To completely disrupt the order on the checks watch third post in, I am heavily passionate about internships, which may come a bit later in your college career.
Why, in general, do we not consider internships as SOON as we begin our academic career? Well, if you're like me, you might make some excuses. "I do not have the skills yet." "I need more interview practice." "Nobody is going to hire a freshman." "I don't even have a resume."
As I did with my previous post, I point everyone making the excuses to career services advisement. These services can help you with all of those excuses. They will help you write a resume. They can set up mock interviews (they DO help!). They will point you to internships and jobs that fit your skills.
You may be surprised to find private companies want low-skilled employees that are still learning. They can pay less than they would someone with experience, they can train you early in their business practices, and once you have the valuable skills, they will have someone that is already integrated in the culture and understand the systems.
To start searching on your own, look into
- Quality Assurance (QA) Internships
- IT Help Desk Internships
- Large companies providing summer internships targeted at low-skill students. These programs may place you in different technical departments over a span of a few weeks to give you experience and help you find your area of interest. Early students do not have a ton of options, but opportunities exist!
Making friends is the primary reason I encourage internships. You may be surprised to hear the tech world is not that massive. You will likely meet coworkers of coworkers, and these connections can influence your ability to land the job you want. I will mention this in the future further: but stay humble. Do not burn bridges with people in the tech world.
Allow me to tie this into my own experience:
My dad is a Netsuite Administrator for a local company, so I was fortunate to have an opportunity my freshman year of college to apply for an IT internship with his employer. I applied, got a second interview, and.... I didn't get it. Ouch. I worked a bit longer at a bakery and continued to push myself at school. Nine months later, the internship opened up again, so I applied. I am not sure if they felt bad for me, but this time they hired me. I was a sophomore in college, and I had an internship! I learned a lot more than I expected, too. I learned a lot about network administration, had a lot of fun scripting mini computers, thoroughly researched hardware options (from printers to extreme graphic designer pc builds), and grew comfortable on Linux.
Side note: I did not fully fit their culture, unfortunately. Nonetheless, my coworkers were great and I love catching up with them. Upon reflection, I realize now why my current employer would interview candidates for almost a year before hiring a senior developer. Culture is extremely valuable on a team. If the team struggles to work together socially, that tension multiplies when working on a project.
This internship not only put nine months of experience in industry on my resume, but my boss at the internship was fairly impressed with the traits I demonstrated in my time there. I later applied to a few more internships, and I flopped a lot of interviews. When my junior year began, I was jobless and casually looking. I wanted more interview practice and had priorities with student involvement that would prevent me from working a lot of office hours. I landed an interview for a SQL internship in October, and I was a bit rusty on my syntax. I was asked to design a movie rental database and write a query for it. The design went great, the SELECT statement was like driving four miles per hour down a pot-hole covered road. Yikes. They asked me to work ~35 hours. I told them 20 max. I did not come out of that interview with confidence. The Executive of IT couldn't make my interview, but he took a look at my resume during my interview. He recognized the company that provided my IT Internship and called my previously-mentioned boss, who happened to be his previous boss. He speaks very highly of me, and I don't know how to best show my appreciation for him. I cannot be convinced that he isn't the reason I have my job. I was brought in for a second interview and received a call to offer me the internship. It would have been my biggest mistake to say no. I have been with the company since October 2018, and I have learned so much more than school ever could. I have also made some fantastic connections with my growing team. I know that some day I could be a reference for one of them, and they for me. When I said "making friends" up there, I mean it. Go to lunch once a week with your coworkers. Make it a tradition. Show them you care and have interest in their lives, and they will return the favor.
One last note on networking: so many resources exist to make connections and get your name out there. Make a LinkedIn today. Get a GitHub connected and put everything you do on it, then link it to your LinkedIn. Post your resume. Keep your profile updated. Universities may also integrate with Handshake. Employers look there for students, and students look there for internships. Check if your school uses it! Be present online.
As I outline the time that passed in all of this, I am overwhelmed. Nine months is still a fairly long time for a 21-year-old. Nine months seems eternal, actually, but it wasn't. Those months of almost purely studies seem like a lifetime ago, but also as if they flew by at the speed of light.
You will not get every interview. You will flop a lot. You may have to deny an offer or two. The sooner, though, the better. Show your interest. Keep applying. Drive to an interview you know you can't get, or can't take due to the commute. Do not prevent yourself from your goals by making excuses!
I recommend checking out Benjamin Taylor. He was recently recommended to me by a coworker. Benjamin Taylor helped create software that may heavily impact the future of interviews. Big AI guy, really freaking smart.
Thanks for reading.