This is the second installment of a three part series focused on college-age entrepreneurs throughout Vermont. Click here to read Part 1.
Faculty, students, and advisors agree that the best preparation for the business world is hands on experience which can often take the form of an internship. According to VtSBDC area advisor for Addison County and statewide collegiate specialist, Sarah Kearns, getting the greatest value from an internship requires a high level of communication between the employer and the student, and a mutual understanding of goals and objectives they both want to accomplish. VtSBDC has been enriched by their own summer interns, an inspiring collaboration that resulted in a model prototype for summer internship programs moving forward.
In an article published by the University of Vermont, Sarah highlights the value of interns and internships:
“Having interns is a fantastic investment in the future. We have learned so much from our interns. They keep us focused on what young entrepreneurs may need, and up to date on the latest technology. I recommend making the investment in having an intern- it pays off. If you really listen to them and give them space to contribute, it is a win/win for all.”
UVM students and entrepreneurship majors Priyanka Prakasha and Meg Scagnelli are enthusiastic about their VtSBDC internships. They were eager to share their experiences. Excerpts from their interview with The Starting Point:
The Starting Point: What are the key lessons you learned (and continue to learn) in your work with VtSBDC? How has this internship helped you grow?
Priyanka: This internship has allowed me to grow in a variety of ways and provided me with many useful tips and tools that I can bring with me wherever I go. From writing blog posts to presenting on Zoom calls and everything in between, these endeavors have definitely strengthened my communication skills, both written and verbal. I’ve also learned a lot from my fellow interns, who have introduced me to new technologies such as Slack as well as graphic design applications that aid in making presentations and more. These are helpful resources that I can use in future jobs as well. I had the privilege of working closely with Sarah Kearns this summer, who I now consider to be a mentor. She’s taught me many things, but I think the most important lesson I’ve learned from working with her is that it’s okay to ask for help or clarification when you need it and the importance of a work/life balance. She’s made my time here extremely meaningful.
Meg: As a Special Project Intern at VtSBDC, I work simultaneously across various marketing and entrepreneurship assignments. My work spans across many business areas in the organization, allowing me to work with different advisors and employees. In this position, I’ve gained insight into the relationships between VtSBDC’s organizational functions. This is my first virtual internship, which has provided me with many new learning opportunities. Navigating this remote environment emphasized the importance of efficient communications, adaptability, taking initiative, and working independently with a common goal. These are essential lessons as we transition, globally, into long-term remote work.
The Starting Point: What wisdom will you take with you from VtSBDC to your future endeavors and how has the experience inspired you to take a leadership role in the entrepreneur environment?
Priyanka: I’ve always been a really great listener. I think it’s one of my strongest qualities. However, I used to struggle a lot with speaking up and making sure my ideas were heard. After my time at VtSBDC, I don’t really seem to have this problem anymore, and it’s carried over with me into my academic life as well. My thoughts and suggestions are always respected and warmly received at VtSBDC, making me feel as though my voice matters. The free-flowing exchange of ideas at this organization makes speaking up much more approachable. I think being able to actively listen to others while also being able to share your own thoughts is a really important quality in a leader. This is a skill that I will need for the rest of my career and life. I’ve always had the listening part down, but thanks to VtSBDC I’m no longer afraid to take initiative and be a leader. Through my exposure to so many amazing businesses such as Waste-Free Earth and all of the budding businesses in the Jumpstart Collegiate program, I feel inspired to potentially start my own business one day.
Meg: Working with VtSBDC, I’ve observed and experienced the value of active intrapreneurship in an organization and how it can thrive under entrepreneurial leadership. Intrapreneurship is what drives internal growth and development, affecting change within an organization. Entrepreneur leadership creates an environment of openness: openness to learning, opportunity, and innovation. This leadership in VtSBDC is mobilizing, enabling high collaboration, and attracting intrapreneurs to the organization. I’m grateful for this experience that is equipping me with the tools and skills that will contribute to my professional development and future success in the entrepreneur environment.
Summed up nicely in the aforementioned UVM article, “…interns build experience, make important professional connections in the field, and get to experience what it’s like to work professionally in Vermont. Simultaneously, the organizations that host interns benefit from students’ fresh ideas and perspectives, energy, and the opportunity to mentor (and even test-drive) the next generation of professionals in their field.”
Growing & Learning into the Future
VtSBDC’s work with interns by no means came to a halt when the leaves began to fall. On the contrary, the positive experience inspired a more in-depth approach to the internship program and an expansion of student resources that include continuing internships year round, including partnering with UVM on their newly introduced micro-internship program.
Throughout 2021 VtSBDC will expand and enhance programs directed toward collegiate entrepreneurship with even more connectivity underway for all colleges in the state system with the launch of the Vermont Collegiate Collaborative. More to come soon on each of these endeavors.
In reflecting on the experience with interns, State Director Linda Rossi explains,
With the shift to a 100% remote workforce during the pandemic and the need to utilize available technology for an engaged and effective team delivering advice and guidance to thousands of small businesses, VtSBDC sought the input of fresh, creative ideas from the team of interns. Our relationship with interns in 2020 remains one of the bright spots of the year. As a result, the future business model of the VtSBDC organization will absolutely include interns. Why wouldn’t it? They are our future entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders.
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