Getting your first Computer Science internship can be really challenging. You spice up your resume, apply to dozens, if not hundreds of companies, prepare for interviews, and then pray.
But what if nothing comes of all your hard work? Or, what if you DO get that internship you had your eye on?
Let’s take the guesswork out of getting that first internship in tech. I’ll tell you how I got my foot in the door, and what you can do to beat the odds.
I started coding late in life. I picked up HTML and CSS basics when I was 24 years old and didn’t decide to pursue a Computer Science degree until I was 26.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any close friends in the development community. As a result, I didn’t realize the importance of internships for long-term career development.
From the perspective of the companies out there, the beauty of hiring an intern is that it’s low-risk. If a candidate isn’t great for the role, their position will auto-terminate in a matter of a few short months.
On the flip side, it’s a great way to find candidates that learn quickly and contribute to company culture. It’s a win-win for most companies.
From the perspective of the students, the benefits of internships are three-fold.
It wasn’t until my Junior year that I finally realized these benefits. However, as soon as I realized this, I did what I could to obtain one. And I beat the odds!
The first thing I did when pursuing one of these coveted roles was read plenty of job listings. That way, I would learn what these companies were looking for in their candidates and how I could make myself qualified.
After about a month of working my way through the course, I noticed there was a weekly virtual networking event. At the time, I was also blogging about some of the things I was learning so I thought, “why not promote my blog?”
I returned every week to the networking event to meet people, connect, and share new articles that I had written in my blog. However, by the third week, something interesting happened.
On the third week, I noticed a guy, CJ, who mentioned that he just moved to Chicago for a job. He offered to collaborate on projects with anyone living near him.
Seeing as I live just outside of Chicago, I introduced myself and my blog and made a new connection. CJ was really nice and he just moved to Chicago from Montana for a role as Director of Marketing and E-Commerce for a construction company.
CJ and I had similar interests and backgrounds, so we connected on LinkedIn and started chatting. A few weeks passed and to my surprise, he sent me a message saying something along the lines of…
“Hey, Tim! My company is opening two internship positions this summer and I think you would be a good fit for the role. If you’re interested, I think you should apply.”
I read the job description and agreed that it would suit my skills and interests, so of course, I applied! A few more weeks after that, I had an interview with CJ and another employee of the company and it went well. They offered me the internship!
I couldn’t wait for summer to begin, along with my new role as a Marketing and E-Commerce intern. Then, the day finally came.
Over the course of that summer, I learned some new skills, helped develop a new E-Commerce website for the company, and made a few great connections.
It was the first time someone paid me to make a website for them. Someone was paying me to do what I love! I can honestly say that it was one of the best, most fulfilling summers of my life.
Not only that, but the same company offered me a full-time role after I graduated!
The traditional way of getting any job is to spam your resume to as many job listings as possible. However, there is certainly a better way.
Don’t get me wrong, you absolutely should apply to as many tech internships as possible. However, that alone is usually not enough.
Therefore, I have organized my process into five simple steps. If you follow these, I promise it will help you beat the odds and get your first Computer Science internship.
Connecting with someone and having a conversation is so much more personal than just applying. Everyone applies. But not everyone makes a connection.
Sure, it would be great to meet your future boss and connect with them before a role even opens. That way, they already have you in the back of their mind as a qualified candidate whom they could see themselves working alongside.
However, even if you don’t get that lucky, there are still other great options.
If you apply to a role that you’re really interested in, do research on the company and the employees there. Reach out to some of the employees and tell them you applied for an internship there and ask them how they like the company.
Try and make real connections. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Don’t be afraid to make friends in the industry you’re trying to enter.
In fact, the larger you grow your network, the better. You never know what will come of meeting someone new. They could be your future boss, your future coworker, or even your future business partner.
Getting your first Computer Science internship can be hard. However, it’s so worth it in the long term for your career.
Follow the five steps I listed above and don’t skip the last step. If you do that, your chances of getting that first tech internship will be greatly increased.
My first Computer Science internship was obtained because I sought to improve my skills and because I put myself out there. Don’t underestimate the power of networking!
With that said, I wish you the best of luck in your career. Happy job hunting!
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