5 Reasons to Intern at a Startup: The Perks of Working at a Small Company Making Big Waves


When my fellow college classmates set off to find summer internships, most went the traditional route: believing that the bigger and more recognizable the company name, the better the internship.  I did the opposite:

I chose to go after the unique experiences and benefits of working at an early stage company. 

I am half way through my internship at Tiyaga Health, and I can personally attest to the many advantages of working for a small company making big industry changes.  I took some time to think about my summer experiences thus far, and for me, these are top five advantages of interning at a startup:

1. You Are Treated as A Co-worker

At an early startup, the staff is small and every employee (yes, even interns) are valued. This means that other employees treat you as an equal (or close-to-one), rather than just a kid to get them coffee.

2. You Have Real Responsibilities

Part of the reason you are treated like a coworker is because you are doing work that has real meaning and impact for the company, just like the company’s full-time employees. You have to continue to earn this respect by working your hardest. However, the good news is that you will see the fruits of your labor! The work you are doing is actually affecting the company and its clients, which is something many interns at big companies don’t experience.

3. You Have a Voice 

Something totally unique about startups is that even as a “lowly intern” your voice is heard and your input is valued in company decisions. For example, your ideas about market research and input on product strategy can lead to tangible differences in the company’s actual product or service!

4. You see How the Whole Company Operates 

Startups don’t have the walls (whether metaphorical or actual physical ones) between different departments that many big, established corporations do. This means that, for example, as a product development intern, you have direct access to someone working on the financial or marketing side of things. You have the opportunity to ask them about aspects of their job, giving you exposure to, and even experience in, cross-departmental responsibilities. Not only is this truly unique to a startup, it also gives you the opportunity to understand how all aspect of business work together, therefore seeing how the company operates as a whole.

5. You Have to Opportunity to Learn from Eager Mentors 

The special combination of a small staff and employees passionate about the project they are working on translates to plenty of experienced and eager co-workers to mentor you during (and even beyond) your internship. Mentors are great resources to learn from (you may find you learn more from them than from your professors) and network with in the future. Mentors teach and expose you to invaluable, career-altering opportunities. Their investment in you can have a profound effect on the rest of your career.

Obviously, with a startup internship, the opportunities for learning and experience are limitless. When it comes down to it, college (and a summer internship between semesters) is a time to learn and to be a sponge, soaking in all the experiences around yourself. There is no better place to do this than at a startup, where the fast-paced, small-staffed, and incredibly passionate characteristics of the business make it the optimal environment in which to educate yourself.

Written by: Alexandra Miller, Vanderbilt University

To learn more about how Tiyaga Health is helping motivate injured individuals to stay on track with their recovery, visit www.tiyagahealth.com