Courtney Sanford, bachelor's student in biostatistics at Gillings School of Global Public Health, spent the summer as a social impact intern with LinkedIn, in a program called LinkedIn for Good. Her essay, reprinted below, was posted Aug. 2 as part of a series of blog posts by LinkedIn interns. Sanford's minor course of study at UNC is entrepreneurship.
Courtney Sanford makes a presentation about the LinkedIn for Good program.
You may not realize it but interns are really entrepreneurs; they have limited resources, take risks, and search for potential investors. While entrepreneurs are typically trying to get people to invest in their business ventures, interns are doing all they can to get people to invest in their careers.
During my summer internship at LinkedIn, I've been an entrepreneur in a variety of ways. This approach has helped me to learn, grow, and connect during my time here. There's a lot of value in thinking entrepreneurially in any setting. Here are a few tips from my personal experience on how to be an entrepreneur in your internship:
- Be innovative. Take advantage of what makes you unique and don't try to fill the same roles as your full-time co-workers. Think about ways you can be innovative in your role and focus on the advantages and different perspectives an intern can bring. During my first week at LinkedIn I met with some people from our Higher Education team to discuss how we could engage students more on LinkedIn. I was shocked at how much my input was valued. My own experience as a college student was insightful and valuable because it gave me a different perspective than the rest of their team.
- Build a brand. Social networks provide a great opportunity to build your personal brand, and great entrepreneurs know the importance of managing their online identity. LinkedIn is an especially great way to illustrate what you're doing in your internship. Use your profile as both a résumé and portfolio by incorporating photos, videos, and SlideShare presentations of your work. Add the Volunteer & Causes section to your profile to better show the range of your experience and interests, and make sure you connect with your manager, co-workers, and other interns in order to build and maintain a network that lasts beyond your internship.
Impact your company. One of the things people love about working for startups or small companies is the ability to have an impact on the direction of the company. But even at large companies there's room for you to create a niche. LinkedIn, for example, has grown into a 4,200+ person company, but my team is a tight knit group. This has allowed me to take ownership of some large projects and really create my own niche on my team. Regardless of the size of your company, make sure you add value and are able to make an impact with your projects.
Sanford (left) takes part in a project fair during her internship.
- Adapt. Use your internship as an opportunity to learn new skills and test out your knowledge. Working on side projects can be a great way to develop new capabilities and explore other fields or roles within the company. If you realize you don't like what you're doing or studying, don't be afraid to pivot. Use your internship as an opportunity to gain the skills you need and transition to a path that better fits your interests, skills, and goals. Working on side projects and meeting others within the company can be helpful in this transition.
- Be a serial entrepreneur. I can't emphasize enough how valuable it is to have multiple internships that give you varied experiences, perspectives, and skills. In my first internship, I was doing research on snails and spent my days wading through ponds, which couldn't be more different than my current job focusing on social impact at LinkedIn. The experience of test driving a career, learning what you like or don't like in a work environment, and getting experience outside of the classroom is incredibly valuable, and I recommend you take advantage of that opportunity as much as possible. You won't have many more chances to explore different careers when you're in a full-time job, so try to do multiple internships that allow you to have those experiences.
Entrepreneurs recognize opportunity and the value of taking risks. Thinking like an entrepreneur in your internship will help you to enjoy your job
, impact your company
, and prepare you for a future career
. Take advantage of all that the experience has to offer, and keep on being an entrepreneur!