes To Intern At A Small Company?

Category : CAREER

May 31, 2011

Featured on BusinessInsider

To paraphrase the often quoted snowflake analogy: no two internships are alike. Internships at small team environments, for example, will be quite different than those at Fortune 500 companies.

And that could be very good.

By their very nature, smaller organizations enjoy little hierarchy. Free from the corporate ladder, all team members are expected to contribute. Everyone on the team must be productive.

Internships at entrepreneurial companies and smaller-scale non-profits have several advantages:

  • Real world, hands-on experience you don’t often get at a larger company
  • Direct interaction with C-level executives and the Founder team
  • Instantly becoming an integral part of a focused team
  • Mentorship from dynamic leaders

Far different than an “I’ll just put in my time” attitude often found at a mega-corporation, you’re accepting a major challenge by choosing an internship at a startup, entrepreneurial small business or change-oriented non-profit.

You’ll learn a lot, sometimes through mistakes. And, you’ll be “exposed” – in both a good and bad way. Good: you’ll work much closer with dynamic leaders, and be exposed to their networks and influencers. Bad: this is on-the-job training in front of a captive audience; you (and your co-workers) will quickly know what you don’t know.

So what are the personal attributes of someone who thrives in this environment? Consider this “Top 10” – and see if these points apply to you.

1. Passionate

You will be working with a small team of people who are extremely passionate about what they’re building. Success as an intern in this environment requires that you be equally passionate about the company mission – and the value of the products.

2. Enthusiastic

An emerging-growth organization can’t be shy about its mission or how it goes about succeeding; same for the individuals who work there. Often, small team organizations are short on revenue. To make up for the lack of financial resources, they thrive on energy and enthusiasm – no one is exempt, from interns all the way to the CEO.

3. Entrepreneurial

This almost goes without saying – but we’re saying it anyway. If you’re ambitious – the proverbial “go-getter”, and see yourself leading your own business or not-for-profit someday… where better to learn than with like-minded people already running a challenging small team? You’ll learn more here as an emerging entrepreneur than you ever did in college, guaranteed.

4. Resourceful

Your internship in a small team will come with considerable responsibility; a successful intern must be incredibly resourceful in completing assignments. Often in startups there is no roadmap, no “how to” manual. You’ll work on tasks that have never been done at this company. You’ll set precedents as you learn – and in the process, prove just how resourceful you are.

5. Self-Disciplined

With no roadmap and little handholding, an entrepreneurial intern must be disciplined enough to complete assignments and meet project deadlines – and sometimes even determine their own work schedule. This is especially true in a virtual assignment, but even an in-office internship will require self-imposed focus and determination.

6. Independent

Working independently in small teams, especially at start-ups, is the norm. You must be adept at working without direct supervision – and making decisions without the help of others – to complete the projects and initiatives assigned to you.

7. Leader

Depending on your role and unique skills set or personal network, you may be asked to lead entire initiatives. Taking on a leadership role in a growing company is a natural fit for most people interested in serving as an intern with a small team – and a great opportunity to be noticed early in your career.

8. Resilient

Emerging companies are constantly trying new approaches to achieve goals. Survival often means quickly discarding ineffective initiatives and trying something different. Interns working in this dynamic environment must not get discouraged if their work is replaced with a new approach, or are suddenly asked to change directions.

9. Versatile

Emerging organizations usually have more work than they do available resources. Everyone – again, from the CEO to interns – must wear many hats and must be flexible enough to handle various assignments. Those who excel in this area often find the work both exhilarating, and exhausting.

10. Coachable

Small team environments typically do not allow for elongated learning curves. Feedback is often spontaneous, direct and brutally honest. While in the long-term this form of coaching is highly effective, short-term it can cause some anxiety for those with thinner skins and temperamental egos.

As you’re reading though this list of characteristics, and perhaps wondering if you’re right for a small team internship, keep this in mind:

Not even the CEOs and Directors of the organizations you may work for have ALL of these character traits; some may only have a few. The fact is that small teams are typically looking for those who complement their existing talent – and not necessarily for the “ideal” candidate.

Even if you’ve only shown a few of these attributes in your career to date, you may be the perfect fit – and should consider a small team internship.

For more information about internship opportunities visit us at Canuworktomorrow.com.

Liberal Arts Grads: You Can Turn that Degree into a Thriving Career

Category : CAREER

May 17, 2011

Featured on Bnet, contributed by Jessica Stillman

The perennial career advice is to do what you love. That makes a lot of sense if you have a lifelong love of, say, petroleum engineering, statistics or a similarly practical field that offers many stable, well-paying jobs.

But what about those of us who followed our hearts and spent our college years immersed in musical theater, Greek philosophy or 17th century poetry? Yes, a fortunate few may be able to earn a livable wage at these passions, but most will need to find a way to transition into more practical, business-oriented vocation.

How do you turn a liberal arts degree into a thriving career? If anyone can provide guidance, it’s Amanda Pekoe, the founder and president of The Pekoe Group, a theatrical marketing company. A lifelong Broadway fanatic, Pekoe studied performing arts as an undergraduate, and then spent time acting, producing and directing before moving into theatrical marketing. Here she reveals to Entry-Level Rebel how she made the transition from starry-eyed actor to successful entrepreneur.

How did you break into the business side of theatre?

I did the masters program in performing arts management at Brooklyn College. I was very fortunate because its a really intensive professional development program where we were taught by theater professionals who were actually working in the industry. We had classes in people’s offices and conference rooms and were taught by marketing directors of large companies and general managers of huge non-profits organizations. We were able to learn from experts who are currently working in our field rather than just from a text book.

If you don’t want to or can’t go to grad school, is there another way to get the necessary skills to move into a new field?

Yes. I recommend a cocktail sampling approach. I did internships, residencies and jobs in lots of different areas. People don’t have to think, ‘I want to go into marketing’ and only do a marketing internship. They can sample different aspects of an industry and get to learn a little bit about each of those aspects because actually it all ties in together. The things I learned doing fund-raising or general management have greatly helped me in my career doing marketing and promotions.

It’s really important for people to do internships in different aspects of the industry they’re interested in. It’s an important way of getting a holistic view of the industry rather than pigeonholing themselves, focusing on one aspect and not having an awareness of how all the moving parts are working together.

In your experience, what makes for a good internship versus a mediocre one? How can you get the most out of the experience? Because not all internships are created equal, right?

My recommendation for people looking for internships, and I know it probably sounds crazy, is generally to try and find an internship at a smaller company. When you work for a small company you can really get your hands on a project. You won’t just be faxing, or just be proofreading. You’ll be proofreading, but you’ll also be writing copy and pitches, making cold calls, sitting in meetings, reviewing the marketing strategy. I’m relating this to the marketing business, but when you work for a small company, there’s more opportunity for you to learn that company’s business than if you’re in a larger company and get stuck in one little area with one job to do day in and day out.

So was your undergraduate education a wash, or do you think anything from your theater training gives you an edge in your current career?

I think that it’s important for people to realize when they’re getting a degree in the arts, in any form of the arts, they’re not just studying a certain form of art and that skill set that comes along with the craft of the art itself. They’re also learning how to communicate with people in different professions and industries, all sorts of different people from all walks of life, as well as how to sell yourself and sell product.

You learn how to sell yourself when you go to school to get an arts degree and that can transfer over into any form of business. If I hadn’t gone into the business side of theater, if I had gone into a different industry, I still would have been able to connect with people, build relationships and sell whatever product I was working on.

If you could go back and give your younger self some advice, what would you say? What do you know now that you’d wish you’d known when you were starting out?

I wish I had known how important relationship building is, because when I first started out in the marketing industry, I was very keyed in to proving the skills that I had in marketing. I was proving that I could create a really great promotion or a really great marketing campaign, and not as focused on relationship building.

Now, after years of experience, I have a lot of promotional partners and am always looking to create a win-win situation for both of us. I’m not doing cookie cutter campaigns where I’m doing the same promotions over and over. I have brainstorming sessions and come up with new people to reach out to every day, so that every day I’m cultivating new relationships. Now I’m not just going to people asking them for a favor. I’m looking for things that will be mutually beneficial for both of our businesses.

Any other tips for young people looking to find ways to use their artsy background in a business setting?

Stay plugged in to the grass roots of your community because they can help you. When I was a performer I was always doing grassroots marketing to get people into the show, so I would go out and hand out flyers on the street corner, for example. Or I would work with another show and ask them if they would help promote the show I was in to their audience, and I would then in turn promote their show to my audience. And now grass roots marketing is a huge part of our marketing campaigns for every production we work on, and I am able to hire actors that I know from the past to do those grass roots marketing efforts. And they’re so used to doing them and huge experts on how to do them.