What to Expect When Interning at a Small vs. Big Company

By Christine Ascher on June 6, 2018

Determining where to intern is a big decision. In addition to giving you the experience that you need to jump-start your career, internships will also provide you with valuable opportunities to network and to learn about how a company works. One thing you’ll need to decide as you start looking for internships is the size of the company that you want to work for.

While there are advantages and disadvantages to interning with both big and small companies, ultimately what you choose should be based on what you hope to gain from the experience and where you think you’ll succeed. To make your decision, weigh carefully what you can expect from each internship.

Workplace, Group, Interns

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At a Small Company, You Can Expect:

More Varied Work

When interning at a small company, you’ll probably find that a lot of the employees are responsible for various tasks. In other words, the company’s employees are more likely to wear various hats in their workplace. This may extend over to you as an intern as well. Rather than having all of your responsibilities carefully laid out for you and sticking to them throughout the duration of your internship, you may find that your day-to-day tasks are more likely to change. With fewer people working in the company, you may find that it’s easy to help out members of different departments once in a while. In this way, you’ll get a better overview of running a company and the work involved than you might when interning for a bigger company.

Relationships Easier to Form

Because you’ll be working with fewer people, it will probably be easier to get to know your co-workers and to form strong relationships with them. Especially because you’ll probably be working with the same people most of the time, you’ll be able to get to know them well and to make sure that they know you. Making these connections is great for networking purposes, and it will help you feel more at home in your internship. In addition, those who are higher up in the company will probably get to know you better than they would in a bigger company, which can prove valuable when you’re looking for a job later on.

Fewer Interns

One potential downside to interning at a small company is the fact that there will definitely be fewer interns—and you may even be the only one. This means that you may not be able to find other people your age to bond with while you work, and you’ll probably be under more scrutiny as the only intern. However, being the only intern at a small company also means that your supervisors will get to know you that much more, as they won’t have a whole group of interns to train and keep an eye on.

At a Big Company, You Can Expect:

More Programs for Interns

One major advantage of interning for a big company is that they usually provide a lot of resources for their interns. They may have seminars or workshops where you can learn new skills, for instance, or they may be able to provide you with some career guidance. If you already have an idea of what department you want to work in after you graduate, this can be a major benefit, as you’ll learn a lot about what it takes to pursue a career in that area. In addition, you’ll learn many new and useful skills that you can put on your resume in the future.

More Networking Possibilities

In addition to organizing programs for their interns, bigger companies can also provide you with more opportunities to network. Simply by having a bigger group of employees, you’ll get to meet more people. Furthermore, if the company has offices around the United States or the world, having that experience can help you out when applying for jobs in the future. Potential employers will be more likely to recognize the company name, for instance, and you’ll be more likely to run into people who work with or have worked with the company—which can play out to your advantage, as they’ll understand the kind of work environment and the level of expectations that you’re familiar with.

Less Flexibility

With bigger companies, internship programs tend to be pretty structured. They often have set start and end dates, and will already know how many hours they want you to come in each week. This means that you’ll have less control over certain aspects of the internship, so you’ll need to make sure that their expectations work for you from the beginning. While you may be able to alter the terms of your internship if necessary, in general, you’ll have less flexibility than you could expect with a smaller company.

Both big and small companies have the potential to provide you with a valuable internship experience. However, the right place for you will depend on what you’re comfortable with and what you’re hoping to get out of the internship, so make sure you think carefully before committing to one.

By Christine Ascher

Uloop Writer
Hi! I'm Christine and I'm currently a senior at the University of Southern California, where I study English Literature, Economics, and French.

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