These days, the role of an entrepreneur isn’t just reserved for those launching startups. Drive, passion, and overall entrepreneurial spirit can resonate within all employees, including interns, even at large global companies.
Interning at a leading global tech company is any student’s dream. Filled with great minds and collaborative teams, SAS is an amazing place for interns to gain free knowledge (and college students love free stuff). Since I started as a SAS intern in the summer of 2015, I’ve noticed the great similarities between interns and entrepreneurs. While entrepreneurs utilize their assets, take risks, and seek potential investors, interns make use of valuable SAS resources, tackle projects and new learning opportunities, and network with those who could potentially invest in their future careers.
Anyone can be an entrepreneur and bring an entrepreneurial spirit to the workplace, especially interns who are fresh faces to the company and can bring novel ideas to the table. Here are some ways I think interns can start being an entrepreneur:
1 - Make an impact. In my business classes, I’ve learned that high-growth industries usually take on more risk. This also applies to entrepreneurs -- with more risk, comes more reward. By going that extra mile, interns can make an impact, even in a large corporation. It’s easy to think, “I’m just a small fish in a large pond,” but that’s simply not true. Interns are brought into organizations and put onto highly productive teams for a reason -- to make an impact! Think about ways you can expand your role and be innovative. With my own team at SAS, I’ve stepped up to lead my own projects, and I soon learned that my team values the contributions I bring.
2 - Make solutions. Question how some of your team’s processes can be improved and acknowledge discomfort with inefficiency. I encourage interns to think outside the norms of the organization and come up a solution -- don’t be afraid of going against the majority and looking at things with a critical eye. I attended the NC State CEO Club meeting last week where Arjun Aravindan, founder of Lithios Apps, offered me an interesting piece of advice: “Don’t strive to build the right product, but the right solution.” Instead of having an end goal in mind and accepting the first iteration, interns should always ask “why.”
3 - Make your brand. While branding is usually thought of being just for businesses (or cattle), interns should create a personal brand to establish themselves and build recognition. Your brand represents what you stand for, how you appear to the world, your niche. Throughout an internship, many students discover their true passions and strengths; understanding your true self helps in creating your own brand. Networking during your internship further promotes your brand and sets you up for the future. Building an online presence is an important component to this. A LinkedIn account can serve as a vehicle to showcase your work and projects, connect with your co-workers, and network with others.
Entrepreneurs seek opportunity and recognize the value in taking risks. Thinking like an entrepreneur in an internship will help interns prepare for a future career and make an impact in their teams. So take advantage of your internship, appreciate the opportunity, and keep up the entrepreneurial spirit! And as Steve Jobs said, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”