The VC internship search will kick your ass no matter what your background is...
When I came to Silicon Valley, I didn't even know what venture capital was. Why would I? It's not a huge industry in the South and I had never been exposed to it. I went to Stanford knowing that I wanted to do some form of work combining supporting the growth of fascinating, innovative companies and generally doing good around the world. I didn't know what that would look like for me but I was ready to take the time to find out.
Now, if you've ever heard that going to Stanford makes things easy for you, whoever told you that lied. They lied straight to your face--like, directly in your face. Well, let me back up. Going to Stanford comes with endless opportunities. #Facts. But, the ability to identify those opportunities and know how to seize them really comes from years of prep work or some real quick on-the-degree learning. I quickly came to learn that venture capital is one of the "sexiest" business fields to go into. Who knew? And, what kind of people use "sexy" do describe a job anyway? But that's neither here nor there. As a result of this reported "sexiness," you've got a ton of people vying for very, very few roles. To make a transition to venture capital from a nonbusiness background (research, philanthropy, nonprofit strategy) instead of a more traditional business field (consulting, finance, etc.), you've got to hustle. So, I've reworked the common saying "if you go to Stanford you can do anything". It's more like: "If you come to Stanford, and you hustle, you can accomplish any goal you set forth to reach."
When kicking off the internship search, most students normally can't help but fall into the infamous "on-campus recruiting" funnel in the winter quarter. They are the first opportunities to lock down a summer job in consulting, investment banking and some of the larger tech firms. Mostly everyone does it because you're not exactly sure what you want to do yet, you want to practice the whole interview process and, most importantly, FOMO.
For me, in the winter I still didn't know exactly where I wanted to work for the summer to even dive into recruiting in an efficient manner. I was learning about different fields and roles and decided to apply for consulting roles. After all, it'd give me great insight into a ton of industries and possibly uncover something new I'd enjoy. I got interviews with both Bain & McKinsey. I bought three different case study books (Crack the Case, The Case Interview in 20 Days and Case Interview Secrets). No, I didn't buy Case in Point. But the most important thing I did was talking to classmates who had been consultants prior to the GSB and newly-minted MBAs who had just begun their careers. In the end, I wanted long-term, collaborative relationships. And you just couldn't do that in consulting. I wanted to work with people to help them reach their goals and exceed their own expectations. I want relationships to be mutually beneficial where everyone is doing the work. And plus, I didn't want to come all the way to business school to end up in a job with low satisfaction, which my classmates also shared about consulting. I want my dream job.
By the time I actually learned and decided VC was for me, I'd missed the on-campus interviews. So now, getting an internship was totally on me. During the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring quarter, I reached out to our Career Management Center; I reached out to VCs for coffee; I tapped into the Stanford GSB network; I submitted proposals to display my skill set; I did everything.
A lot of people said no. Like a lot. Tons. Which I get. But in the end, I got two awesome offers learn and decided to come to Omidyar Network--the preeminent impact investing around the world. I am incredibly excited to jump in and work on some deals!
My Key Learnings From My Internship Search:
1. Following the crowd can lead you to wasting time doing things you don't want to do.
2. Further, don't do things you don't want to do just because you're scared. That's crazy.
3. You don't have to find out WHERE you want to work, but if you figure out HOW you want to work, the internship search will become MUCH easier.
4. If you miss the first point of entry, create a second and do the work to walk in.