A friend of mine recently asked “How do I get an internship in the computer science field having zero experience in the industry?” My first answer was going to be: “Um, apply?!” Then I took a step back and realised that my answer was not going to be productive in our conversation. So I thought about it for a little a bit, well a long bit. Long enough to write a whole blog post about it so I could share it with others. (Thanks John for the question!) Applying for an internship will just get you so far. In my first internship that I landed I had a little help outside the application process. I had this wonderful thing they don’t tell you about.
At University, my professor was a veteran at this connection process. He taught our class the value of networking. Having good grades, being intelligent, and showing up to the interview on time will only get you so far he said. You also need to be connected. This requires having the right connections. How is a recent University graduate going to have connections in multi-million dollar corporations? Well, unless you are living in complete solitude on a deserted island with no internet. Your connections are everywhere. Family, friends, neighbors, teachers, the annoying kid in your class that nobody talks to, yes even he is a connection. Next time you have a conversation with anyone mention that you are looking for an internship. And keep telling people. Tell your parents, your neighbour, your sister, your mailman and the Starbucks cashier that spells your name wrong. You might not get anywhere right away, but after a while if you talk to enough people you will find someone who knows somebody’s cousin’s uncle who knows somebody looking for an intern.
What if I am socially awkward and I don’t want to…
Well you don’t have to, but I can tell you right now that when you apply to that next internship you are going to be worse off than that annoying kid in class whose Dad’s friend works for the company you are applying to. You can be the smartest kid in your class, have the answers to the interview questions ahead of time and still get the rejection letter. Why? Because that other kid’s Dad asked for a favor and you’ll end up unemployed.
Yea you might get your first internship, first entry level job and hey maybe that manager level position you worked your ass off for. Once you go above that level in the corporate world, you’re gonna need more help. To get that next level position you are going to have to sweeten up to your boss, his boss and their colleagues too. People that don’t get along with others will have a much harder time moving ahead than the guy that everyone likes. Of course there’s another option if you don’t want to move up in your corporation, or just aren’t the type to go out of your way to make connections. There’s people who will make the connections for you.
At the very least you are going to need a recruiter that can sell you to that next company and job that you want to land. A recruiter from a Staffing Firm that has built connections over his career and is going to use those connections to land you a job. They will put you in their good graces. They will do this by, talking you up to the employer and give you an edge above those people just applying to the job. And when you land that job you’ll be happy, and the recruiter will be happy. You know why? Because that recruiter is going to get paid 20% of your salary for filling that job for the company. So his few hours on the phone with you and the company is going to get him paid. And say he does this 20 times for the year. He’s already making more than you and probably on the golf course every Friday. Yea connections can get you paid.
My Final Answer
So coming back to the original question: “How do I get an internship in the computer science field having zero experience in the industry?” I explained the use of connections to my friend. I said that while experience helps, you do not necessarily need “work” experience to land an internship. You need the experience of forming connections to get the internship. Once you have the right connections you can work anywhere.
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