In the five years I attended Purdue University Northwest, I participated in three internships with three different companies, and I’m currently still an intern for greenCOW Coworking even though I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in December 2017. In another year or two, when I go to graduate school, I know for certain I will apply to yet another internship.
That’s nearly one internship every other year! It may sound like I just have a strange addiction, but it’s not the internships I’m addicted to; it’s the powerful role each of those internships have played in my own business endeavors, which is why I decided to make internships the focus of the first episode of The Entrepreneurial Journey.
You see, with every internship I completed, I learned something amazing that motivated me to keep applying for internships.
An internship is just as beneficial for an entrepreneur as it is for someone hoping to get hired by the company they’re interning for. It’s all about recognizing the skills you’re acquiring and maintaining the connections you will inevitably make if you work hard.
For me, these internships led to the kind of concrete success that can’t be ignored or downplayed, so much so that I highly recommend all entrepreneurs become an intern at least once—especially if you’re an entrepreneur whose business is still in the idea or start-up stage.
When I was an entrepreneur who had an idea but no understanding of how to translate that idea to a successful business, my first internship helped me hone my scattered thoughts and focus. The second internship broadened my horizons and gave me much needed connections with community leaders, and now this internship at greenCOW Coworking is helping me transition my business from a sole proprietorship to a limited liability corporation that will soon have subsidiaries and employees.
In this post, I want to discuss the three internships I took part in and how they benefited my business in the hopes that you will seek out an internship and benefit from it as much as you can.
Editorial Assistant for Month9Books, LLC
During my freshman year at Purdue Northwest a few years ago, I was a remote editorial assistant for Month9Books for a few months. I discovered the position through a connection I’d made on LinkedIn. Back then, I was transitioning from a book reviewer who made only small bits of money promoting books and writing reviews to a copy editor. Exuberantly, I sent requests on LinkedIn to a broad range of editors. Someone who also happened to be an editorial assistant for Month9Books at the time saw that I was interested in copy editing but didn’t know where to start so she recommended that I apply for the position at Month9Books.
Technically, this wasn’t advertised as an unpaid internship. When I was interviewed for the position through Skype, I was told upfront that the work load would be heavy but useful in understanding some of what an editor does and that payment might not come for months, so I interpreted it as an unpaid internship.
I worked on PDF documents of manuscripts. I couldn’t make any changes to the manuscript, but I kept track of information for the in-house style guides, learned about the importance of style guides and consistency, and wrote editorial letters pointing out consistent errors I’d noticed.
After working on three books, I stepped away from the position because the work load became too overwhelming. As a full-time, financially struggling university student, I couldn’t justify spending so much time on unpaid work, but I learned a lot about copy editing from that position and I am indebted to Georgia McBride and Month9Books for giving me that opportunity. After that internship, I took a few classes online about copy editing, created a website, and opened a discounted freelance editing business (discounted because I was still in college and still learning the editorial craft, and I wanted people to know that before they agreed to work with me).
If you plan on starting your own business, it’s a good idea to do an internship in that field, or at least an internship in whatever field is closest to the type of business you want to start. This will give you an idea of what the day-to-day work load is actually like so you don’t start your business with a starry-eyed idea of what you will be doing.
General Intern for Indiana Writers’ Consortium
When I was a student at Purdue University Northwest, they had an experiential learning requirement—students must take two experiential courses to graduate, which usually means at least one internship and one class with a component of education outside the classroom. Junior year, in place of a three-credit class, I decided to become an intern for the Indiana Writers’ Consortium.
At this point in my entrepreneurial career, I was a subcontract copy editor for a small publisher and I also had a steady stream of freelance clients. I was making more money as a freelance editor than as an administrative assistant, my day job. I was happy with my career, but I was also overwhelmed with school since graduation was on the horizon. Even though I was overwhelmed, I still wanted to expand and branch into other avenues in the literary field, such as committees, conferences, writing, and teaching; I wanted to make community connections instead of all online connections, so I dived into the internship no holds barred and volunteered for roles outside of the requirements.
On top of doing what was required—tutoring, writing press releases for events, writing one issue of the monthly newsletter, and managing social media for a few weeks—I signed up to be the Marketing Director for the Steel Pen Writing Conference; I presented a workshop about the Editor-Author Relationship at Steel Pen; I facilitated a discussion at Eat&Exchange about social media for authors; and I joined the IWC’s newly formed Technology Committee and helped them with the beginning stages of creating a new website.
From that one internship alone, I acquired many skills I could list on my resume; I met community leaders, got new clients, and learned the absolute importance of engaging with the community. Furthermore, now I’m able to offer more than just editorial services. Now I instruct, write, mentor, and coach.
From this internship, I learned that even if your business is doing well, an internship is still beneficial for networking, resources, and helping you expand.
Community Builder/Social Media Intern for greenCOW Coworking
I’m currently a Community Builder/Social Media intern for greenCOW Coworking. It’s my first paid internship, and I managed to get hired for the position just two months before graduating, so I was luckily still eligible for the internship when I applied.
Working here has opened so many more doors for me. I get access to the coworking space, the resources, and the events, which is helping me immensely with my next entrepreneurial goal—transitioning my business from a sole proprietorship with no fixed location to a limited liability corporation with subsidiaries and a stable address.
Furthermore, I get to better hone my marketing and social media skills as well as learn the day-to-day habits of managing a small business with employees. Since my internship lasts for another three months, I think it would be premature to evaluate greenCOW’s overall impact on my entrepreneurial goals in this post.
I can say for sure that interning for a coworking space or a business incubator, no matter what type of business you own, is an amazing opportunity for an entrepreneur in general.