Be a big fish in a small pond

It’s a complete waste of time to intern for a well-known company. Yeah, it’ll look good on paper, but what have you really learned? Nothing, because you do absolutely nothing but sit in a closet-sized room, with two other interns, that want to learn just as much as you do.

Interning for a startup company is worth more than working for a larger company because of the experience you get, the knowledge you obtain and the connections you make. In an internship your goal is to become involved in all professional experiences possible while networking with professionals. Which is what an internship is supposed to be about.

In my intern experience, which was brief but meaningful, I have seen first-hand the difference between doing the grunt work for the big-name, well-known company and interning, expanding my professional networking and gathering real-world experience at a small startup company.

I spent this past summer interning for two companies. One was with this prestigious, well-known public relations firm in West L.A. that does work for numerous Hollywood stars, famous musicians, and other stars on the rise. The other was with this startup company that works for a couple local clients around El Monte, Calif.

When I found out that I was going to be an intern for that first PR firm, tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. Little did I know, that day was the start of my first horrible intern experience.

I entered this enormous building called the Pacific Design Center at 9 o’clock every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning and not leave until 5 o’clock. This didn’t really upset me because I wanted to learn and experience what it’s like in a PR firm. But my boss had other plans for me.

He placed me in a room with two other interns. After a couple of weeks, I started to feel like it was a waste of time simply because my boss or his bosses didn’t have any work for the interns. So our main job was to sit in a chair for eight hours pretending to do work. For months, I literally counted down the number of days and hours until my internship was done.

I remember various personal tasks that were assigned to me. I was told to layout lunch on a conference table for the employees at the firm. Another task was to go recycle old magazines and newspapers that were used for press clippings. Oh, and my favorite was getting to clean out the executive vice president’s office.

Luckily, during this time, I was fortunate enough to intern with a startup company close to my house. The company was a small firm that managed local clients’ social media platforms. Here I was able to expand my knowledge and experience with the social media platforms more efficiently and effectively.

Being that is was such a small company, I was also able to shadow my two bosses and learn and grown as an intern and a person. After a couple weeks of working for them, they trusted me with managing a couple of their clients’ accounts. At this company I felt like a regular employee. I was invited to meetings and events and was asked my opinion on a couple projects. I felt like I was creating value within the company rather than just staying out of the way of other professionals.

A frequent question that my bosses would ask would be, “Is there anything you want to learn from us?” Wow. That is what an internship is supposed to be. You won’t ever hear that from a company that is already established. Those companies don’t care about you and your desire to learn. It’s only those startup companies that will genuinely be interested in you and your future.