The process of getting an internship starts with the process of finding internships to apply to. Many students apply for three or four positions, don’t get a response, and give up. A student that forms a strategy for his or her search and casts a wide net of applications and opportunities has a much better chance of successfully scoring a great internship.
Where can you look to find an internship?
- Your own research
The most powerful skill you can develop is the ability to do your own exploration and find available positions. You can Google “<type> internship <time period> <year> <place>” (for example, “software engineering internship summer 2021 los angeles”). Google will lead you to results like LinkedIn Jobs and other resources that can help you find positions.
There are many websites that can help you find positions. For example, Built In NYC has great internship in the greater New York City area, and intern.supply keeps track of open internships at top tech companies.
The challenge of this method is that companies recruit least from their online application portals. This means that you’re significantly less likely to receive a response, and you’ll need to send out many resumes without ever hearing back. My rule of thumb is that for every twenty resumes you apply via an online portal, you’ll receive one reply. This obviously varies with the quality of your resume, but this means that if you apply to forty companies, you’ll get around two responses.
While that sounds discouraging, remember that all you need is one response to get an internship! I know a student who applied to every place she could think of and got one response – which turned into an internship and then a job, and she still works for them now, over five years later.
If you’d really like a position but don’t know anyone at the company, you can try emailing their recruiters personally.
You know your uncle who you’ve spoken maybe three sentences to in your life, and you’re not sure what exactly he does, but you think it involves computers? Ask him for a referral for an internship at his company. Referrals often guarantee you an interview. Ask for referrals from family and friends, your professors, speakers at tech events, and literally anyone you know who know in tech.
One way you can see whom you know at a company is by using LinkedIn to see your connections that work there.
- Career Fairs
Many universities run career fairs at lease twice a year where employers recruit directly from within the college. Many times they are open to alumni as well. If your university has a career fair, research ahead of time which companies will be there and what you should look, speak, and sound like.
There are also professional career fairs that non-students can attend. However, you generally need to pay to attend, so it is up to you to decide if it is worth it.
- Career services
If you’re in college, career services can be a big help. They can help you get your resume up to snuff, and they often know of jobs that come through the university. Exercise caution, however: career guidance is very different for the technology industry than it is for other fields, and you may get advice that is not appropriate for the industry. For example, most companies will not make you write a cover letter, and side projects are important to prominently feature on your resume.
- Government Internships
Unless you’re living on an uninhabited island somewhere, chances are you’re living under a government, and that government has employees. Governments are a great place to get internships, especially if you don’t have industry experience – they are willing to hire based on aptitude instead of achievement and will train you on the things you need to know.
Many hackathons are sponsored by companies who are explicitly looking for interns or software developers. Chat up the representatives when your’e there! If you win a prize, they’ll be even more interested in considering you for open positions.
- Diversity-based opportunities
If you’re an underrepresented group in technology – if you’re female, African-American, Hispanic or Latino, disabled, or another minority – there are many scholarships and diversity-based opportunities you can get involved with. Many tech companies have specific diversity-based internships. Some of these organizations also have newletters or job boards specific to people that are part of the organization.
Caution: Unpaid Internships
There will always be many opportunities for you to do unpaid internships. It’s not hard to get a position working for free.
There is one rule when it comes to unpaid internships: Don’t do them.
- You’ll get taken advantage of. If your time doesn’t cost anything, you can be given work that doesn’t need to be done but is just busywork. A manager doesn’t mind giving you ten hours of work if it doesn’t cost them anything.
- You’re appreciated more when you’re paid. It’s an interesting psychological phenomenon that when your employer knows that they are paying hard-earned money for your services you become more valuable to them. If you’re not being paid, they mentally don’t think you’re as important to the company.
- If you do unpaid internships, it becomes a standard for everyone. If companies know they can get quality unpaid interns, they don’t see a reason to pay for those same interns, and other companies realize they don’t need to pay theirs. Doing an unpaid internship means that unpaid internships will become more common.
Granted, in some fields unpaid internships are required – but in tech, where the standard is to be paid and paid well, there is absolutely no reason to work unpaid.