Internship at startup - pros and cons

My niece is just about to graduate and she asks me for career advice for software development industry. What she wants now is to "test the water" to see if she really wanted to be in the I.T industry for long.

So far she received a few offers for internship role from startups in Malaysia and still looking for internship offers from "big" and "established" companies, but time is running out and seems like the internship with a startup is her only choice for now.

intern working

Matt Wildbore

Here are a few pointers and quick summary from me to her.

The good:

  • You will always learn new things in any new jobs. Your academic qualifications will teach you up to your graduation day. You will learn a,b,c,1,2,3 again with the new job.
  • In small company or startup, you will learn a lot and fast. This is why startup prefers young workers. Cheaper and easier to mold.
  • You will learn new lessons and gain new insights faster than working for a big and established company.
  • You get to work with people within your age group. Chances are high that your CEO is just about your age or slightly older than you. Is that good? Depends.

The bad:

  • Chances are high that the startup you intern may not be around after 6 months or 1 year later because the company's coffer dries up. Most startups like to call themselves "pre-revenue" and that can be dangerous for staff morale in the long run.
  • Startup life is different from what is represented by the media, it may look cool and fun with flexible working hours. However, that's only half the story. Flexible working hours mean non-stop working and frequent overtimes. Don’t ever expect to go home before the sun sets.
  • Be prepared to receive vaguely instructions because chances are your manager or the CEO wears many hats and try to get things done at light-speed. Typically, the job description advertise by the startup has a clause that expects you to be a "self-motivated" person. Forget about asking for guidance or crystal clear instruction on how to accomplish your given task, you are expected to solve it or ship out if you can't.

The summary:

  • Just like any other job be it with start-ups or established companies.... eventually, you will get to this "same-shit-different-day" stage. It is just a matter of how fast you reach that stage and how long you stuck there. Luckily it is just internship.

Preview image credit: Darren Coleshill

  See also : When to retire from programming and what to do next?

By Adam Ng

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