The Difference Between Interning at a Small Company vs. a Large Company

Mature woman showing intern graphics on screen
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It’s Summer internship season and many of you are going to have to decide what size company you want to work for – a start-up, a mid-sized company, or a large firm? Although internships tend to be universal in nature, your role may vary as you move from a larger company to a smaller one. Sometimes it can be stressful to try and select which internship is right for you.

First of all, don’t worry because you can’t go wrong.

An internship is an internship and regardless of your company being big or small you’ll get great hands-on experience, a resume builder, networking opportunities, and an opportunity to really decide if you want to continue to pursue that field after graduation.

When I was an intern, I interned at large companies like Fox, and NBC , mid-sized companies like BWR Public Relations, and small companies based out of Tallahassee and Orlando, Florida. I had the privilege of experiencing several different sized business and the perks that go along with each specific type of internship.

At the larger companies, actually securing the internship was a much more in-depth process. I’d meet with a Human Resources department and everything internship related would go through them. They had specific application deadlines, start dates, and end dates. They also had lots of cool programming. At Fox, they gave us professional portfolios, pens, and other goodies.

They treated us all (hundreds of interns) to company lunches on the lawn, the Inn and Out Food Truck, and more. We’d have executive lunch series speakers, intern mingling events, and more. At the larger companies, there were more people around but I didn’t necessarily have the opportunity to meet with them.

When I interned with smaller companies and mid-sized companies, I was probably able to make stronger relationships with the people I worked under. There were less of them and less of us (interns!). They did try to have speaker’s series (and things like that) but they weren’t as “grand” as the larger companies. When I’d intern at smaller companies, I felt like I was able to help more people. The tasks I was doing as an intern – admin work, research, taking notes, observing meetings – weren’t necessarily different from the work I did at large companies. The only difference was that I felt there were more eyeballs on me. Again, because there were less of them and less of us (interns!).

I have a few other thoughts to share on the topic. If you are considering an internship with a company who does cool things but no one has heard of them, that’s okay. Do the internship, make a lasting impression, network, and help with as many different tasks as possible. These days, most students are interning with multiple companies over the course of their college career. Once you’ve completed your internship with the smaller company, go do an internship with a recognizable brand name. The other experience should help you land a pretty big name.

Having both of these opportunities will balance out your resume and give you great experience at two different sized companies. Hopefully, at the end of the internships, you’ll be able to decide what size company you’d like to work in after college.