So you've decided that you want to do an internship. Congratulations! It's a big step and will give you valuable experience. Don't worry if you don't have any experience: there are many reasons why someone would hire an intern, even if they don't have previous experience (e.g., the startup is new, or the team wants to teach someone highly motivated).
The first thing is to decide what kind of company you want to work for. There are two main kinds of companies where interns work: well-established small startups and large established companies. The latter often have more money and resources, so they can be much more fun and exciting places to work, but they also require a more formal dress code and a lot more bureaucracy (even though this varies by department).
Find Companies That Offer Software Developer Internships
The next step is to find companies that are hiring. It seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many developers apply to random companies without doing any research beforehand. Spend some time looking for potential employers and try to figure out if it's the kind of company you want to work for.
Once you've found some companies that fit your criteria, it's time to look at their job listings. Some of them will advertise an internship position, but many don't even though they are willing to hire new graduates. So how do you find out if a company is offering internships?
Here are a few ways:
Use LinkedIn (or another professional network) and look around at the profiles of people who work at the company. You can see what kind of work they do there and whether they mention working as an intern before getting hired full-time. If so, this means the company doesn't mind taking on interns and may be willing to offer you one too.
Another option would be to reach out directly to someone you know or have interacted with in the past who works for that company. They will most likely let you know about any openings there if they can because it's good PR for them!
Look for information on AngelList about each startup/company and read through every profile page carefully. Some startups might not advertise their internship opportunities directly, but they might have mentioned it somewhere in the business model's description or why they're raising funding. It's worth checking out!
Sometimes companies give away internships during hackathons, meetups, or conferences where developers get together to build cool stuff over a weekend. Keep an eye out for these events!
Twitter is another place where people often post about opportunities such as internships. If you find one that looks interesting, try reaching out directly to see if there are any openings there.
Don't be afraid to apply even if they do not have any internships posted
It is often true that many software engineering internships get taken up before they are publicly announced. Google is especially notorious for this. However, many other organizations follow the same pattern. Even though these companies may not currently accept interns, there is no harm in applying anyway!
It also helps you build up your portfolio when you can show that you have applied to such prestigious organizations that may not accept interns.
Also, remember that small startups accept interns too! Sometimes, it's easier to land an internship at a small startup because of how much more flexible they are than larger corporations, which tend to adhere strictly to their application deadlines and process.
Don't look at the big companies only
There are other companies out there, and many offer software developers great opportunities. These little-known companies may not be as well known as Google or Facebook, but they can still provide a great place to work and will likely offer you more responsibility than an internship at a big company.
If you want to gain experience working on a product that has the potential to change the world, then applying for internships at these smaller companies may be your best bet.
Spend some time to identify the target companies and then create a list of relevant information about each one of them:
A solid piece of advice is to research and document each target company's information before sending applications. Many companies provide different types of information depending on what kind of position they are seeking (i.e., software engineer intern vs. software engineer full-time).
Once you found a company that seems interesting, make sure you understand what they do (you may even want to try using their product), research the team and founders, and prepare answers to common questions like "Why are you interested in working here?" or "What experience do you have with our product?"
Be creative with your application materials
Applying for an internship at a big tech company can be overwhelming because there is so much competition out there and so many people who want to work there. To stand out from the crowd, make sure that what you have in your application package is unique and exciting, not just from the technical perspective but also from a story perspective.
For example, suppose you're applying at Google or Facebook and tell them about how much research you did in school-related to a specific project they are working on now. In that case, they might find this intriguing and choose to give you an interview.
However, suppose all of your stories involve activities from when you were 12 years old (e.g., building websites for your parents' business). In that case, it is unlikely that any of these companies will take notice of your application – even if those experiences were technically impressive at the time.
Build something impressive
Learning new technology is always good, but more importantly, having a passion and curiosity for technology will help separate yourself from other candidates when applying for jobs.
Ensure your GitHub profile is active and filled with projects that demonstrate your skills no matter what language(s) you use. Even if this isn't required by most employers yet, putting together some cool projects will set you apart from other applicants as well as show potential employers that you're interested in developing software more than just getting paid by 9-5 every day!
Join communities like Reddit (/r/webdev), Quora, Stack Overflow (developer tag), etc. and keep up-to-date with industry trends so that when interviewing with hiring managers, others may hear about your enthusiasm towards developing software products that could potentially convince them into making an offer!
If you have built an impressive project before arriving into college, don't forget to include it in your application package – this will also help differentiate yourself from other applicants trying to land an internship at one of these tech titans.
You want to make sure you embrace who you are throughout the interview process to leave a lasting impression on potential employers (and hopefully get them interested in talking to you).
Showing off your personality is something that can help set you apart from all of those other candidates who are competing for the same position. But also keep in mind that your interviewer has seen hundreds if not thousands of applications already, so try not to take it personally if they do not seem excited about your application at first.
Although it's quite challenging to get an internship as a software developer, you can certainly achieve this goal if you are passionate about programming and have good coding skills.
Keep in mind that persistence is key when searching for an internship. It may take several attempts before you find a suitable one. In addition to networking with people who work at potential companies, I also advise you to keep your resume up-to-date by regularly practicing coding exercises or building apps on your own time.
Also, keep learning new technologies and frameworks so that you can demonstrate how much better prepared you are than other candidates when the time comes to apply for an internship position.
I recommend doing an internship at a big company after your first year of college because it will give you a good feel for how things work in the industry before jumping into the startup world, which has its own set of challenges and benefits.