#sparkconnect - Interning at a small business

July 20, 2015

Phew! I'm at the end of the first week of my internship at Sparkle Communications.

Here at Sparkle we're starting a series of blogs (this one is mirrored by Nicola's) about marketing, PR and small businesses for our #sparkconnect campaign - our aim is to allow North East businesses to connect with each other and we'll be discussing the blog posts on the #sparkconnect Facebook group.

Photo by the amazing Gavin Forster Photography

So, this post is inspired by something that was a very big deal to me and definitely a massive thing for Jen and Nicola (the Sparkle ladies) which is internships at small businesses. The office (while being adorable) is small. The team (whilst being lovely) is small. One of the things we've been chatting about this week is how daunting it can be for a small business to let in interns into their workspace and on the other side of the desk, what it's like for an intern to come into a small office dynamic.

If you're a student or graduate you'll feel the internship pain. Universities like to push their students into big scary internships at big scary firms with big scary interviews because the name of the firm makes them look good to future potential students. The interviews are cut throat and stressful and sometimes the experience you get on these placements isn't the best because they're pre-programmed with little variety when it comes to experience. As I said in my previous post on this series, I'm not a corporate person, I like friendliness and I like quirks and I really wasn't sure I wanted to start working in a massive corporate firm.

Jen and Nicola have been very open about the fact that previous interns have been not so sparkly and how me asking for a placement sparked (pun fully intended) a serious discussion between the two of them about hiring more staff, expanding the office and letting an intern into their currently very comfortable and balanced work space.
 I completely understood this and while admittedly from the other side it's daunting coming into work with two people who are very in synch with each other, this pushed me much harder than I would've if I'd went for a placement somewhere other than Sparkle. I wanted to impress them, I wanted to be better and sparklier than all the other interns had been and show them that I could work for them in such a small office dynamic. I'd like to think that I've started to prove myself to them this week and fit in well.

Working in such a small business might seem like a less valuable experience but this is so far from the truth. I've gotten to see and do so much more at Sparkle than I would've anywhere else. I've already learnt so much and get to do so much more like pushing the #sparkconnect campaign, doing my own research, using my own ideas and being a part of much more than I would be if I had done a placement at a larger PR firm where I'd be given set tasks. 

For students who are wanting to gain experience and insight to an industry but aren't sure they want to throw themselves into a big firm head first I would definitely recommend going for smaller independent businesses. I think it definitely pushes you to work harder (and therefore get better experience) as the manager you're working for is right in front of you and you have a lot more responsibility.

Another photo by Gavin Forster Photography

For small businesses who are doubting their ability to take on interns or who are wary of doing so, I would advise you all to give it a go. An extra person with a fresh perspective from uni might just be the push you need to take your business even further. I stand by the fact that there will always be some people who just aren't good in a role (whether in a large corporate firm or small independent business) and yes, that can be hard to deal with when there's a very small staff team. But you could also find a hidden gem who fits into the business really well and wants to make you proud which gives you both more opportunities.

If you want to join in the discussion and throw in your two pence, please comment on the post in the Facebook Group or tweet @Spark_Connect.

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