One of the biggest obstacles standing between most computer science students and an internship is that students don’t realize how important they are.
Internships are the most important way you can develop your career in software development while in college.
- An internship makes you more valuable to employers.
Employers want to minimize the amount of training new hires will need. An employer wants to hire someone who can hit the ground running, especially in technology and software development, where there’s a lot to learn and it can be some time before a new hire is productive.
Because of that, employers will always prioritize job applicants with previous experience over applicants who show promise, but haven’t actualized it yet.
Getting an internship means that you’ll have an enormous advantage over other applicants when you apply for jobs after college.
- An internship allows you to skip parts of the job-climbing ladder.
It’s very hard to get a job at a well-paying or prestigious company straight out of college without any experience.
Generally, the way life works is that people slowly climb a career ladder. A college graduate will take the best position she is offered when she applies for jobs after college. After a few years there, she is skilled enough to get a better-paying position somewhere else. After a few years she might job-hop again to a better position, and eventually she might get a position at one of the coveted FAANG or fancy unicorn companies if she works hard enough.
With internships, every internships is worth one rung on that ladder, so a student who gets as many internships as they can – and leverages them into better internships – can get a FAANG position (if they so desire) right out of college.
- An internship can lead to a full-time offer.
Companies have internships for the specific purpose of hiring software engineers out of the intern class. It’s a low-cost, low-commitment way for them to see who they like: who learns quickly, has a good attitude.
At the same time, you get to vet a potential employer and see if you enjoy working for them. If a company likes your work, there’s a good possibility you’ll get a job offer – sparing you from having to do any job interviews at all, and allowing you to be confident that you’ll be working at a job that is a good fit for you.
- An internship makes programming less of an abstract concept.
Before my first internship I had a very narrow understanding of technology. I understood what I learned in school – I could write a while-loop or balance a binary tree or write a read–eval–print loop – but I didn’t understand how that turned into Google or Twitter or Facebook.
Once I had experience at a variety of tech companies, I saw how everything I was learning comes together to create something useful, which enhanced my ability to make sense of larger concepts within computer science. I understand how I could build large, complex systems.
- An internship can expose you to interesting subfields of computer science.
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to get a job in Natural Language Processing (NLP) – the subset of machine learning that deals with processing language. Chances are, no company will consider you for a job without an advanced degree in machine learning or previous NLP experience. But it’s not as hard to get an NLP internship; most companies will hire you without much previous experience.
For example, at one of my internships, I learned a lot about satellite imagery and the field of Geographic Information Systems, or GIS. It was a fascinating experience, and I was so interested that I later did government-sponsored research in it and took a few graduate classes on the topic.
If you want to be in interesting places, working with interesting technologies, and be in places you might not be able to get to otherwise, get an internship!
The best possible way for a student to get a good job, get an opportunity to do interesting things, and really understand technology is to get one or multiple internships in the field.
How can you do that? Stay tuned for the next article: How To Get A Tech Interview.
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