5 Things I Learned About ‘The Real World’ Working As An Intern At A Startup

‘The Real World’ (n) = a term college kids use for what happens when we graduate and enter the work force; usually used in a negative, dramatic, and scary tone.
Ex: “Ugh, I can’t believe in just two years I have to join the ‘Real World’ and get an office job, can’t I just stay in college forever?”

Ah, the Real World, a term I am all too familiar with as I head into my junior year at the University of Dayton. The last month of my spring semester everyone in my marketing classes were buzzing about what they were doing over the summer, who they were interning for and how many LinkedIn connections they had.

I was fortunate enough to find a marketing internship opportunity at a new startup right here in my hometown of Cleveland. CLEseats, a free mobile app and website that gives users exclusive discounts at top local restaurants, was launched in February by a bright young woman, Lauren. I started interning with Lauren, President & Founder of CLEseats, in the middle of May and now at six weeks in I feel like I have gained tons of knowledge about the scary, dramatic, ‘Real World.’

1. Start searching for internship & job opportunities early

For summer internships, application deadlines are usually between February and April. I can guarantee (from experience) that you will write better applications and cover letters in February than you will scrambling on April 10. Be ahead of the curve! Personally, I applied to anything and everything I discovered online that had some variation of the words, ‘marketing’ ‘media’ ‘communication’ and ‘Cleveland.’ I reached out to Lauren in November, and she replied, “I am launching my business in February, email me back in April and I will tell you if we are above water.” And here we are!

2. Ask questions

I understand there is a negative attitude towards interns that ask questions constantly, but questions serve a huge purpose for us newbies in the ‘Real World.’ In college, you learn tons of vital information, but hey I still have not learned how to ‘deep link an i0s app URL’, which is something I needed to ask Lauren about this morning. “Does this look good?” “What do you think?” and “How can I help you?” are all great questions to ask your boss, especially when you are working for a startup small business, where there is always something else to be done.

3. Try anything

At a startup, no idea is too small, and no task is beneath you. Lauren told me I was going to be wearing ‘tons of different hats’ when I chose her internship and boy she was right. I pretty much do everything and anything I can for Lauren so she can spend as little time in front of a computer screen, and as much time out selling to restaurants. Event planning, sales, social media marketing, are all ‘hats’ I have worn this summer.

4. Be persistent

One of my big tasks every week is managing and scheduling what restaurants are the three featured deals. We have 35 restaurants signed on and my job is to decide what three restaurants I want to be featured each week. I choose three based on how many CLEseats users we track going into restaurants, and if we have posted about them on social media lately.
Easy right?
No.

Lauren warned me getting ahold of restaurants is tough, but I had no idea how difficult it would be to get a restaurant manager/owner on the phone, or connect via email/text. I email, I text, I Twitter ‘DM’, I Instagram message, I Facebook message, and I still might not get a response back. With a startup, you need to be persistent. It shows people that you want to do well, and in the case of CLEseats, we want our restaurants to be successful. I laughed the other day at my persistency because one restaurant owner (Yes, he did respond to a text!) praised my ‘tenacity’ with emailing, which is just a nice way of saying, ‘You are great at nagging.”

5. Be creative!

Working at a startup, no idea is too silly or little. Anyone can start a company, but not everyone can run a successful small business. Creativity is so downplayed during my time at school. I spend most of my nights at University of Dayton studying textbooks, looking at computer screens, and making post-it notes of all of my ‘things to do today.’ Lauren and I are always brainstorming for ways to get people to know who we are.

I can honestly say after just six short weeks in ‘The Real World’, creativity and thinking outside the box has given me more success than any of those late night’s studying a computer screen. The ‘Real World’ is not so bad after all, especially when you are able to let your creative juices flow at a startup like CLEseats.

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Jen Straniero

My name is Jen, and I am Marketing, PR, Communication student at the University of Dayton. Although I study in Dayton, my heart is in Cleveland. Born and raised in Cleveland, I am passionate about everything #CLE. Cleveland sports, Cleveland food, and Cleveland people are my favorite things.

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