Internships Offered by Smaller-sized Firms – What to Expect

Internships Offered by Smaller-sized Firms - What to Expect

Startups, Small-sized Firms – Technology, E-Commerce, Recruitment, Marketing, Public Relations, etc.

The Perks

  • The potential to take on various projects of varying natures and in the process, gain more skills and doing more work for both resume-building and self-growth purposes. While having to multi-task and switch between different ‘frames of mind’ in wearing many hats on the job, ultimately such an internship experience is extremely beneficial as you gain many new abilities!
  • Personal satisfaction in terms of contribution to company and business impact felt is a definite thrill in working for small firms. Due to the need to wear many hats, there are many ‘on-the-ground’ work that may be solely under the purview of an intern that can be expected. Client complaints and demands for in-person attention? A meeting set up with a prospective lead but your boss has another last-minute meeting to tend to? Representing your boss at a recruitment fair? Sourcing out new business prospects at a networking event? You got them all!
  • Personal mentorship by founders of startups and small-sized firms – this is something that I personally greatly value as a millennial.  Even Jack Ma once said that the best career progress for a millennial at 20 is to find a good boss to learn from and work for. Due to the nature of the company, more often not especially in startups, interns may find themselves working very closely with the founders in day-to-day operations. In establishing closely-knitted working relationships, it is inevitable that the founders have to dedicate some time to walk their interns through the product work map and future plans in order for the team to be on the same page. Conversely, some founders and CEOs do find it worthy to invest time in coaching their interns as interns can sometimes be expected to carry the weight of a full-time employee.
  • Working for newly-established startups or small players to certain industries, these firms may have yet to build or invest in efficient new tools for internal operations. As such, the tools used in operations everyday are closer to what’s commonly available. Harnessing the usage of such tools may be essential transferable skillsets to future internships or job roles.
  • The chance to immerse oneself in a diverse and , hustle-hard work culture. Since the workload of an intern at a startup or a small firm may be equivalent to that of a full-time employee, the amount of respect and autonomy one is given on the job may be closer to the latter than most think. In soliciting for opinions before the founders make an important decision, your opinion may be valued just as much as the next person’s. The need to make decisions that concern the entire business such as those related to product are brought to the attention, regardless of whether you are a marketer or an engineer. This is productive in the breeding of a team mentality, where you feel the need to work hard to make a meaningful impact to the business.

With everyone so caught up in doing their best for the business, there is no time to maintain organizational hierarchies and bureaucratic structures. Open communication is common – quizzing one another, asking for help and suggestions – we are all here to grow together!

The Downsides

  • Knowing too much about a company can make for awkward situations. Such knowledge usually concerns the finances, contractual matters or recruitment activities of a company. From my own internship experiences, these situations can end up very awkward indeed. For example, in one of the startups I have interned at, I was confronted with quizzing my superiors on the state of our company’s finances since I was responsible for grants application. While these situations do not warrant panic like that of committing an error in front of a client, one would certainly choose to avoid them if they have a choice!
  • For millennials who already have their minds set on working for the “big 4” firms such as law, management consulting or investment banking, an internship experience may not completely unenjoyable for them even if there are takeaways from the experience. Frustration at the fluid nature of the job scope, confusion at the unexpected tasks given with tight deadlines, disgruntlement at how quickly the founders may change their minds in making certain business decisions – these are just some of the sentiments that millennials who are not into startups or new industrial players may experience.  

The perks and downsides interning in various firms are endless. While we have broken down some of the common aspects of big institutions and smaller-sized firms, this list is definitely not exhaustive. Expectations vary across different firms in varying industries – sometimes factors such as the state of the economy play a factor in the internship experience though it is difficult to ascertain the extent to which they do. Attitude and one’s expected achievement of an internship play a huge role as well. Stay tuned to the next part of the “Choosing the Right Internship” series, where we will be discussing some of the ‘expected’ nature of internships pertaining to hugely sought-after industries.


Article contributed by Lok SiYing

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Bot Protection * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.