I’ll be completely honest: when I first found out that I was going to spend my summer interning for a small company instead of one of the big four accounting firms or another large corporation, I was not thrilled. However, after my tenure with Mightybytes Inc., my advice is that every college student should find the time to intern with a small company during their college career.
One of the major benefits of interning with a small business is that they lack a corporate structure. Because of this, change is easier to implement and they are more likely to listen to your ideas. At large firms and Fortune 500 companies, office and project managers are not likely to take advice from an intern. In order to make any actual change, you have to climb up the corporate ladder and get permission from each person before you can even think about changing anything.
At Mightybytes, by contrast, I was immediately given a voice within the company. I was able to make a variety of different changes around the office, from creating recycling signs to put up around the workplace; to requesting the person in charge of purchasing to buy a Kill-a-Watt device; to setting up a company lunch meeting to train everyone on recycling (the owner even found time to sit in and shake my hand afterwards). I was also given freedom to do what interested me, from writing blog posts about topics that I felt strongly about to picking which Chicago Green Office Challenges I wanted to complete. On my first day, the Content & Social Media Director gave me access to the company’s Twitter account with over 1,400 followers and retweeted what I considered intriguing and relevant to our industry. Similarly, I was able to thank clients and respond to the questions of potential customers and users.
What also made Mightybytes stand out from any large business was the company’s overall office atmosphere. The relaxed workplace allowed employees to wear what they wanted, like the time the founder of the company strolled in with his biking shorts and blended right in. It made employees like me feel more comfortable. Due to Mightybytes’ small size, I was able to create relationships with more co-workers and even had the chance to work with the owner directly. I remember one afternoon when he assigned me to research his options for purchasing carbon offsets and then asked me to make a recommendation. To my surprise, I found out a few weeks later that he had chosen the one I had selected.
Office gatherings with the closely knit community were always enjoyable. One of the most memorable events I attended – but did not partake in– was the company’s Mighty Brew Storming session. It was a company tradition that whenever a new employee was added to the team, the entire office would come together, share a few drinks, and brew a special beer as sort of an initiation for that new team member, all within the confines of the company kitchen. Developing relationships with co-workers not only develops one’s social skills, but doubles as a source of future references that may help you in upcoming job searches.
Prior to my internship with Mightybytes, I interned (and still currently intern) for Sodexo (one of the largest retail and dining services in the United States) and for the Office of Sustainability at the university. Both of these businesses possess outside stakeholders and higher officials, most of which I have never met, in charge of their respective corporate structures. During my ongoing internships at these two corporate based companies, I came up with a few simple ideas that could have been implemented in half the time they actually took. The office atmosphere is also very strict, where only professional relationships can exist and department-to-department relationships become political.
Working for my Mightybytes was different. Finding who was responsible for what and who could help answer my questions was simple and made work easier and more efficient. In a large corporate office, finding someone to assist you with your questions can be problematic and may even take a few days.
Although my internship with Mightybytes only lasted a few months, I immediately noticed the ardor members of the office displayed for the projects they worked on. The level of dedication to a project goes further than any I have seen in a corporate setting. Employees strive for more than just the goals of the company; they want not only to create a valuable product, but also a better community.
Similarly, small business employees are generally following their passions, opposed to someone who took the high paying corporate job (though I am not saying this applies to everyone). Even at school, I hear the stories of students, alumni, and friends who have purposely avoided corporate businesses in order to actively pursue their passions and avoid stressful careers. For students who dream of one day building their own startups, being a part of a small company is an excellent place to start.
As a student majoring in Marketing and Earth, Environment, and Global Sustainability, my experience with Mightybytes allowed me to apply the skills I acquired from my two years at Bentley University to a real operating company. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to intern for Mightbytes Inc., and the work I was able to complete in my short amount of time with them will always be a part of my collegiate accomplishments. If you find yourself wondering what you should do with the time off you have this summer, make interning for a small company a priority. I know it will be one of the best decisions you have ever made.