I’m really excited to say that I am going to be interning at Workday this summer as a Software Engineer Intern! After months of applying, interviewing, emailing, networking, the countless hours of work had finally paid off. I had received more than 50 emails along the lines of “We regret to inform you that…”, “This year, we received a record number of applications and unfortunately cannot consider…”, or “We thoroughly enjoyed reading your application, but….”.
It was really frustrating to invest so much thought, time, and energy towards finding an internship. It was a Catch 22: I was trying to find experience to grow my skills, but companies already expected me to have a ton of experience under my belt.
Even though the process was gruelling, the effort was worth it, and I actually learned a lot more than I thought I would.
Last summer, I started looking for an internship in March, which was way too late (I was a freshman, what would I know). I didn’t end up getting any offers for summer 2017. I learned my lesson the hard way, but you don’t have to! Start as soon as you can, that way you’ll have plenty of time to apply, prepare for interviews, and you don’t risk missing out on some really cool opportunities! Starting early will also ease your stress levels especially when school picks up. August would be a good time to start getting in the groove of things, in fact, a lot of companies start releasing internship applications before that, so keep your eyes peeled.
If anything, make a spreadsheet of the companies you want to apply to and make note of the deadlines. Be aware of companies that have rolling applications, and apply early to those (there’s a higher chance that your application will move forward if you apply earlier).
When August rolled around, I had no idea where to start my search. I reached out to a friend, who I knew had a history of working at really amazing and prestigious companies. We both knew of each other, but we weren’t close friends. I decided to take a leap of faith and reach out — there was nothing to lose. She said she’d love to help (!). I met her at a coffee shop, and she helped me apply to some of my first jobs and gave me tips on how to find opportunities and stay organised. She also helped me practice for some of my interviews! She and I clicked really well, and after, we hung out regularly to chat or study. She’s now one of my best friends at school, and I know that I wouldn’t have this friendship if I hadn’t mustered up the courage to reach out for help.
Finding a supportive mentor who I could talk to about my progress was really encouraging and stress relieving as well. You don’t need to suffer alone! People have been there done that, and they are willing to help. Reach out to people and don’t be afraid.
For technical interviews, it’s important to keep practising the types of questions that interviewers might ask. Do a couple of problems a day, practice with your friends on a whiteboard, and make sure to nail your elevator pitch. For behaviour interviews, practice with friends, see how you talk in front of the mirror, record yourself. To get a grip on technical questions, I highly recommend Cracking the Coding Interview, Leetcode, Hackerrank, Topcoder, and Geeks for Geeks. Use your resources because they are there for a reason!
Getting interviews can be hard, and the last thing you want to do is blow an opportunity and have regrets about not practising enough.
Finding an internship will be hard if you make it hard. Applying online doesn’t always have to be the go-to method. Go to career fairs, tech talks, and networking events to meet recruiters and have conversations with them face to face. Although this is extra work, it can go a really long way. Try to message recruiters on LinkedIn (you can get LinkedIn premium for a month), or reach out to friends who have worked at companies you’re interested in working at. They probably have emails that you can reach out to. Emailing recruiters will set you apart from the hundreds (even thousands) of applications that companies get. It’s a more personal, less robotic, way of showing who you are. You’re showing that you have interest and are taking initiative, and that’s great. The hiring process will go incredibly faster as well (it’s like you get to cut in line or get a fast pass for free!).
This one might be a no-brainer, but your resume is often the first thing that a recruiter will see when they look at your application. Make sure your resume is up to date, clean, and has zero typos and errors. Highlight your relevant coursework, skills, GPA, projects, and previous work experience. Tailor your resume to the job you are applying to and cut out what’s unnecessary or irrelevant.
There may be times when you receive an offer (yay! how exciting), but it isn’t exactly what you were looking for. In some ways, it can be a good thing, but in other ways, the job might not align with your goals (at all). After around three months of recruiting, I received a job offer, but I realised that it was for a position that was really not interesting to me. Some people told me that “any experience is good experience” (which is true to some extent), but others told me that I should just drop an offer if I didn’t like it. Remember that recruiting is a two-way street: the company is not only evaluating you, but you are also evaluating the company. Don’t forget that.
It’s really hard to determine where to draw the line, but from my personal experience, I realised that the offer I received really didn’t align with how I wanted to spend my summer. Some of the questions I asked myself (in no particular order of importance) to make a decision were:
1) In what ways will I grow if I take this opportunity?
2) Is it too late in the game to drop this opportunity and keep searching?
3) Will I be happy working at company x doing job y?
4) What is the internship experience like?
5) How will my skillset grow?
6) Does the company’s mission align with my own personal values?
7) How much does the company value its employees?
8) Will I be 100% satisfied if I take this job?
9) What is my heart saying?
10) Am I passionate about what this company does?
It’s hard to drop offers. It’s so easy to feel inclined to take an offer for the sake of being done with recruiting. But remember that your happiness matters. After I dropped my first offer, I was scared that I wouldn’t receive another one, and I’d regret dropping the original offer. But that fear pushed me harder, and I’m really glad that I didn’t consider the first offer because the one that I have now really does align a lot better with my future goals.
This one’s important. Companies want to see what you do outside of the classroom that makes you an expert in your field. Research? Extracurriculars? A part-time internship? Participating in those activities stands out. The first semester, I felt like I lacked work experience, so I reached out to some local startups and saw if they had work that I could do. I landed a part-time spring internship at Kiwi Campus, one of the biggest startups in Berkeley, and this new addition to my resume really stood out. Just remember to stay involved, and keep working hard. I promise that it pays off.
The point of having an internship is for you to evaluate whether or not you like doing a specific kind of work. Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that are a bit outside of your realm. The worst case scenario is that you dislike the work. Sometimes, knowing what you don’t like could be more beneficial than knowing what you do like. When it comes to applying to full-time jobs, you’re going to need to understand what work you like to do, because changing jobs often gets harder as you get older. If you try different types of work and realise that you like it, that’s great! You could start taking college/online courses related to that area of study. Consider keeping all your options open, and you’ll be doing yourself a favour in the long run!
If your only interest is the money or the rank of the company you work at, you really should consider re-evaluating your priorities. There are some amazing companies and jobs out there that are so undervalued. Just focus on being the best you can be at what you do, and the money and the titles will follow along. Don’t base your choices solely on how much you are getting paid or the title of the company you’re working at. Trust me, it won’t help you in the long haul.
If you’re reading this, it shows that you are committed to working hard and making your life what you want it to be. Be confident and proud of how far you’ve come! Don’t feel down after getting rejections or having bad interview experiences (I’ve had plenty). Virtually everyone around you is going through the same process. Just remember that everything works out in the end. You got this!
After you have officially signed with a company, give yourself a pat on the back! You did it! But didn’t you receive help? Always remember to thank people who helped you practice interviews, refine your resume, gave you positive words of encouragement. The people who care about you want you to do well, the least you can do is share your success with them. I suggest sending over a personal message to people and to the people who were there every step of the way (those people are hard to find), take them out to coffee or dinner! Another way to give back is to pay it forward - make other people’s job hunting experience easier, whether it be offering a recruiter email or interview practice session, a little bit of kindness goes a really long way. Stay humble, and never stop grinding.
This article was first published on the author’s Medium account, here.