Talk to any group of students or recent graduates about tech internships, and it often becomes a competition to name-drop the biggest names where they interned. There is a good reason for the pride that comes from interning for a well-known tech company – these internships are highly competitive, and securing one is very difficult.
However, tech internships at well-established companies do not prove that the intern was better qualified or learned more during the internship. In fact, internships at startup companies or lesser-known businesses might be a better fit and a better learning opportunity than those at big programs.
How to Get a Tech Internship that Meets Your Needs
When you start looking for a tech internship, you should first decide what you need from an internship. For example, if you are early in your education, focusing on smaller companies that provide training and experience might be better for you. Conversely, if you have identified companies that fit the experiences you already have, focus on those, even if compensation or location might not be ideal.
Once you have identified your needs, you can begin your search and the application process.
How to Prepare for a Tech Internship
Tech companies usually look for interns who have both technical knowledge and an interest in their field of business. Preparing for a tech internship is no different from preparing for graduation – do good work and get good grades in the field you love.
You may find that some internships have specific needs. For example, a tech internship for a gaming company might require some experience with game engines or graphics applications. Talking to prior interns or looking at past listings can help you with companies that want applicants with specific experiences.
How to Get a Tech Internship with No Experience
Tech internships at large, well-known companies can be highly competitive. However, this does not mean that all tech internships are competitive. If you are willing to cast a wide net, you should be able to find an internship that fits your experience level.
In fact, searching for startup companies is often a good option for interns looking for how to get a software engineering internship with no experience. Startup companies are often analogous to inexperienced interns. Just as large companies are often reluctant to hire inexperienced interns, experienced workers are often reluctant to work for startup companies. In this way, startup companies and inexperienced interns are a good match.
Benefits of Tech Internships with Startup Companies
An internship with a startup should not be viewed as an option of last resort. To the contrary, internships with startups can have substantial benefits for interns:
- Permanent job offers: Startup companies are often more willing to look at interns as prospective employees. Since they are early in their staffing process, the role you play during your internship might turn into a full-time role after graduation.
- Funding: Although some startups use interns as unpaid (or low paid) sources of labor, startups in their early rounds of funding are often flush with cash as investors push them to produce a product.
- Experience: An intern at a smaller company often gets a wider range of experience and is given greater responsibility than an intern at a big company. Many interns at small startups have a direct relationship with management, customer service, and other departments that an intern would never have in a large company.
- Ground floor: For interns who value contributing to something, being in a startup could result in seeing their work in a final product rather than feeling like they are merely a cog in a large machine.
For students interested in internships at startup companies, virtual internships offer a good way to connect with companies. For example, Intrax’s Virtual Internships program connects interns with startup companies based on the interns’ skills and the companies’ needs. The application and interview process is conducted online. Since the internship is conducted remotely, you can work for startup companies from around the globe.
How to Get Internships at Top Tech Companies
If you are still focused on landing a tech internship at a big company, you should still cast as wide a net as possible. That is, even if you would prefer to work in Silicon Valley, make sure to check the Pacific Northwest or Texas as well. Similarly, if your interest is in gaming, you should not exclude companies in other areas of software. Internships at the top tech companies are highly competitive, and you might have to apply to dozens of companies to land just a few offers.
Moreover, you should take advantage of any connections you have with large companies to try to gain an advantage. Surveys show that as many as 85% of jobs are filled by networking rather than cold applications. As a result, you might have just as much success by asking professors, friends, and family to connect you with their networks as sending out job applications.
Professors, in particular, are often good sources for referrals. They often have former students or research partners at big companies who may be willing to put in a good word for you.
Using online communities like Reddit or social networks like LinkedIn can help you make personal connections to companies that interest you. Searching for “how to get a computer science internship” on Reddit might provide tips, but more importantly, might turn up a name or email address of someone at a big company who can help you.
How to Get a Tech Internship in High School
There is no guaranteed way to get an internship in high school. However, seeking out events where companies are presenting can give you the opportunity to connect with someone who can help you secure an internship. Similarly, using your existing connections to reach out to companies can help you secure an internship. Finally, winning competitions or contests can often put you into direct communication with recruiters from tech businesses.
Getting Help Figuring Out How to Get a Tech Internship
These suggestions are not intended to be exhaustive. In fact, the competitiveness of tech internships means that many students who want an internship will be unable to find one. However, there are ways to better position yourself for a tech internship.
Networking is often the best way to get an internship. Working with an internship sponsor who can match your skills with a tech company’s needs can give you an enormous networking connection. Moreover, sponsors might be able to identify companies that you would have never found on your own, such as startup companies. Finally, sponsors might have options, like virtual internships, that provide additional opportunities for you to secure a tech internship.
Contact us for more suggestions about how to get a tech internship or to submit an internship application.