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When you, as an entrepreneur, walk into a VC interview, and take a seat at the mahogany table in front of the people that could change your life forever, everything feels unfamiliar and daunting. That first interview feels tougher than passing all your 400-level courses in one go, and then the agonizing wait to hear back and see if they are interested in you. It is a dizzy whirlwind of trial and error, of managing expectations while hoping for the best, of accepting and rejecting conflicting advice from various sources, of fostering confidence while remaining humble, and of knowing that ultimately a lot will come down to plain luck.
The above illustration, I think, describes me and my colleagues perfectly as we are in our last year of university and about to begin our internships and career development journeys. The truth is, though, that this scenario isn’t actually written with job seekers in mind, but rather startup CEOs who are trying to make a name for themselves and secure partnerships and investment.
In my brief experience, I have realized that internships, in many ways, are similar to startups, and that is why I chose to work at Tahawal, a Dubai-based digital agency specifically designed to help startups and millennials, like me. Here is how:
Rose-colored glasses on: It all starts from an idea and just a little bit of courage. Both interns and entrepreneurs have a fresh new outlook on things. They have a drive to do things differently and in a way that is more effective. A common belief is that “if it’s not broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed”. However, this mentality not only shackles people, but businesses and markets too. As they say, when you look at something through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags. Hence, both are also forced to explore the fine line between being relentlessly driven and being too stubborn to quit.
Big fish vs. little fish: Rather than becoming a little fish in a big pond or vice versa, interns and startups choose to make their own ponds. As a newbie in the market -be it as an intern or a startup- we all face the threat of being undervalued by the “big guys”. Naturally, common belief is that an employee with more experience automatically performs better than an entry-level candidate. However, thousands of employers in the region are turning to companies like InternsME.com to hire interns because they realize that an entry-level candidate may bring something to the table that’s completely unthought of. Similarly, a startup may address a gap in the market that established corporations fail to recognize and deliver to.
Eager beavers: A good opportunity knocking upon their door has both interns and entrepreneurs ready and raring to go, coupled with the desire to achieve, which burns inside of them. However, startups and interns are also in need of direction and support, be it monetary or otherwise. With just a bit of mentoring and direction, they are easily able to flourish into something greater and make a positive impact on the world. According to various statistics, a staggering 84% of Millennials believe that making a positive difference in the world is more important than gaining professional recognition.
Related: Eight Lessons Learned From Internships
Delayed gratification: A common misconception is that Millennials are hungry for instant gratification and lose interest quickly if they do not see desired results. Actually, the truth is that employers are the ones who expect interns to excel at what they do from day one, with little-to-no pay. Similarly, entrepreneurs want to build something sustainable and impactful, but are often faced with a battle between meeting deadlines and getting back to investors who only want to see numbers and boost their ROIs. Most Millennials believe that businesses should be measured by more than just financial figures, but rather on their impact and value added to society. Companies that only strive to get their numbers up may be missing out on valuable insight that is otherwise picked up by startups and interns.
You win some, you lose some: In the struggle to make a name for themselves, interns and entrepreneurs sacrifice stable incomes and personal comfort in exchange for bigger growth opportunities and sustainable futures that they can benefit from in the long run. Butterflies are rampant, and with that comes uncertainty with choosing the road less traveled, and the feeling of self-doubt of being inexperienced around people who seem to know everything. There is no guarantee that things will work out the way they envisioned, but these are the risks worth taking, and most interns and entrepreneurs are aware of this, which is why they conquer the fear of failure and take the plunge head-first.
Oh, you thought all they cared about was AED18 lattes, Kardashians, and beanbag chairs, didn't you?