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Internships at Startups

Some advice on asking for internships at startups: My co-founder and I receive 1-5 internship requests daily. That may seem like a lot, and it definitely feels like a flood of inbound requests! Our startup currently has 11 people and we do have a few interns skilled in GIS for specific data collection. However, we will not consider general internship requests.

Interns require a lot of training as they typically lack extensive experience and skills.

The main thing an intern can offer is enthusiasm and energy, which is fantastic! From an intern's perspective, their willingness to do anything for the startup is a plus. Unfortunately for founders, this is often a minus.

Saying 'I will help with anything' is really not advisable. It puts the onus on the founder to figure out what to do with you. Founders, especially in teams smaller than 50, are working on incredibly specific problems in the business and need individuals who can solve specific issues. When we advertised for GIS interns, we had a very specific project in mind and had already created the training, which made onboarding smooth.

If you want an internship at a startup, the most important thing is to identify one specific problem you can help the founder solve. For example:

  • I will make 50 cold calls a day for your sales team.

  • I will manually QA every new feature on staging before it's pushed to production.

  • I will redo your marketing site with all new product screenshots.

  • I will impersonate you on LinkedIn, reach out to software engineering candidates you're trying to hire, and schedule calls with them.

Being this specific makes you more likely to be considered, as it shows you're willing to do what an early-stage startup needs. If any of the above tasks seem boring or underutilize your skills, then propose something you're skilled in that is better. But it must be specific.

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