Ace Your Internship by Setting the Right Goals

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With a new school year underway, OpenView Labs said fond farewells to our crop of summer interns. Our team had a great team of interns this summer, and some interns did so well that we asked them to come to work with us part time during the term year as well.

It is also a good time to reflect on how we can improve our internship program further, so that our future interns can be more successful and are able to contribute to even more OpenView Labs projects and learn even more valuable skills and hands on experience working with a fast growing, entrepreneurial venture capital firm.

What I took away this summer was the importance of setting a set of ambitious but realistic goals for each of the interns we hired, and working closely with them to realize these goals over the course of the internship.

Below are some of the goals I considered for interns for the Research and Analytics team. Not only were these goals closely aligned with the work our team does, they also represent a good set of experiences that capture a lot of what venture capital is really about. My hope is they will provide you with inspiration when it comes to managing your own interns or working through your own internship.

1) Mastering Technical Skills

A good set of goals around technical business skills would be:

  • Gaining working knowledge of spreadsheet-based data manipulation, formulas, and basic modeling techniques. These are essential skills for a data analyst.
  • Learning how to build presentations — from storyboarding to design, copywriting, and rehearsing. These are essential communication skills that are not typically taught in school.
  • Learning how to conduct online market research using Google’s advanced search capabilities as well as media-specific search tools and various financial, business, and public data sources. Access to good data is essential to any market research project, and an intern will equip herself with valuable skills that can be applied to any high-tech related occupation.
  • Learning how to evaluate web traffic with Google Analytics or similar web analytics tools, and how to do keyword research for SEO and SEM. Marketing is so dominated by data nowadays that learning the in and outs of web analytics is an essential step for anyone wanting to understand how some website are so successful and some are not.

2) Gaining Essential Background Knowledge

  • To understand the context of much of what we do at OpenView (or at any other venture capital fund), it is recommended that interns become equipped with a substantial knowledge of financial markets, corporate economics, and technology trends.
  • Learn how venture capital works — the different functions of the staff at a venture capital firm, the roles of different teams, how the firms are operated, and the drivers of success. These are valuable experience that can only be gained from within a firm.

3) Perfecting Interpersonal Skills (Soft Skills)

  • Honing the ability to connect with people and building trust. The VC business is ultimately a people’s business. Personal connections, trust, and first impressions are very important drivers of deal making and success in the VC world — sometimes just as relevant as knowledge of technologies and innovations.
  • Learning how to communicate with entrepreneurs, customers, and other participants of the technology start-up ecosystems. Unlike other corporate internships where interns tend to pick up a big company’s corporate culture, working for a VC and interacting with its entrepreneurs and other people in the tech startup ecosystems will be very different. The goal is to be able to connect and communicate very clearly to them without any corporate jargon, and to be able to quickly grasp topics or ideas that are somewhat more technical or esoteric, while not losing track of the big picture.

4) Building a Network of Contacts

  • Building relationships with people who can serve as advisers or mentors.
  • Expanding the network to include other like-minded students.
  • Building a network of would-be founders and technical specialists.

These are important networks that will be essential to anyone in the VC or Tech startup world. An intern needs to start building those networks as soon as they have the chance and the connection into that world.

What goals have you worked with your own interns to take on and accomplish?