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Preparing Your Tech Application

Before applying for an internship, it’s important to have an application that will make a hiring manager take note of it. Below are some guidelines for things that you should take care of to maximize the chance of recruiters being interested in you.

Resume

It continually astonishes me how little time students spend crafting and revising their resumes. Your resume is what represents you to a recruiter and 100% controls how you’ll be perceived. A recruiter or hiring manager will take a five-to-ten-second glance at your resume and make a snap decision whether to put your resume in the garbage or the “first round of interviews” pile.

If you’re in college, career services can help you put together an effective resume, especially if you don’t have much experience to write about. However, often career services aren’t used to how things work in the tech industry, which is why it’s always a good idea to ask someone in the tech industry to look over your resume to make sure it portrays you in a good light, doesn’t contain any accidental red flags, and includs everything that it should.

Before submitting your resume to positions, pretend you’re a recruiter and take a look at your resume. Think: If I was a manager looking to hire someone, would I want to hire this person? What would convince me that this person was worth hiring?

Side Projects

  • Side projects should be prominently featured on your resume, and are especially crucial if you don’t have experience. They are a great way to convince employers that you can write code and use tools and frameworks. Your side projects should be hosted on GitHub, and your GitHub profile should be on your resume.
  • A great way to start is to repurpose projects you’ve done for school; just be sure that it’s not obvious that the project was a school project. If you don’t have school projects or want to work on other projects, the world is your oyster! Create a website, game, browser extension, or whatever else your heart desires. Besides for resume value, hacking is a great way to learn about the great tech ecosystem and how to use tools and languages in a practical way.

Online Presence

If your resume passes muster, chances are a recruiter or hiring manager will Google you. It’s important make sure they’ll be impressed with what they find.

First, a challenge: Google your name. Do it right now. If there are many people with your name, try your name + location or your name + university. What did you find?

  • Social Media
    Is your Facebook or Twitter on the first page of Google? Does it contain overtly political or religious messaging, or pictures of you drinking or smoking marijuana or acting generally unprofessional? If so, you don’t want hiring managers to see it. You have many different options to make sure recruiters don’t see it. For example, you can:
    • Clean up the offending posts, Tweets, and messages
    • Rename your profile so that’s it’s not easily found from Googling your name (for example, Tom Jenkins’s profile name can become T. Jenkins)
    • Set your privacy settings to private, so that only people who are connected to you can see what you post
  • LinkedIn Profile
    On the other hand, something that you do want to show up is your LinkedIn profile. You should have one. One plus of connecting to everyone you know on LinkedIn is that allows you to see who you know that work at companies you’d like to apply to. There are many other benefits, including the many jobs that are posted to LinkedIn’s job board that LinkedIn will recommend you.
  • Website
    If you’re technologically saavy enough to have a website, it’s a great way to be able to showcase your skills or just represent your online presence. You can even create a simple website with your contact information on it, and there are free templates online for small portfolio sites. Websites are great because they double as a way to show a future employer that you know how to use technology well enough to make one.
    A great tip to know is that Heroku has a free hosting plan, so you can host your site on it for free from just a GitHub repo.
  • Blog
    It’s not for everyone, but a blog looks extremely impressive. They aren’t crucial, but are fantastic if you have one. The drawback is that you need to have something to actually write.

Regions

  • Relevant geographic area. Do some thinking into which regions you’re willing to work in, and whether you’re willing to leave the area you operate in. Do you only want to work in your college town? Do you have dual citizenship or visas in any other countries? Will you constrain your internship search to specific areas?

If you can check all these boxes, you’re ready to start sending out your application!

Back to: The Ultimate Guide To Getting A Tech Internship

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internships

Freshman and Sophomore Internships

One great way to get into the FAANG companies is via freshman and sophomore internships. Top tech companies offer these internships only for first- and second-year students, and they are a great backdoor in. Some of these programs are directed at underrepresented minorities, while others are open to anyone.

Because students haven’t been through the full computer science curriculum yet and are just beginning their studies, the interviews are significantly easier. However, applicants do still need to have a very solid understanding of data structures and algorithms. Another thing to be aware of is that these applications close early – sometimes as early as October and November.

Some examples: 

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The Ultimate Guide

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Getting Started

The Application Process

Preparing For Interviews

  • What To Expect When You’re Interviewing
  • Preparing For Algorithmic Interviews
  • Preparing For Technical Interviews
  • Preparing For Behavioral Interviews
  • Tips For Algorithmic Interviews
  • So You’ve Flunked Your Interview

Succeeding At Your Internship

Other

  • Getting in Touch With the Larger Online Tech Community
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Where To Find Internships

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.

You can also simply think of a place you’d love to be part of and see if they have internships. You can work for the CIA, McDonald’s, or Toyota!

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.

  • Referrals

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.

  • Hackathons

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.

Why not?

  • 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.

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internships

Why Get An Internship?

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.

Why?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.
At one internship I learned about satellite imagery, and how it’s used by private industry, academia, and governments to make decisions.
  1. 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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