Is It Better To Intern In A Startup Or A Big Organisation?

Posted by Saptaparno Ghosh in Campus Watch, Careers
March 24, 2017

Internships are useful. A first-hand experience of the functioning of the workplace can prove to be helpful in this competitive world. Often, in many courses, especially humanities, the course structure offers little scope to plunge into the alternatives, and that’s where internships are handy. Internships give you the edge. Textbooks and classroom teaching are never enough. It is necessary to get a taste of the world outside, for that is the epicentre of all the learning and its application. There are plenty of internship opportunities. However, choosing the right one is important. The right choice is made by assessing what matters the most to you.

It is not always true that big players do not offer any learning. I think the real learning happens when you associate with the big players. It isn’t only about the formal procedures, but their experience in managing operations, logistics and tackling crises. Small players can lack formal procedures and conduct operations following the trial-and-error method. I shall give my example. My first content writing internship with a youth portal asked me to write on ‘anything under the sun’. I had the freedom to write the way I wanted, no style sheet to cater to. I wasn’t restricted by topics and domains either. Things were different when I interned with a renowned newspaper. I had style sheets to follow. Unlike the youth portal, all my stories weren’t published upon submission.

Some were being kept on hold. They are called ‘time-specific’ stories. A pre-movie commentary done on Monday was not published on Tuesday, but Wednesday or Thursday, one or two days before its release, to catch the excited audience better. The news house also had massive public relation contacts. During my two months tenure, I managed to build contacts. That helped me immensely when I was freelancing with another less prominent news organisation, a year later.

However, it shall be imperative to note that the big players strictly mean business. They are usually unwilling to hire an undergraduate without prior knowledge of the industry’s functioning. The first question I was asked in my interview for interning at the feature section of a newspaper was, “Have you written anywhere before?” This is where small players serve as launch-pads. Small organisations can give you the necessary understanding and expertise before you make the bigger leap. What this also makes sure is your internship with the bigger organisation isn’t a disappointment.

Working with larger organisations has a catch. Organisations have sub-wings, catering to specific segments in a more marketable fashion. A youth-specific portal of an established newspaper is an example. Like the small players, they too are in their formative stages and execute trial-and-error method. The only point of difference being the capital in hand. Their expectations and demands are not in any favour of growth to the intern. They shall compensate it by offering perks and good money. Don’t get swayed. Overlooking quality training for perks and money in the initial stages can be detrimental. This shall, however, make little or no difference to your resume. Be sure of the organisation and your role. Perhaps, you wouldn’t want myths related to big brand internships making sense.

Internships are about putting your requisite skills to work according to the industry’s expectations. The learning here is about gaining insights through validation and errors. Therefore, selecting the right internship matters. Disappointment occurs when your expectations do not co-relate with that of the organisation.

An internship with big players boosts your CV. However, it shall be suggested to have a right mix of both. The challenges are distinct and unrelated in small and big organisations. While startups operate on limited resources, the big players have the challenge of keeping intact their large customer base despite enormous resources. Startups in their formative stages, deal with a less sample space, and therefore, may offer interns with greater possibilities to experiment. The idea is to do something unconventional, unique and different to gain the edge.

Brainstorming before selecting the right internship is essential. Brands matter for CV, but what is important for survival and growth are expertise and learning. Think before you associate with either, realise your needs and then go on with it.