As a first-year student, finding an internship can be a daunting task. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. You want an internship to get experience, but you need experience to get an internship.
That was definitely one of my worries going into the internship search, but I realized there were many opportunities available if you know where to look. I was fortunate to receive an offer from the Explore Microsoft program by the end of the fall semester. The process leading up to that offer wasn’t easy, but it was a rewarding experience. I want to share some of the things I’ve learned in this post.
Reflect. What do you hope to get out of an internship? What specific area in the field interests you? Do you have any prior work experience, extracurricular activities, or projects that may be relevant to this field? It’s important to spend time on this phase because it provides the foundation for all the subsequent steps.
Research. Find companies that interest you. Don’t just go on Handshake or LinkedIn and click on the first job posted. Personally, I found it more helpful to do it this way: think about the products and services I use in my day-to-day life and then look up the company behind those things. Doing this can give you a more personal connection to the company, which you can bring up during interviews. You’ll likely be applying to many positions. Keeping a spreadsheet with the company URL and login information can be helpful in staying organized.
Reach out. Schedule a meeting with the Center for Career Development. Talk to your academic advisors and professors. Join student organizations. Be proactive, and opportunities will present themselves. People want to help you!
Companies will determine whether or not to give you an interview based on your resume, so it’s important to present it well. My advice would be to keep the design simple. 1-page. black and white. Readable font. Don’t overwhelm the recruiter with information that isn’t relevant. If you need a second pair of eyes to look over your resume, consider meeting with the Center for Career Development and utilizing UConn’s online resume resources. This guide from Carnegie Mellon University is also helpful if you’re wondering what a typical first-year resume should look like for computer science.
Interviews for computer science positions usually have both behavioral and technical components.
Behavioral. For the behavioral portion, answer questions with the mindset “ask what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you.” Make sure to be polite and present your best self. Some common questions I’ve encountered include:
● Tell me a little about yourself.
● Tell me about a project you’ve worked on.
● What are your strengths?
● What do you need to work on?
● Why are you interested in this company/position?
Technical. These interviews can either be in-person or through an online coding platform like Codility. You can prepare for this part of the interview by doing problems on Leetcode, although for first year-specific positions, I found the CSE 1010 material to be sufficient. If you’re doing a coding exam without a proctor present, you should add comments to your code. If an interviewer is accompanying you, use the STAR method to craft your response.
Remember that the Center for Career Development can also help you with practice interviews. I mention them a lot in this post, but that’s because they were a truly invaluable resource to me.
Chances are, most companies will not give you an offer. I want to emphasize that this is perfectly normal– that’s why you apply to multiple positions! For reference, I applied to 30+ companies and only got offers from 2. Then again, you don’t need an offer from every company to get an internship.
If you do get an offer, congratulations! Your hard work has paid off. Read the contents of your offer letter(s) carefully. Make sure to accept the offer before the deadline.
If you did not get an offer, don’t be discouraged. Companies hire year-round. Also, there are other things you can do throughout the year to build up your profile. One important but often overlooked resource is the School of Engineering emails. It was thanks to these emails that I was able to discover new opportunities– hackathons, internships, and career events, to name a few.
Thank you for reading my post. I wish you good luck with your internship search!
Victoria Song is a first-year Computer Science major at the UConn Stamford campus.