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Start-up vs. corporate internship: Which is better?


So, right now, you’ve probably applied for a long list of internships with some of the world’s leading companies, just like thousands of your peers. There are many reasons why getting an internship in a well-known organisation is a brilliant start to your career. Not only will it look amazing on your CV, but more well-known organisations can also offer a whole load of other benefits such as exciting locations, a structured environment, and training programs, working with a team of interns your own age, subsidised canteens and gyms. Some even offer pay that’s not far off the national graduate average.

Sounds exciting, right? But have you considered applying for internships at different types of companies, such as a start-up, for example? Applying for an internship in a start-up might not have been your first thought, which is why we put together this guide, to give you an insight into the other options that are available to you, and why a start-up internship, might be a better choice for you.

1. You’ll have a better chance of securing an internship in a start-up.

Every student and their cousin will be applying for an internship in a large company, and even though there will be plenty of internship spaces, that’s still a lot of people! As not many people consider applying for an internship in a start-up, you will already have less competition and more of a chance of securing the spot. This is usually not because the experience at a start-up is inferior to the one at a large company, but often because not many students are aware of them.

At University, you are often more exposed to larger companies as they tend to be more at the career fairs, internship fairs, etc. Unfortunately, you don’t often see start-up companies here. However, they could be your secret golden nugget to career experience.

Not only that, start-ups have a whole different culture than large companies, who usually have their ideal intern in mind along with a length and competitive application process, meaning start-ups are more flexible with their candidate selection. In a start-up, the application requirements are also different. It may focus more on your past work experience rather than your academics, your passion, and what you could bring to the table. If you make the right impression with what you have to offer, your chances are higher of getting that coveted spot.

2. You’ll have more responsibility in a start-up.

As mentioned before, an internship in a large well-known organisation can give you lots of benefits, but what will you be doing day-to-day? In a start-up, all time and human resources are precious; this means that there’s a high chance that you’ll be working on real projects from day one. Which might sound a little scary, but working with a team, to produce tangible results, will give you a lot of insight and real experience of how tasks are completed.

You will have a direct impact on the company and its customer market. Being part of a start-up will provide you with the confidence to take on new projects and just run with them. This will be invaluable and will give you the extra edge; you will need it when you are applying for your first job as many people with internships in big companies may not have this real-life experience.

3. You’ll learn how organisations work in a start-up.

Working as an intern for a big company often limits your exposure to all business functions. As you are usually just set tasks around a particular business area, and with hundreds of other interns and thousands of employees, the chance of this changing is low. So, you will end up your internship with excellent knowledge of that business function but not much else.

However, in a start-up, this is certainly not the case. Start-ups usually have smaller teams, so you will be in the middle of all the action and experience pretty much all business functions that the company performs, giving you the big picture, which is often not possible at a large company.

Another great thing about start-ups is they like to keep all employees in the loop, to encourage ideas and actively seek each other’s feedback, so you’ll be involved in discussions that should ultimately make positive changes to the company. This is perfect if you are unsure about what you want to do in the future, as you’ll get plenty of experience, trying out different tasks.

4. You’ll get more feedback working in a start-up.

With all these responsibilities and being able to work in different job functions, you will get valuable feedback on the work you’ve done. Getting feedback from your peers at a start-up will be a lot easier than getting it from them in larger companies. This is because you will work closely with senior members of the team at a start-up and be able to build a better relationship with them. Which is great because you can get a real idea of what you are naturally good at and passionate about when applying for your first role.

5. You’ll experience a different type of work culture.

Rather than working in an office with hundreds of cubicles while wearing full business attire, start-ups tend to be a little open. Often, you’ll come to find that start-ups will usually opt for business casual and will tend to have an open office space environment such a big round table where everyone works together. This is often not the case for a corporate office because there tends to be more desks and cubicles and less room for an open environment. We do note that neither type of work culture is wrong per se, but rather it will come down to your preference. Choose an environment in which you will be comfortable being a part.

6. You’ll interact with other employees and not just your intern cohort.

The social experience between a start-up and a corporation is often different from one another as well. In a corporate, you’ll find that you are not the only intern, but rather one of many. Corporations usually will plan out your internship there with various social events which means you’ll mostly be working and hanging out with other interns and less with full-time employees. Though this is not necessarily bad, it does limit you from interacting and networking with people already working in a position you hope to one day have yourself.

In a start-up environment, there are usually fewer interns which means your daily interactions will be with full-time employees. The benefit to this is that you will get more insight and advice from those who are currently working in your field and you will also be creating a valuable network that you may one day be able to call upon. Though the idea of working with full-time staff can sound daunting, don’t be afraid to chat up with the other workers about their experiences. You may find their venture and your work relationship with them as a valuable tool in the future.

7. You’ll have a more informed hiring experience with a start-up.

To clarify, we don’t mean that your hiring experience will be any less professional than a corporation. For corporations, you will see that there is usually a fixed internship period, application window, and a rigid interview process often with multiple rounds. Further, they tend to have strict academic requirements such as the type of universities they hire from, a certain GPA, and or specific majors that they are willing to hire. This often eliminates many people from the process.

While in a start-up, you will find that it tends to be more flexible, and most of them will regularly hire throughout the year rather than a specific timeframe. The interview process itself is often less rigorous both in the number of rounds and also in the type of candidate they are looking to hire. Rather than looking at academic history, start-ups will focus more on your ability to execute various tasks efficiently.


As you can gather from this guide, there is more than one option when it comes to working as an intern. With the most significant difference between a start-up and big companies, are their working environment, and the type of work you can do. So, ultimately deciding on which one to go for, is down to which one better fits your personality and career goals. Getting an internship in a big corporate is perfect if you want to work with some of the world’s largest companies in the future, and work your way to the top of those businesses. However, if your career goals are to get stuck in with a company, help a business grow from the bottom up, or even start your own business, working as an intern in a start-up will give you all the experience you will need.

Whichever way you choose to go, keep in mind that you can change it up later. Intern for a start-up company for a few years, you can always switch up and apply for a more prominent company and vice versa. It’s often useful to have both types of experience under your belt to figure out what works best for you.

Have you started applying for internships? Let us know!

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Capital Placement

Capital Placement

Capital Placement offering global internship programmes for students and recent graduates since 2012 with one of our 1500+ partner companies across 25+ industries.

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