A common approach taken by college students these days is to shotgun their resumes to any and every company with a tech internship opening. These students see it as a numbers game. The more resumes they send out, the more likely they are to land a position.
Although this may be partially true, it's not guaranteed to land you the "right" internship. Plus, sending the same resume and cover letter to every company is a HUGE mistake. But, I digress.
For now, let's focus on how you're going to find an internship that's best for you.
So, how do you tell if an internship is the right internship? Let's dive into some questions and considerations that will help you figure this out.
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Your Personal Goals & Objectives
The most important thing that you need to understand before you even begin thinking about searching for internship openings is to identify your own personal career goals and objectives. This may seem trivial, yet you need to spend some quality time on this process.
Here are a few questions to think about:
- What type of tech career do you want (i.e. software developer, network engineer, business analyst, project manager, etc.)?
- Where do you see yourself in 1-3 years after graduation?
- Are you interested in working your way into a leadership position?
- Do you want to work for another company, or do you want to start a business of your own?
- Is traveling important to you?
- What core principles do you live by (i.e. hard work, respect, trustworthiness, etc.)?
Again, don't just brush over these questions. Really dig in and think about what you truly want to accomplish.
And don't worry if you're unsure. Remember, even if you take a position, and later find out you don't like it, you can always pivot by finding a new company or a new position altogether.
Once you've documented your goals and objectives, you are now ready to start looking for companies with tech internship openings. As you find each company (with an internship opening), you need to define its key attributes.
Define The Company's Key Attributes
As you go through each company, you'll be able to compare your personal goals and objectives with the company's attributes. By doing this, you're going to quickly determine if a company is a good match for what you're interested in.
If an internship position with a certain company won't bring you closer to achieving your goals and objectives, then you shouldn't apply for the position. Instead, move on to the next company and position.
Here are a few questions to think about:
- What type of culture does the company have?
- What type of work attire do they allow (i.e. jeans and a t-shirt, business casual, etc.)?
- How many people work at the company?
- Is the company involved with any social causes or charities that you care about?
- What industry is the company in (i.e. accounting, finance, insurance, software, etc.)?
- On average, how big are team sizes?
- What is the seating situation like (i.e. cubes, open bullpen, standing desks, etc.)?
- Is upward mobility possible within both technical and leadership paths?
- Do you know anybody who works there?
An Exception To The Rule
If you've set extremely lofty 1-3 year goals and objectives for your career, this process could backfire if you're not careful.
The purpose of this isn't to create a massive ego that makes you feel like you are too good for every company and position. The purpose is to find the best company and the best internship position that will have the potential to jump start your full-time career after graduation.
So, if you find yourself marking every company and position as "will not help me achieve my career goals and objectives," then re-evaluate your goals and objectives. You may have set 10 year goals and not 1-3 year goals.
Don't get me wrong, you should absolutely have lofty expectations for yourself, but you should never act too cool to "take out the trash" or "clean the bathroom."
Most internship positions will take you a step closer to your career goals and objectives... it's just that some companies and positions will take you many steps closer.
You'll be applying for many internships. Some will be a better match than others. This is fine though because you aren't guaranteed to land your most ideal position. Just make sure you're focusing your attention on submitting quality applications and not on submitting as many applications as possible.
The Bottom Line
If you don't know what you want in your career, then it isn't realistic to think that you can identify a company or position that will be a good fit. This is why defining your career goals and objectives is so important.
You don't need to look too far into the future because things change quickly in the tech world. Instead, stick to 1-3 years for this process. This will be far enough into the future for you to better understand where you want to head.
Finally, if you just can't figure out what you want, then the next best thing is to try and find a company that best fits your personal core principles and values. From there, you can leverage the internship to help you better understand what tech roles you enjoy.
So, how do you know if you're a good fit for an internship? By first knowing what it is you want in your tech career.
Ryan has been heavily involved in the world of Information Technology and entrepreneurship since the early 2000s. From small business consulting to Fortune 500 IT leadership, Ryan has a wide array of tech industry knowledge. Ryan has his BBA and MBA from the University of Iowa. Connect with Ryan on Twitter or Instagram.