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How To Apply For A Tech Internship When You Have No Experience At All

Posted by | July 17, 2017 | Internship

Via Forbes : How To Apply For A Tech Internship When You Have No Experience At All

What is your advice for someone planning to apply for Society of Women Engineers internships who does not have any prior related experience?

I was in a very similar situation during my sophomore year of college. I had spent the previous summer doing research (which I also highly recommend) and found that I didn’t have the previous experience or qualifications that most companies were looking for in a SWE intern. I had the classes, I had the knowledge, but I didn’t have the previous experience.

I applied everywhere. I must have applied to over 50 companies. I handed out as many resumes as I could at my school career fair. I applied to any job I could through my school’s online career portal. I cold emailed companies asking if they had any need for an intern. Meanwhile, a friend had also referred me for an internship position at Microsoft early in the season.

By February, I had applied everywhere and had no luck. Towards the end of the month, some of my leads started to pay off. The Microsoft recruiter I was working with let me know they had a last minute opening in an on campus interview and I was able to sneak in. A small biotech start-up I had applied to weeks or months earlier reached back out to me. Another company that a friend had referred me to came through and brought me in to interview onsite. It all started to come together and I ended up having options.

Some key takeaways from my experience:

  • Apply early.
  • Referrals are gold. Of my 50+ applications, 2 of my 3 interviews came from referrals. If you have a friend or colleague that works at a company you’re interested, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for a referral. Be polite, but the worst thing they can say is “no”.
  • The above said, apply everywhere. You never know which company is going to decide to take a chance on you, or decide that your skills and experience are a perfect fit for them.
  • Be persistent. Follow up with recruiters and applications. This is something that I didn’t really internalize until a year or so after the above experience. I was afraid of being annoying but in reality, as long as you are polite and wait appropriate amounts of time between emails and reminders (1–2 weeks depending on the circumstance), it can only help.
  • Don’t lose hope. Keep applying. By February or March, many positions are filled but many others aren’t. A lot of the more competitive applicants have been snatched up already and companies are more willing to interview freshmen, sophomores, and people with less experience in general.

Caveat: You are not less qualified because it takes a bit longer to get an interview or an offer. You never know exactly what a company is looking for. Just because you don’t have as much prior experience, does not mean that you are any less qualified to do the job and do it well.

I talk more specifically about the interview and application process here: Danielle Kain’s answer to What is the typical application and interview process for a software engineering internship?

Good luck!

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