Tinkering with OCE

❌ Never take on these internships

Published about 1 month ago • 4 min read

You know I’m all about learning through hands-on work.

And the best way to do so is through an internship, then start your own project.


Not all internships are created equal.

One of my earlier “internships” was with a communications agency where I worked in a padded cubicle on a call center line. I’m pretty sure my first corporate experience was where dreams go to die.

It was such a party that half of the team left within the first month- including myself. What’s so bad about it, you ask? Being a cog in the machine, I think.

We logged into a computer the second we started, we logged out for every bathroom, lunch or “off the phone” break.

If there was a matrix in the real world, we would be plugged right into it. Headphones straight into computers that tracked every word you said. Bosses that peered over your shoulder. It was a real-life nightmare.

Which brings us to today’s email… lessons I’ve learned from internships that didn’t work out and red flags to look out for.

Something I wish I’d have known when I was young…


If you are new, welcome to OCE’s weekly newsletter curated for the ambitious youth…here are some articles you missed from previous weeks:


USE THIS: Land your dream (summer) opportunity

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#1 Siloed work

Surefire way to tell you are at the wrong place:

You’re sitting in the cube alone. Other than your own line of work, you are not involved in any meetings or collaborative projects. You are isolated.

Don’t get me wrong, taking ownership is great and all, but perhaps even more important than putting your skills into practice is making professional connections.

I genuinely believe relationships have the power to change your entire life. It’s the people that you meet who will offer guidance and opportunities long after your internship ends.

To achieve that, your work needs to be SEEN and HEARD.

That’s exactly why OCE cohort meets with tech leaders and founders every week to engage in meaningful dialogue and share our insights.

Even now, as a founder, I would intentionally avoid working in silo by regularly put together a little pitch that I’d email to influential experts in the field I’m interested in. My goal? I want to help them, guest blog post, create content, source deals, volunteer. Whatever it takes to get my name out and my work seen.

Because at the end of the day, most questions you ask about your project, career, education, life? They aren’t answered by a “what” or a “how.”

They are answered by a “who.”

#2 No meaningful responsibility

“The best way to gain domain knowledge is by working for someone who’s already good at it.” They say.

I agree.

However, it comes with a caveat.

The type of work.

We all know the jokes about making Starbucks runs or fetching the boss’s dry cleaning – think Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Parada. Or worse, sitting around and twirling your thumbs.

But even employers that boast about giving their interns useful, career-related skills aren’t necessarily providing the necessary tools or challenging tasks that will help talents grow.

Menial administrative tasks, in my case reading off a script and taking calls, are certainly not helpful in building domain knowledge or resume.

How do you avoid this?

After my fair share of miserable internships, I came to realize that the telltale sign of meaningful work doesn’t necessarily come from a detailed job description, the title of the role…

But rather the opportunity to work directly with an acclaimed founder to address a hellacious pain point in their business.

For example, in our last project with InvestED, the CEO (Carmina Bayombong, Forbes 30U30) was gearing up for a series A funding round and was in desperate need of establishing a target investor list.

For this project, the cohort received the entire partnership screening criteria deck as well as due diligence templates on conducting competitor analysis. These valuable frameworks can be applied to other types of investing projects in the future. Domain knowledge obtained.

Bottom line: critical problem = impactful work.

#3 Lack alignment on purpose

Ask yourself this “What do I stand for?”

Now look at the company you hope to intern at, what values do they hold? AND are they aligned with yours?

For example, in my first real internship, I was consulting for an alcohol brand but as you guys know me – I stand for sustainability and healthy living.

Clearly, not a great fit. And it has undeniably affected my motivation

More importantly, if you want to leverage internship to stand out in your college application, you will want an experience that shows your commitment to your purpose.

What do I mean by that?

Ivy Leagues are looking for future leaders- people who will change the world.

They want to see your potential to become a proactive, persevering, empathetic leader, positively impacting the world around you.

Your actions and the opportunities you choose to partake should reflect that of your character.

And you by working for your company are helping to build out their vision. You are taking action, you are taking a stance, make sure you believe in what you are building. Your life force is going into it, is there any more powerful force?

Like what you read? Share with friends!

Add me as a contact to ensure you receive the latest newsletter in your inbox!

PS. This summer, we are going to tackle pressing global issues and drive innovation in regions where it is needed the most. Want in?

We run a summer cohort for ambitious youth (high school and undergrads) to work directly with world-class founders while learning from Silicon Valley leaders. Check out our info session recording.

You can also explore purposeful opportunities through our Impact Internship Opportunities Database.

Get Curious.


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