DePaul University Career Center's Blog

DePaul Diaries: Life in the Startup World, as an Intern

By: Sydney Sewell, DePaul University relational and organizational communication major ’17

DePaul Diaries is a day-in-the-life blog series written by DePaul students. The series unveils DePaulians’ experiences as interns in their field of choice. Students share their honest thoughts about their experiences, what they learned as an intern and advice for students who are interested in the same field.

Picture this: you had your first human resources internship in a corporate environment. You had your own desk, there was a kitchen with a myriad of snacks that accommodated everyone’s dietary restrictions, and you had a career advisor. Sadly, your internship term has ended, but as an eager college student wanting to explore various work environments, you decide to take on the startup world.

From corporate to startup, I can truly say I received the best of both worlds. During the fall of 2016, I had the privilege of interning at a startup digital marketing company as a human resources intern. Before going into this role, I had no clue what I was getting myself into aside from what was listed in the job description and what was stated to me during the two-part interview process. Needless to say, I was in for an eye-opening and completely different experience from what I was accustomed to in the corporate world.

Eye-opening experience number one: The environment

On my first day I was introduced to the coffee shop; the coffee shop was where the company temporarily worked out of while waiting for a permanent space. Therefore, for the four days out of the week that I would come into the “office,” I was welcomed by the fresh smell of grounded coffee beans and the whistling sound of the door continuously opening and closing. Let me start off by saying that I was not use to this.

Eye-opening experience number two: The depth of the job

Upon starting my internship, I was expecting some type of formal training to assist me with getting acclimated with the company and their human resources department. Their idea of training was showing me the various platforms they use for personnel folders and recruiting. Once I understood their platforms, the human resources manager entrusted me with their talent management and training/on-boarding procedures. Again, I was not use to this either. I was only an intern yet they trusted me with creating and implementing company-wide procedures.

Both of my eye-opening experiences are not to deter students from startup companies, but rather shed light on what might be expected out of a startup that is literally establishing itself from the ground-up.

In fact, I have taken away some vital things. First, I can truly say I have had meaningful conversations with individuals in the coffee shop that might not have happened if we were in an office space. This goes to show that your workplace environment and atmosphere truly do matter. Second, the most meaningful experiences came from the human resources manager and the CEO of the company giving me full autonomy over projects. And, as I had more time with the company, I later learned this was the CEO’s goal; he would always state, “My goal with this company is to give student workers [interns] ownership of various projects in order for them to see and reach their fullest potential.” Being able to detail my role for these major projects in my portfolio helped me score other internships as well.

…The most meaningful experiences came from the HR manager and the CEO of the company giving me full autonomy over projects.

I’m positive I am not the only student who has had a corporate to startup experience, or, maybe you had the opposite. Regardless, take these pivotal moments in your life for what they are. See past what may seem as a negative, and envision the best outcome; you never know what can come out of it. So, from this day forward, ask yourself, what environment will you tackle next? You never know what it can bring!

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