Help! I need an internship!


As the summer inches closer, so does the struggle and pressure of finding an internship. Applying to companies through their online platforms is just like throwing your resume into a black hole, considering most companies never get back to you. We've talked to several students about their processes and experiences in recruiting for an internship, and what alternatives there are to an internship, to help give you the best strategy to try to lock down a summer opportunity that will build your portfolio and skills.

The article is broken down into two parts, the first being different strategies to get an internship, while the latter is focused on alternatives that will still allow you to get hands-on experience in the industry.


STRATEGIES TO ACQUIRE AN INTERNSHIP


The most important thing to keep in mind for all of these approaches is that if a company doesn't specify they are hiring interns, reach out and ask. It doesn’t hurt to to see if they would be interested in taking an intern or if you could be the first intern they take on. This may or may not be a paid opportunity, but it is worth considering. You won't be able to get the job, if you don't ask.

When you are reaching out to companies, be sure to express interest in the product and the part of the stack that you think you would be a best fit for. It is also important to provide a resume or link to your previous work to make the screening process easier for the companies and recruiters.


ANGELLIST

The central hub where startups post openings for all types of positions: CTO, Junior Developer, Product Manager, Marketing and Sales positions, etc. If you're someone interested in startups, be sure to create an account (similar to LinkedIn) to start getting connected and researching different companies. Even if companies are not explicitly hiring for interns you, should still reach out and ask.

AngelList allows you to specify what areas you are specifically interested in and what positions you prefer. The platform is focused on connecting companies and candidates. So, unlike LinkedIn, you won’t have to filter through unrelated messages or motivational posts, and can just focus on networking and job opportunities. AngelList also does a great job of being transparent with salary and equity.


PRODUCT HUNT

The main focus behind Product Hunt is so people can post their latest projects and products to gain traction and popularity. This is an easy way for you to scout out potential companies you may be interested in working for. Product Hunt opens your eyes up to different industries and how technology is disruptive in different areas.

Product Hunt will take more time to sort through in terms of finding products and projects that you can possibly work for, but it creates an entirely new channel to search for a job opportunity. Many of the posts are about projects or products that are starting to take off, have been recently launched or are adding new features - this typically means they have other things in the works and are potentially looking for someone new to bring on board.


FRANTICALLY APPLYING ONLINE

My Junior year internship was through a company I applied to online. I must have applied to over 50 companies and it was one of the few I actually heard from. Even though this is a disheartening and frustrating experience, it is definitely possible to get an internship through applying online.

On average, it takes between 2-3 minutes to complete most companies’ applications. For applications that take more time to complete, the companies may ask you to a longer list of questions, do a coding or design project, or another technical task to evaluate your skills and knowledge. However, most applications that take 2-3 minutes are cookie cutter applications that you should definitely apply to.

There are online groups such as Hackathon Hackers or your school’s career website that has lists of hiring companies and the list of the positions you can apply to. Contrary to what people say, applying online is a viable method to land an internship or interview. It’s not an impossible process, it’s just time consuming and frustrating.

Although it is inevitable that you will get rejected or ignored by many companies you apply to, applying online is a good way to mass apply to a large variety of companies and explore different industries and positions.


COLD CONTACTS

Expressing your interest in a company by reaching out to recruiters or employees you may have not actually met in person, who work at specific tech companies or small companies and startups. Be sure to add a personal touch on the way your reach out when creating a generic template you can alter for each of the companies. I want to emphasize how important it is to highlight why you are reaching out to that person. It needs to be expressed! The individual you are reaching out to needs to feel like a person, and not just a business card in the stack you collected at the career fair or at a networking event. The way you reach out should emphasize that you genuinely want to talk to them and know more about their experience and opinion. Do NOT treat them simply as a networking opportunity.

If these recruiters are hiring, they would be able to give you pointers on the recruitment process. If not, they can still be of help, as they can connect you with more people in the company or put your name into consideration for the next time they are hiring.

Having a complete profile and some background on the company is essential to demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in what the company does and how you can contribute value to the company.

Another important factor is how you pick the recruiter or employee to reach out to. On LinkedIn, you can search by company and what college or university they attended. For the most success, we recommend connecting with alumni of your college or university, as they are more likely to be open to chat and more willing to help. Be sure to express your shared background when you reach out.


ENTREPRENEURSHIP & TECH GROUPS

Whether you are interested in pursuing a career in entrepreneurship or not, these groups and listservs at your college are extremely valuable. They typically will send emails sharing opportunities across different fields and positions for full-time and internships. This provides you with a low-effort but constant source of information. As mentioned previously, individuals associated with these groups will be more willing to lend you a hand and provide guidance or other contacts because of your shared college affiliation.

Technical organizations such as a Computer Science clubs, hackathon organizations (both through your school and online organizations such as Hackathon Hackers), usually send out emails and information regarding information sessions, recruiting events and much more.


PERSONAL CONNECTIONS

Your personal network can come in very handy (this is how many of the students we spoke to got their first internship). Someone in your family or social circle may have work at a company with an internship opportunity in a field that you're looking for (tech, marketing, writing, etc). Take some time to talk to them about what opportunities they may have; if they traditionally hire interns, ask about contact persons so you can discuss a possible hiring opportunity. Again, it is important that you treat them like people, and not as a networking opportunity.

Slowly work your way outside of your immediate family and friends to professors and former teachers. If someone in your personal connections doesn’t have something specific at their company, try to dig deeper and see if they have a close connection they could put you in touch with (this is a crucial part of working personal connections in order to expand your network).


ALTERNATIVES TO AN INTERNSHIP


Typically an internship is a temporary position at an established startup or company that provides you with real world experience, hands-on work, and as a resume boost. We're going to look into different opportunities that would give you comparable experiences and valuable takeaways.


RESEARCH

Several students have taken the route of on-campus research for the summer as an alternative to internships. Like an internship, you will be exposed to valuable learning opportunities, have full responsibility over your project, and develop mastery in the domain of your research and leadership skills.

Many students have felt that a summer of research experience has given them a bigger appreciation towards their field or allowed them to understand what areas they don't find interesting and would not want to pursue, just as an internship would. Sticking to research on campus requires less effort and less competition, meaning this is an awesome path to pursue for an amazing opportunity with a high success rate.

Overall, we highly recommend research as an alternative as it is one of the easier paths to get involved with and offers almost identical opportunities and benefits to a traditional internship. Additionally, the professor you do research with also gives you a new channel to network with, and can also act as a reliable authority to provide you with a letter of recommendation for any graduate programs you’d like to pursue or company you’d want to work with down the road.


ENTREPRENEURSHIP

You have always wanted to be your own boss and work with your own schedule. These three months during the summer is the perfect time to pursue your startup and business ideas, whether you do it solo or in a team.

During these three months you will be learning extremely practical and applicable skills from having to learn how to oversee tasks and responsibilities in finance, marketing, technical development, and much more. Have you decided to build the company's website or web app? That's an entirely separate skill set that you are gaining through hands-on engineering experience. Even if your company doesn't succeed, you will have an entire portfolio of work, branding, and identity to showcase and use in a future recruiting cycle.

Like research, this is an easy way to develop your own opportunity. However, it may require a small amount of investment on your end to purchase a domain and host a website. If money is a big concern, another alternative is to work a paid summer job that is unrelated to your field of interest while also working on your entrepreneurial project. There are a variety of on-campus jobs that are available during the summer, which is a great way to cover living expenses while pursuing an entrepreneurial project.

Many people want to start their own practices, businesses, or startups. By spending a summer working on your own business over the course of the summer, you have very little at risk but so much to learn and gain.


OPEN SOURCE PROJECTS

Looking for a strictly technical experience that's not as intense as research or entrepreneurship? Contributing to open source projects fits the bill.

Whether you love open source video games, iOS apps, Machine Learning, AI, or anything else that is similar, you can find yourself learning crucial software engineering and programming skills by contributing to open source projects.

Look through GitHub to find popular open source projects or contribute to one you are already passionate about. There are dedicated developers around the product which allows you to pick features you genuinely care about to add. Since these projects require a lot of documentation and have to be code-reviewed before integrated into the live project, it mimics almost exactly how an internship would traditionally work. Although you may not be getting paid or have a direct mentor to guide you through issues, this is an amazing opportunity to learn about the technologies in the project and how to work independently through the engineering process. If you are capable of reading documentation and utilizing stack overflow and google to help work through challenging problems you will be much more prepared than most people who do internships.

Anyone can contribute to open source projects at any time and you can work at your own pace and contribute however much you’d like. The flexibility of open source projects gives you the option to pursue them along with research, entrepreneurial ventures, or even an internship. The main takeaway is that you can pace yourself, focus on building your skill set and just learn how to be a better software engineer and program.


SUMMARY



Locking down a summer gig is definitely a challenging task but I know you can persevere through and try some of the strategies we recommended to build your portfolio and skills. If you have any questions or still want advice please send an email over to me at Sean@1TakeInterview.com. Best of luck!