Finding an internship in the tech industry is not easy. As a student, it is hard to know what tech companies are looking for from their applicants. GPA? Portfolio? Accolades? Work Experience? Volunteer Experience? I had so many questions when I started my search, and I learned a lot of new things on the way. These are my takeaways.
Network, Network, Network
Networking really does matter. I know you hear it all the time, “it’s who you know”, and that is partially true. Using sites like LinkedIn and going to tech networking events are a great way to meet and interact with people in the tech industry. It’s one thing to connect with people on LinkedIn and in person at events, but if you’re not continually utilizing and engaging with those connections, your initial efforts may be worthless. Networking requires maintenance – it’s not a one-and-done. During my tech internship search, I reached out to many employees at a wide range of companies in positions that I was interested in. I was able to ask questions about the industry and what steps I should be taking to move to the next chapter in my career. I started this process early and looked to connect frequently, but genuinely, and worked to build relationships with the experts I was interacting with. At tech networking events, the best way to stand out in the crowd is by being engaged in conversations, asking intelligent questions and being yourself. In the end, networking may not get you that internship position, but it can help you get your foot in the door for an interview.
To prepare for my internship search, there were three main areas I concentrated on: the company, my skills and focusing on just being myself.
Before networking events and interviews, I made sure to do my research on the companies I was interested in. I did my best to understand what each company does and the types of positions they hire. Something I learned while researching companies, is that you can really impress people by mentioning previous events they’ve been a part of or achievements that they have shared. This not only shows that you’ve invested time researching the company, but it also shows that you’re interested in the work that they do.
Understand your skills. Especially in the tech industry, you should always have a project ready to talk about. When being asked about your skills or projects, it is okay to say, “I don’t know”, sometimes the person asking the question is testing to see if you’re trying to answer a question you don’t know the answer to.
Finally, be yourself. Don’t be scripted. I had to learn through my search to find the fine line between when to showcase my skills and when to have a casual conversation. When somebody asks you “How is your day?” don’t go into a conversation talking about what languages you code and projects you’ve worked on in the past. Understand that it could be the little things in a conversation, like hobbies, that may help you stand out from others and make you memorable.
Be Selfish in Your Decision Making
The biggest thing I learned through my tech internship search is that you’re picking your company to work for, just as much as the company is picking you to work for them. Find companies that are willing to invest in your learning and development and teach you valuable skills that will benefit you both during your internship and future career in tech. Spend the time to talk to people within the companies you are looking to intern at, get a feeling of the culture, and make sure it is a good fit.
In the end, everyone’s tech internship search will look different. The only way to learn what works for you is to start now and aim to learn a lot along the way. If you’re looking for future internship opportunities, keep an eye on our Careers Page.