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Guest post by Paula
How to turn an internship into a career
It’s no secret that internships can be the best way to get your foot in the door. The job market for graduates is becoming increasingly competitive, and the best way to get noticed is to be 22 years old and have 25 years of experience under your belt.
And although it’s hard to get excited about the prospect of unpaid work, especially in return for just a reference, your internship can be the start of an incredible career if you go about it the right way.
1. Learn to network
The most valuable thing you’ll get out of any role, whether you’re an intern or a CEO, is the people you’ll meet along the way. You’ll meet people that inspire and motivate you, as well as people that teach you valuable lessons. You’ll probably also meet people you don’t work well with, which will be a lesson on its own in that you’ll have to exercise adaptability and tolerance.
Your internship is essentially the starting point of your professional network that will continuously grow, so take advantage of it while you can.
If you haven’t got a LinkedIn, sign up now. It may seem a little pointless and uneventful at first, but think of it as a virtual, cloud-based resume that’ll grow over time as you move up in your career. With each new role, you’ll have a new job title, new connections, and new skills to add.
Connect with people you work with and follow both people and companies you admire. It’s a great way to stay updated with your industry and find job opportunities that may be a great fit for you.89% of recruiters report to have hired someone via LinkedIn so keep your eyes peeled for what may be the next move in your career.
2. Be proactive
If you want to turn your internship into a career, don’t show up and work through a to-do list. The best interns (and the ones that get hired or referred) are those who bring ideas to the table, take initiative, and proactively try to solve problems on their own with the resources they have before asking for help.
On that note, before you go rogue, do some research and ensure that you’re making data-driven decisions, rather than going off a gut feeling. Prepare a strategy and bring this to your employer or manager before executing it — not because you’re unqualified to do the job, but because an efficient and effective company needs to have everyone on the same page.
Fail + learn =flearn.
Learning from your mistakes is the key to turning your internship into a career (and to having a successful career in the future). The ability to take on constructive feedback as a positive and developmental piece of information can go a long way. It’ll help with your personal, skill, and career development, and will also help you move on from your failures rather than dwelling on them or giving up entirely.
There’s no better time to work on your ability to flearn than during an internship. The whole point of work experience is to learn new things that you can apply later on in your career, and you won’t learn nearly as much if you play it safe and practice what you already know.
4. Exceed expectations
Come into your internship with a goal to over-deliver. Whether you get hired or not, exceeding your employers’ expectations will leave a lasting impression that may help you with your career later on.
Aside from being proactive, this is where your professional attributes should really come into play. Whether you have amazing communication skills, are extremely organised, or simply have a positive attitude, make sure you showcase these qualities and deliver more than is expected of you.
5. Don’t just do it for the reference
With the pressure to get some kind of work experience before you graduate, a lot of people will take any internship they can get in order to build on their resume.
If you really want to turn your internship into career, you need to approach it with the right attitude. It’s sometimes hard when you’re not getting paid for your hard work, but remember that everyone has to start someone and try to focus on learning as much as possible.
Paula is the founder of Joobly, an initiative that aims to connect aspiring student interns to tech startups in Sydney. She majors in Business Information Systems at Macquarie University.
Nice quote from Warren Buffet from John from Beacon Maker.
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.”
More startups die from doing too much than from lack of opportunity.
Think about this when;
- You’re thinking about new features. Either remove another feature or SAY NO.
- You’re thinking about new customers/markets. Either stop focusing on your current customers/markets or SAY NO.
- When someone asks you to be white label. Either say yes and only be a white label, or SAY NO.
- When a deal looks like ‘once in a lifetime’. Either sell them the same way you sell to everyone else, without derailing your roadmap, and without changing your focus, or SAY NO.
- When an investor says that you should change your focus to something you don’t know about or care about. Think very very carefully and even then probably SAY NO.
- When a customer says they will pay you for a feature you don’t think all customers need. SAY NO, or at least “not right now”.
- When a new platform comes out and people ask you to support it. Unless your existing platform is not nailed completely, SAY NO.
- When you get invited to more than two events per week, SAY NO.
- When you have more than 3 cups of coffee with ‘interesting people’, SAY NO.
- When you get tempted to set up a process which will help you when you are huge, SAY NO.
Honestly, I find this really hard. There is always so much happening, always good people to meet with, always new products to try. I always remember Stephen Covey’s quote of “Every time you say yes to something that is not important to you, you are saying no to something that is.”
I encourage you to say no more. Try it now. Shut down your browser (after sharing this post) and focus on some work.).
That’s a huge effort for the guys and a well deserved milestone. It’s a great result for them and also a wonderful recognition of what is possible in Australia.
Not just the size of the success, but the way they were albe to do it it while maintaining a balanced life.I’ve known the guys for years, though they typically keep their heads down working and are wonderfully humble about their results.
A few things I take from this:
- Big success is absolutely possible from Australia.
- It takes time. Ten years for these guys.
- You can do it anywhere. They’ve done in 99% in Sutherland about 45 mins from the centre of Sydney.
- You can do it without raising capital along the way. Yes, you need tech co-founders, but it’s possible.
- You can do it with balance. They still surf regularly, are raising families and are (very good) table tennis players.
- You don’t need a crazy vision, but you do need to play in a big market.
- Deliver one product well and keep making that product great. They have barely stretched outside of email marketing but do it insanely well.
Hats off to you guys!
Image from Shoestring – http://www.shoestring.com.au/2014/03/email-wars-chimp-chasing-cronulla-style/
There are lots of metrics which you need to track, understand and build on to run a good business. Typically there is too many, which is why I suggest trying to find three key numbers to know if it’s really working.
This started when Mike Cannon-Brookes was on the Pollenizer advisory board and pushing us for regular metrics, but keep it simple. “Just give me three numbers which means you’re going forward.” I’ve pushed the companies I’ve worked with on the same point and ended up adding the three metics to my version of the lean canvas.
The reason three is a good number is because it can’t possible include everything you need to track. You need to pick those that really matter. Even just asking this question is a great way to know if you are tracking a vanity metric or a real number.
The other reason why 3 is good, is it makes you find a simple way to communicate progress which is important for team, investors, spouses and yourself. Three is small enough to put in an email subject line to ensure that you can keep everyone up to day, and it’s also simple enough to keep everyone aligned.
This is the harder part. The rule should be that if this number improves, your business is substantially working. It should be an indicator of real value. Something substantial that can’t be faked, crammed for or easily replicable. It’s a number that should get you genuinely excited.
When you first start a business it’s easy, and maybe important, to look for any sign of interest to show some validation of the risk you’re taking. Friends telling you it’s a great idea, retweets, page visits, sign ups, facebook likes, PR mentions. All these numbers give you a short term high, but they are not a foundation of a business. They can’t be built on.
Don’t worry if one of the numbers is going to be zero for a while. That’s fine. Things like renewed customers take time, so you can track other numbers which are building towards that and you may change the numbers you track over time. Just be aggressively honest with yourself to say is this a transitionary number or does this number actually, really, really mean that it works.
Here are some of the things I look for in a good metric.
Value To Your Customer
One of the best metrics to track is the actual value you create for your customer. I often say that you need to create 10x value for new customers of a new product which means if the total cost of the product (including price, risk, time, etc) is $100 then you need to add $1,000 of value to get them to use it. So understanding the value your customers get and measuring it is obviously a great metric to track. Not always easy, but critical to at least ask and a lot of time it’s actually possible.
Actioned confirmation of value
I like numbers which mean that there has been clear acknowledgement by a real customer that they got value out of the product. Unfortunately this doesn’t just mean a sale. (Though I love sales). A sale may mean that you’re good at sales. It doesn’t mean that you created value that the customer appreciated. The second sale does. Or a renewal does.
For a free product, it needs to be serious usage to show that people are really using your product. Typically this means usage multiple times over a sustained period. Zynga uses 90 day actives. Who has been active every month for three months.
Another test is would that number be meaningful to someone outside the organisation. i.e. an investor. This can also be looked at as sellable value – if you had a bunch of that metric would someone buy this. People buy contracts with customers or seriously engaged users that are in some way locked in.
Examples of Good “3 Metrics”
- Renewed paying customers.
- People used the product three days in a row.
- Gross profit from renewed customers.
- Conversion of trial to paid – means they saw the value and want to commit to it.
- Money saved for your customers.
- Time saved for your customers.
- Money made for your customers.
Put your three metrics in the comments and I’ll let you know what I think.
Here is some other good reading/watching on this:
Planning is useful. Plans are most often useless. Especially in startups.
A startup is trying to be a small business and the difference is uncertainty. There is so much uncertain that to try and write a business plan, even with ten MBA’s and PHD’s, you’d still be left with a laundry list of assumptions.
That being said, the process of planning is important and my suggestion is to scale your planning with your business.
- Before you start – keep it very simple and do a one page business plan, business canvas or my version of the canvas. Mick’s Focus Canvas
- Discovery phase – Use your canvas until you have spoken to at least 5 customers and done at least 5 experiments. After that, start a brand new canvas. Don’t edit the old one.
- Validation phase – Do a pitch deck to present, not to read through. Start with the Universal Pitch Deck and make sure all questions are answered satisfactorily. Make sure it flows as a story and there are no gaps. It is OK to say that an area needs work.
- Efficiency stage. You can either do a pitch deck to read through, as this will lead to a better flow, or you can do a 5 page business plan. No longer. Most of this should be dedicated to how you are going to make it efficient and your current hypothesis on scaling. Plus capital requirements. If you are raising more than $1m at this stage, you might need to refer to this as an Information Memorandum or IM in Australia. It’s a non-audited investor document.
- Scale stage. If you are looking for real scale capital (which means that 90% of the money raised will be going to growing sales or customer acquisition) then you might need a 10-15 page business plan or IM. You’d be raising $2-10m at this time.
Important note. A business plan will never get you funded. It will only stop you not getting funded. Does that make sense? So if you have a good plan it might answer all the questions an already interested investor has and show to them that you’ve thought it through.
Here are some amazing decks on how to raise money and what you need to show;
2014. That is the year, and that is my goal for Sydstart.
I gave one of the first talks at the first Sydstart way back in 2008 when there was 50 people in a free room at the Australian Technology Park. I’ll always remember the words on the website.
“It’s time we put a rocket under the startup industry here.”
This year is at the Sydney Entertainment Centre and we want it filled with energy and entrepreurs and geeks and hackers and hustlers and robots and ninjas and pirates.
What you’ll get out of going:
- A day immersed in tech startups.
- You will see more than 50 new tech companies you never knew existed.
- You will meet more than 50 people who have energy, ambition and are kindred spirits.
- You will learn at least 10 new things.
- You will get introduced to at least 5 new products that you will try and love.
- You will be amazed at how big and exciting the Australian technology industry actually is.
- You will hear at least 5 things which will make you laugh.
- You will see at least 10 tee-shirts with cryptic messages that initially you don’t understand but then laugh at a few seconds later.
- You will get back to work the next day moving faster and being more focused.
- You will remember the day for the entire next year and know how exciting it was.
One of the hardest things to do as an entrepreneur is to hold both laser focus and huge ambition in their heads, hearts and hands at the same time. It’s not just a challenge, it’s actually an important part of making it a success.
I found a great video by legendary radio broadcaster Ira Glass about his lessons around living with the gap between your current ability and your ambition.
A comment he makes which is absolutely true for entrepreneurs is that you must complete a volume of work to get the full lesson and close the gap between your focus and your ambition. You can’t just whiteboard it, business plan it, forecast it. You have to do it. You have to put a proposition in front of a customer, get them to say yes, try to deliver the value of your ambition and then evaluate whether you did. Then you can learn a tiny slither of the wisdom you need to bridge the gap. Then you can go and test again. This flearning at it’s best.
Yes there will be a gap. There has to be. Stop quoting Steve Jobs about insanely great every time. Yes he got there some times, but he never go there first time. Even with a mountain of money, his business called Next was an amazing product that no one bought. Flearn!
My advice is that the most wasted aspect of this is your own time. Don’t put off the lesson. Bring it forward. Do it now. Test it now. Launch it now. Call a customer and make them an offer now.
Here are some good posts on driving global sales of tech companies:
Getting to No
When you’re early on, you’ll get lots of people keen to have a chat and hear more. This can be good for feedback, but for actual sales, at some point you need to ask the question. This is why I like breaking up my initial target market into two groups. Group A for research, where you ask lots of questions, get lots of feedback and admit all of your weaknesses and your alpha stage. Group B is for selling (or at least testing selling) where you put offers to them, try and get the sale. Don’t get feedback, be tough, set a high price.
This will help you really understand life time customer value and customer acquisition costs. Great detail and numbers in here. There is no avoiding this. It’s just plain hard work in spreadsheets and doing it over and over and over.
KPI Dashboard for SaaS businesses
More great detail here and an actual spreadsheet to start you off. It is really worth spending time to understand why these numbers matter now and in the future. This is the real substance of a working startup.
Getting it right is a lot about correct measuring. Each time you try something new (and you need to make sure it’s one main thing so that you really know what is working and what isn’t) then put those customers you acquire into one group and measure them all the way through. This won’t make the fog go away but it will make it easier to navigate. Product Market Fit is more about simplicity then it is about more features.
Bronwen Clune has written some great blog posts on Pollenizer recently but I really disagreed with one she wrote on The Guardian blaming investors for the lack of diversity in tech startups. A good conversation ensued when Avis Mulhall shared it on Facebook. There are lots of important areas in there, so I thought I’d offer my thoughts.
Here are Bronwen’s points and my thoughts:
Belief one: you can only succeed if you have an all-consuming passion for what you’re doing
It’s not ‘only’ but it is certainly helps, and if you have to choose between someone passionate and someone not, then of course you take passion – and investors hold the money. If you’re not passionate you’re not going to know the space as well and you’re less likely to stick through the hard times.
Belief two: working long hours separates the real entrepreneurs from the hobbyists
Again, it’s not mutually exclusive, you can have ‘four hour work week’ like businesses but any new business, even a cafe or accounting firm takes work to do the job, admin the business and grow the business. If you can do it in less hours, great, more power to you. But most of the time it takes a lot of work for the first few years. Mike Cannon-Brookes made an interesting point at the talk a few weeks ago saying that you can start off running really hard, but eventually you have to turn it into a marathon in order to stay effective over the ten year journey.
This is also the same for a lot of jobs or things people want to do. If you wan to be an elite sports person like a swimmer, then you have to get up early and go swim. It’s not easy and takes commitment. If you want to be a CEO of a big company or politician it takes lots of travel and long hours. If you’re not prepared to work the long hours, do something else.
For me personally, after 8 years of long hours, low salary, lots of travel and high risk trying to build startups I’ve taken a corporate job which is more balanced. I’ve got a young family and I know I can’t put in the time it takes to run a startup or even run my own business. It’s tough but I’m certainly not prepared to sacrifice my relationship with my wife or children for it.
Belief three: a modest salary proves you’re committed
It’s not that it proves you’re committed, it just means you spend less scarce cash on you and more on your growth, etc. Especially if you’re a developer. Companies just can’t afford to pay big salaries until they either generate enough revenue or enough traction to raise money. But if you can convince an investor to put in more money and take more risk to pay you a higher salary, then great, but don’t blame the investor if they don’t.
It’s sort of the same reason why there are less female co-founders. Tech companies need tech people and if the co-founder can code, and work for free or cheap, then you can raise less money and have more of a chance to succeed. My understand of the stats is that considerably less women code, which leads on to less women co-founders. I think this is changing and I really hope it does. I think the world of tech would be considerably more successful if there were more female coders and co-founders. That being said, this just means it’s a bit harder, not impossible. Rebekah Campbell from Posse, Nikki Durkin from 99Dresses, Jodie Fox from Shoes of Prey, Whitney Komor from Best Day, and Melanie Perkins from Canva are some local proof.
Belief four: startups aim to ‘change the world’
Yes, I think they do. Not all of it, but the part they are passionate about. Clones like Rocket don’t but genuine, innovative startups are changing something. It also helps with staying committed to it. If it’s was just for the money you’d go and work for a merchant bank or big corporate.
I also think it’s wrong of Avis to say that building technology companies is not changing the world in as good a way as social enterprises do. There are lots of ways that you can and we need to change the world for the better. Bill Gates didn’t build a social enterprise but he added trillions of dollars of productivity across the globe which had a big positive impact on billions of people. I was in Tanzania working with a micro-financing group helping HIV Aids widows and Excel made a huge difference in running the NGO, knowing what was working, following people up, etc. Yes, there are some people saying they are changing the world but really just want money, but if the passion doesn’t combine with it, then they will typically fail.
Finally, even if these things are true, none of them actually stop you if you really want to. Lots of companies grow without investors, so if you want to build a business that you’re not super passionate about, with a good salary, working reasonable hours and not try to change the world – great, go for it. I’m sure that some of investors fit the bill but I think to blame them a single group as culprits for lack of diversity and label them sinister, anti-family, sexist and racially prejudiced is unfair.
Again, this is an important discussion and I hope my strong response to a strong post sparks some useful debate and perhaps even some useful actions.