3 Tips to Get Off Your A** and Really “Learn Your Start-up” as an Intern

By Travis Kuhne

Feel like you’ve learned your role and you’re just winding down until you need to start worrying about lectures again? It’s a situation a lot of student interns and co-ops face as they stare down to-do lists filled with seemingly “routine” work. You’ve learned the tricks and tasks of this startup inside out, but have you really?

My guess is probably not. The learning never stops at a startup, product and personal development alike. Take some of these quick tips with you as you step off the subway and into your company’s morning stand-up:

1. Pay Attention to the Air-Balls Too, Not Just the Slam Dunks

Bad management decisions, choked plays, and fumbled convos are just as valuable for you as an intern as anything else you’ll experience. In a startup environment, business operations are in constant transformation. Things are 100% going to go badly somewhere, someone is 100% guaranteed to f*ck up on something (probably you–don’t feel too bad, it’s one of the best ways to learn), and some shots are inevitably going to miss. These “bad” things hold value because they’ll teach you what kinds of challenges entrepreneurs face and will continue to face. Conflicts-of-personality and workplace politics will be put in the spotlight, and you’ll see a contrast between what works, what doesn’t, and most importantly: why.

You aren’t here to simply learn how to run programs or expand your network; you’re taking on your startup internship to gain a holistic perspective on how to lead, how to build (software, a company, teams, etc.), and how to mould yourself into a peak-performance professional. You can only get that perspective through seeing the best and the worst of the startup world.

2. Build New Things

You chose the startup world and with that, you chose to be surrounded by not only the biggest personalities–but also the best builders the industry has to offer. You chose these things, so capitalize on them. Build a side-hustle project; doesn’t have to be the AAA-tier products that the devs are pumping out, but make something that brings value to you in your role or others around you. Then, get these builders to hit you back with criticism.

As an intern, you’re a foot soldier of the company’s war machine–and this gives you a key perspective when it comes to building solutions. It’s at this level that you can see inefficiencies in workflows–some things that full-time staff may not have had time to change or have missed altogether. There is absolutely no shortage of work to get done in a startup, which is exactly why you made the right choice by interning at one.

Some of the best learning experiences you can take from a startup internship — nobody will handhold you into experiencing it. Read The Lean Startup, take initiative, make some mistakes, and do your own building with the advice of some of the best talent out there.

3. Keep the Fire Burning

It will be easy (or already has become easy) to let yourself become complacent and locked into a boring routine. At TribalScale, interns are pushed to keep challenging, building, and innovating on themselves through opportunities and keeping them engaged throughout their internship. However, that energy can be translated into any internship. If you implement some of the ideas above: seeing value in solving system/workspace problems and disrupting your own workflow using creativity, you can open up new learning opportunities. Your purpose at a startup is to learn, and with a few of these strategies up your sleeve, there’s nothing stopping you from doing just that.

About the author

Travis Kuhne was a Business Development Intern at TribalScale for just under a year. He’s currently pursuing his studies at the Schulich School of Business. Travis loves reading, fitness, and following the latest in entrepreneurship and tech trends.

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