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Internships in Startups, Entrepreneurship for Women

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By Karen Zeller (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)

Women in all phases of their career decide to strike it out on their own and become entrepreneurs. For those who discover this path while they are still in college or graduate school, internships that involve entrepreneurship can be invaluable early experiences.

The co-founders of InternMatch provide advice for those women seeking internships involving entrepreneurship:

Women 2.0: What hiring trends are you seeing in your client companies that women should be aware of?

InternMatch: Most companies, especially startups, are trying to increase the diversity of their intern classes. This has been a trend for larger companies in the past decades, as more and more organizations have come to see diversity in the workplace as important for their success but also society’s success.

In the past years, there has been much more interest in interns from startups that involve a broader range of roles. Startups have increasingly looked to interns as a way to develop talent in roles beyond engineering, such as marketing, business development, finance and operations. For women, and especially those who have non-technical degrees, this is good news.

Many employers consider an internship as an extended interview, but students should also have the mindset that they are interviewing the company. It’s a great way to figure out what you like or test some assumptions you may have.

In other words, we think it’s more important for women to think about what they want to learn during the internship, rather than ahead of time.

Women 2.0: What type of internship experiences do you recommend for women interested in entrepreneurship?

InternMatch: We would recommend working for a startup, and becoming involved in an early stage company. It opens a person up to the range of possibilities and may inspire you to start your own company. As a woman, don’t be afraid to get out there during an internship.

As an intern, it’s very easy to ask people out to coffee or lunch even if they are in other areas of the company. This helps you network and can really help you learn what your passions really are.

Women 2.0: Any other advice for women interns interested in entrepreneurship?

InternMatch: An important thing to note is while you are working at a startup, get involved in community events as a member of the company. Once you are an intern at a particular company, you become more a known quantity than just a “student.” It shows your enthusiasm and your dedication to improving your knowledge in the field.

One group I can recommend for events is StartUpRoots. For women in particular, they should know that they will probably be in the minority for attendees at these events, nevertheless the events are very welcoming of all, informative, and women interns can really stand out.

About the guest blogger: Karen Zeller is software professional, holding progressively responsible positions in technical communications, program and product management. Most recently she has been working in a 75% legal and administrative position at Stanford while raising a young child. She volunteers for non-profits including RailsBridge and Women 2.0. Karen holds degrees in Anthropology and Finance from UC Berkeley and a J.D. from Stanford University School of Law. Follow her on Twitter at @karenzeller8.