Internship, Startup culture, Resume, Personal Branding, Mentorship
JOB HUNT / 14 December 2016
How I Landed An Internship (At 500 Startups!)
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Tim Elkana

About a week ago, 500 Startups offered me an internship at their accelerator in Mountain View. 500 freakin’ Startups.

It might not sound like much, but it’s a pretty crazy thing for me.As a shameless startup enthusiast, I have infinite respect for VCs and accelerators that help entrepreneurs change the world. 500 Startups is quite literally the internship of a lifetime. The holy grail of holy grails.But Indiana Jones didn’t find the Holy Grail on his own, and I didn’t land a job at 500 through a perfect GPA.

I got my foot in the door through 3 incredible mentors.

Last summer, I interned for ProSky - and I worked my hardest to be the best intern possible. I still don’t know if I reached that goal, but I did manage to win over a few people: Alexis (possibly the best boss ever), Matt (the only other guy in the office), and Crystal (the head honcho).

Dedication to ProSky and the internship helped me maintain the connections with them, even throughout the school year.Gradually, Alexis became my unofficial mentor, helping me set personal goals and learn new skills. After talking with her and Crystal for some time, they noticed my interest in working for a startup accelerator. So when Crystal offered me a possible opportunity at 500, my eyes lit up brighter than a blazing torch.She sent an email, and I was instantly connected to Elizabeth, a partner at 500. Inside was the most flattering personal review I’ve ever read, along with a “hey, hire this guy” CTA. My heart (and ego) jumped. Getting a mentorship at ProSky was seriously the best thing I did all summer.

But now I had to make the first move.

I spent my afternoon crafting the perfect email for Elizabeth. After creating/editing a few drafts with Crystal, Alexis, Matt, and some friends, I had something worth sending:


 


In response, Chelsea, who ran accelerator operations, set up a call for an operations internship. Nailed it!! Right?The conversation started off well. I had just done some more research on the company and was excited to get my whole body in 500’s door. But as we talked, she stopped suddenly and said, “you know, I don’t think the operations position would be the best fit for you.”Those words weren’t supposed to come up. But she was right - I just didn’t want to admit it. Really, I was hungry for marketing experience. Although operations was a fantastic way for me to get involved in the company, it wasn’t the 100% ideal internship. It was Prince Charming settling for Cinderella’s sister - which, while not perfect, would still be an incredible opportunity I’d jump at.


The point is: I would’ve taken any seat on 500’s rocketship if it meant going to the moon. And then, Chelsea threw me a curveball. “Let me refer you to Distro, they might be hiring a marketing intern.” Distro = 500’s distribution and marketing team, who (luckily enough) was looking for a marketing intern. Now going to the moon is one thing - going to the moon and choosing my own seat is another. This was the internship of a lifetime.

While my mind drooled over the thought of working for 500’s marketing team, Chelsea connected me to Susan, the Distro partner of interest.Another round of emails and calls passed, and I was back to playing the waiting game. I don’t know if it was anxiousness or my ego, but I decided to send Susan a follow-up email after our most recent call.

1 hour of research + 3 hours of writing/editing + 2 cups of coffee = this monster of an email:


(Notice how this email closes just like the first one I sent to Elizabeth? There’s a reason for that!) For reference, this is the table on her blog:

After a few more equally earnest emails to Elizabeth, Chelsea, and Susan, I got this:

Cue my disbelief (and the subsequent fist-pumping).

So this summer I’ll be working at 500 Startups in Mountain View as a Social Media Marketing Intern.


If there are 2 lessons to take away, it’d be these. 

  1. Build connections, find mentors. Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone says it best: “The fact is, no one gets ahead in this world without a lot of help.” 
  2. Go the extra mile. The best way to set yourself apart is to venture where no one else goes. Do your research and don’t give up.

I hate to be the guy that tells you “Hey, buy my [insert ebook/junk/subscription]” at the end of every blog post. But ProSky’s not an ebook/junk/subscription business. It’s given me both the connections and grit needed to hustle to an internship at 500. The mentorship program built into their courses is quietly powerful. Their connections to industry influencers all over the world can be your best resource for jobhunting. And their hands-on projects give you skills that colleges take 2+ years to teach you.I’ll be taking ProSky courses at 500. I urge you to give it a try here!