Reader questions

Read questions vol 4: Where can I get an internship that isn’t BORING?

By February 25, 2016 No Comments

Got a career, school, or business question? Ask it here!

James asks:

Hi Finn and Co. I am currently a bachelor in Corporate Finance & Accounting (2nd year) and I really am enjoying college. Currently I’m thinking about an internship but it seems the only ads I find are from these huge, “boring” corporations like P&G, Aon etc. How can I find a career path in a creative and less corporate environment? What are some of the best companies for internships?

A couple things here… First of all, I would challenge your basic premise here that working for a big corporation is inherently boring or uncreative– not true at all!! For example I have worked with P&G and they are one of the most innovative, smartest companies on the planet— I probably shouldn’t talk about the details, but I did some seriously crazy, fun, creative stuff for them (and those were very lucrative, six figure projects). I actually miss working with them, it was a blast!

And there’s no guarantee that working at a smaller, “cool” company will be creative or fun. For example being a production artist at the coolest ad agency on the planet is still kind of a boring job imo— you’re just grinding shit out in Photoshop all day. Or ask anyone who works for a record label how fun and creative their job is…

Second, even if you want to work at a small company, it is ALWAYS valuable to have a big name on your resume. Interning at P&G, Dannon, Unilever, etc will make people take you seriously in a way that simply isn’t possible any other way. For better or worse, it’s all about name value!! So even if you have no intentions of staying there forever, I would highly encourage you to get one of those “boring” internships- it will do wonders for your career, I promise!

For more details check out this post I did on Party Smasher Inc.


Jeff asks:

What do you think about reaching out to prospective employers and asking about opportunities for freelance/contract work to get your foot in the door? Most of the professional jobs I’ve taken (and a few opportunities I’ve turned down) came after doing freelance stuff. I used it as a way to audition my skills and make a good impression, and it gave me a sense of the company and culture before locking myself into a full-time job. Then again, I work in publishing, where freelancing is super-common — is that a viable path in other creative industries?

I think this is a GREAT idea. It’s always good to offer potential employers a “try before you buy” option (and like you said, you want to get an opportunity to test drive them as well). If you’re talking to a company about a full-time gig and they’re on the fence, offer to do a 60 or 90-day contract. Assuming you do a good job, you’ll be in a really strong negotiating position when the contract is up— they’ll do a lot more to hang on to someone who is a proven commodity aka a certified asskicker.

You can actually make a nice living as a freelancer/contractor if you have some really specific skill that you can charge a premium for. For example, we used to work with a guy whose specialty was leading people through group brainstorming exercises. We paid him like $5k for each one, and it was worth it because he was great at guiding everybody through the session such that we came out of it with way more than $5k worth of ideas.

And yes, freelancing exists in pretty much every industry, they just call it “contracting.” Note that your hourly rate as a contractor/freelancer will be a lot higher than if you were a full time employee– so if the full time people are making $50k a year ($25/hour) you should charge ~$40/hour as a consultant. Don’t be afraid of charging a premium!!

Read this for some smart negotiation tips from Ramit Sethi


anon asks:

Hi PRMBA! Currently a business undergrad student, and I already have a reliable (albeit not too challenging codemonkey/publishing) 9-5 job with a very good pay lined up. While I’m interested in staying there, I also entertain the tought of doing consulting work (i.e. having my own firm, reaping tax benefits, getting contracts, Including a few reliable friends in that plan) as an extra. My current GPA would make me eligible for a graduate short-program (5 classes) certificate or an MBA.
Would that contribute in any way or would I just be losing my time and money? What would be the optimal way to attain that career path?

To be totally honest, an MBA really only helps you in two pretty specific scenarios:

  1. if you want to get into high finance/management consulting (eg working for Bain, McKinsey, etc). In this case you need an MBA from a top 20 school (yes, business schools are ranked like sports teams).
  2. If you want to be an executive at a big company like Microsoft, Coca Cola, etc.

If your goals aren’t one of those two things, and MBA really won’t do a lot for you. If you want to start your own business, the main factor in your success (or lack of success) is how hard you’re willing to work to make it happen. By FAR the hardest part of running most businesses (especially consulting) is the sales/business development part, which is something you can’t learn at any school— you just have to work your ass off chasing down new clients and new projects.

Got a career, school, or business question? Ask it here!

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