12 Tips for Securing a Tech Internship in a Soft Labor Market was originally published on College Recruiter.
Let’s be honest. It is far harder to land a technology-related internship or other early career job right now than it was even two years ago. Instead of employers hiring every technologist they could find, those same employers are now laying off many of those people. Some of those employers hired the wrong people. Some hired too many people. And some did some of both.
Are you trying to land your first tech internship? If so, you’re reading the right article. We’ve gathered twelve invaluable tips from industry professionals, including CTOs and software engineers. From gaining relevant work experience to engaging in open-source projects, these insights will guide you on your journey to landing that coveted position.
Gain Relevant Work Experience
The biggest differentiator for any internship applicant is relevant work experience. Now, while years of experience don’t always equate to skill level, it is a useful proxy when hiring managers have hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of entry-level applications to review.
So, the best thing you can do now is to give yourself relevant work experience through partnering with business or entrepreneurship majors to build an actual product, volunteering development work for a local non-profit, or freelancing for a family member or small business.
You can list these on your resume as work experience, even if you only put a few hours a week into them. And they are a great way to make sure your resume is always on the top of the pile.
Erik Andersen, Senior Software Engineer and Developer Advocate
Develop and Launch an Application
One of the most impactful strategies for securing your first tech internship is to conceptualize, develop, and launch an actual application that provides real value to users and open-source it.
By identifying a genuine need or problem and building a solution, you demonstrate more than technical skills; you show innovation, problem-solving, user empathy, and an understanding of product management. This hands-on experience, reflected in a live, open-source project, speaks volumes about your passion and capability in technology far more convincingly than theoretical knowledge or hypothetical projects.
It’s proof of your skills that significantly increases your visibility and credibility in the eyes of potential employers.
Immerse in Hands-On Experience
If I were to condense my years of experience at the helm of a thriving tech startup into a single piece of advice for aspiring interns, it would be to immerse yourself in hands-on experience, even before seeking the internship.
Just as a craftsman sharpens his tools before working, dive into real-world projects or mock scenarios related to your desired field. For instance, if you’re eyeing a role in SaaS, test and review a few software products on your own, maybe even create a basic tool. Document your findings and build a mini-portfolio.
Think of it as seeding a garden—it starts small, but with time and care, it blooms. In my company, we’ve always valued practical skills, akin to a tested sword over a shiny one. When you can showcase these practical undertakings, it doesn’t just tell but shows potential employers that you’re not only passionate but also proactive.
Showcase Your Personal Projects
Highlight any projects you’ve built, particularly those available online (e.g., a website, an app, a GitHub repo). Include them on your resume!
These will be your most important advantage over other applicants. Consider that other people applying to this position also won’t have much, if any, work experience. So, why should a recruiter reach out to you versus other applicants?
The answer is personal projects. It can be your own personal website, a small code project you wrote to solve a personal problem, or perhaps implementations of data structures that you wrote for a school assignment. Make it open-source (link to the repo) and ensure it looks professional (e.g., with a README.md).
Another option, particularly for non-coding tech internships, is to write a blog! You could write to share your opinions on some tech trends, or tutorials on how to use some tech you like. For extra points, publish using a platform like Jekyll or Astro, on GitHub pages!
Focus on Interpersonal Skills
At Ditto Digital, we always take on a tech intern each summer. In my experience, it is not the tech skills that are most important because we can train the right person in the tech skills we need. What is more important to us is that an intern fits in with the rest of the team and can work harmoniously with others.
I’d advise potential interns to focus on their interpersonal skills in their application. Teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills are all essential, as are good time management and organizational skills.
Don’t forget to demonstrate to potential employers that you are self-motivated and can use your own initiative to get work done. People with the right attitude and personal qualities can be trained in technical skills, but it’s much harder to train someone with the right tech abilities to have a different attitude to work and the people around them.
Connect with Tech Professionals
From my perspective, I’ve come to realize the profound impact of networking in the quest for a tech internship or advancement in the tech industry. In my experience, connecting with professionals in the tech sector has been pivotal for several reasons. Engaging with experts, whether through LinkedIn or tech-focused events, goes beyond expanding knowledge and horizons.
It’s about witnessing firsthand the transformative power of these connections, and gaining valuable insights into industry trends, best practices, and emerging opportunities. I’ve learned that building these relationships not only broadens your professional circle but also keeps you updated on hidden job openings and internship positions that might not be widely advertised.
Networking often results in referrals and recommendations, significantly boosting your chances of securing that coveted internship.
Build a Strong Online Presence
If you are looking forward to securing your first tech internship, here’s a vital tip for you: focus on building a strong online presence and personal brand. I highly recommend creating a professional profile on LinkedIn. Share tech-related content regularly and engage with professionals in the industry. This will showcase your enthusiasm in the field and allow you to connect with potential employers and mentors.
Besides, building your personal brand gives you an opportunity to showcase your thought leadership and expertise. By engaging in online activities consistently, you can show that you are looking beyond the internship. Your long-term goal is to contribute to the tech community. This will make you a more appealing candidate for recruiters.
I consider the digital presence of our employees as an extension of their resumes. This can help them stand out and find valuable internship opportunities.
Approach Test Tasks as Growth Opportunities
Right now, there is a shift in recruitment in tech: many entry-level job seekers, but not as many open positions for them. The market has become highly competitive, and every employer tries to create rigorous hiring processes to identify the best candidates. That is why the number of test tasks and technical interviews continues to grow.
Unfortunately, many candidates think that solving test tasks is just a waste of time if they don’t get the position after doing it. I would recommend changing your attitude towards these tasks. Just like one needs to have special skills to pass an interview, tackling test tasks also demands unique abilities.
By putting your time into solving them, you become more experienced, and you may find something new that will help you along your job-searching journey or in your future position. Therefore, I urge candidates to approach test tasks as opportunities for personal growth, rather than mere means to an end in securing a position.
Create a Personal Website
In my opinion, creating a personal website to showcase your credentials and act as a portfolio is essential for securing a tech internship. With the rise of the personal branding trend, this is a great idea that can work in several industries.
Your homepage should include a brief introduction and an overview of your skills. Choose a professional domain name and design your site with a clean layout. Showcase your projects with descriptions, skills, and links to code repositories.
A blog section is useful to have, where you share your knowledge on tech topics, as this demonstrates your passion for the field. Include your resume and contact information, and consider adding testimonials for credibility.
This can be updated regularly throughout your career and attached to your LinkedIn profile. Inject some personality into your site to make a memorable impression on potential employers!
View Internships as Learning Experiences
View your first tech internship as a valuable learning experience, rather than a measure of your overall worth or future success in the field. Remember, this opportunity allows you to explore whether this is the right path for you and if the work environment aligns with your professional goals.
My tip is to alleviate the pressure you may feel to constantly outperform your peers or achieve unrealistic goals. While ambition is commendable, it’s crucial to recognize that mastering any skill takes time. Be patient with yourself, understanding that growth is a gradual process. Most importantly, embrace the journey and have fun with it!
Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP of Strategy and Growth, Resume Worded
Prioritize Professional Networking
Prioritizing networking is one suggestion for obtaining your first tech internship. Making genuine contacts with other business people in your field can give you access to opportunities that aren’t necessarily advertised publicly.
Attend tech conferences, sign up for online discussion boards, and interact on sites like LinkedIn to network with industry leaders and discover potential internship vacancies. Don’t undervalue the importance of human relationships; ask tech-related friends, relatives, or acquaintances for recommendations and introductions.
Through networking, you might not only find untapped prospects but also gain important knowledge and advice from experts in the subject.
Engage in Open-Source Projects
As someone who’s looking to break into the tech industry, one step you can take to improve your chances of securing a tech internship is to work on open-source projects.
This will allow you to gain hands-on experience and make an excellent addition to your resume to show your skill and proactiveness. And, it’s a great opportunity to connect with and learn from others in the field. In the future, those connections could help you land your first tech job.
To find suitable projects, check GitHub for tasks that align with your interests and skill set.