Bay Area Internships: Look for Startups, Skip Corporate New York
For many college students, spending a summer in the Big Apple is a luxury. Taking on a low-paying (or even worse, unpaid) internship just to get the city is not uncommon. But that doesn’t mean it’s ideal.
Shiny startups are growing healthy and strong in Silicon Valley, making it perhaps the perfect place to find a high-paying, rewarding summer internship; and possibly one of the most enjoyable summers of your life.
Why? Because the Bay Area ecosystem is designed to support young tech workers, making it ideal for a college intern.
Related: Benefits of a Summer Internship
The Bay Area Summer Intern Community is Tight Knit
What started out with The Intern Project, a blog, newsletter, and small group of people organizing some interns has now grown into a huge community. Not only does the Facebook group called “2013 Bay Area Summer Interns“ have almost 4,000 members at the time of this post (the size of a small college), but the members actually interact with each other.
The group is full of event details and other postings related to awesome Bay Area opportunities, such as skydiving discounts and regular groups hanging out at clubs and bars. (For those of you under 21, there are plenty of other opportunities.)
Plus, there are a lot of events thrown exclusively for Bay Area summer interns. While most of them are targeted towards Computer Science students, there are other events, such as picnics for interns and events hosted by many different companies. It truly is a place where interns can feel supported.
Not only that, but your employers are very likely to understand intern culture. Unlike big companies, startups are usually run by fairly young entrepreneurs and people who know what it’s like to be in college. Going to work in shorts and a t-shirt is commonplace with many companies in the Bay Area. Plus, many startups have social events, such as happy hour or company parties, where you get the chance to talk to co-founders and learn a lot about running your own business.
Living in the Bay Area Teaches You A Lot About (Nerd) Culture
When you typically picture a nerd, you usually bring up a picture of a skinny, lanky kid wearing suspenders, thick-rimmed glasses, and an overly-excited nose. And when you typically think of California, you think of beach parties, beach bodies, and beach fun. Now, take the average of those two, focus a little bit more on cool technology, and you’ve got the Bay Area.
Seriously, don’t avoid interning at a tech company because you think the Bay Area will be too nerdy for you. Yes, the Bay Area is full of smart people; but smart people like to have fun and be normal too. There’s always plenty of Giants games, concerts, and an overall thriving night life. Plus with Caltrain and BART, you’re always close enough to take a weekend in San Francisco.
Parties in the Bay Area can be eye-opening. Not only will it give you the chance to have a great time, but the average intelligence in the room — given the right party — will be off the charts. It’s a great chance to both have fun and network.
Startups Will (Likely) Pay You, A Lot
The cost of living in the Bay Area is one of the highest in the nation. In addition to the cost of living, as an intern, you will likely have to pay for travel, nights on the town, and save money to have for when you get back to school. But fret not: While it may seem impossible to believe, startups will actually pay you more than minimum wage (sometimes very significantly more). You can expect Bay Area internships to bring in least $2k-3k in per month, if not much more.
For a guide on how much you should be getting paid, check out this post on how much you should expect given your skill set.
If you’re not a CS student, don’t worry. There are still plenty of non-technical jobs in startups, such as Marketing, Community Management, Support, Sales, Business Development, Growth Hacking (a fancy word for Quantitative Marketing), and more. The skill sets usually aren’t hard to achieve and there are plenty of startups looking to expand in every way they can. You can even set your own schedule by doing freelance or contract work.
Another thing you should expect from working in the Bay Area is benefits. For startups, nabbing top talent is a constant competition. If you have talent, leverage it! Many startups will provide perks, such as unlimited free food and sometimes even free housing (with parties and social life included).
Depending on how you look at it, the Bay Area is not for everyone. It requires an open mind and usually someone who can contribute a lot to their company. Working in startups is different from working at a regular company because working 8 to 8 is not just common, it’s expected in some (many) startups.
But for those of you seeking a work hard, play hard environment, startups in the Bay Area are the place to be!
About the Author: Quinn Winters is a student studying Computer Science, Mathematics, and Political Science at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. He spent his summer in the Bay Area interning for a company that provides online English tutoring to high school and college students. He is a startup enthusiast and always willing to connect over the sweet nectar of the gods, coffee. You can find him on Twitter @Quinn_Winters or his personal website.
Image: Sylvain Kalache