8 Ways to Get an Internship with no Experience

how to get an internship with no experience, college, internship

Getting an internship with no experience can seem impossible.

As a student, it’s frustrating to hear “companies like hiring interns with previous intern experience”. If you’re left wondering how you’re supposed to get an internship with no experience, this article is for you.

Your first internship is the hardest one to get. But once you get it, you’ll be in a great position when applying for future internships. So how do you get your first internship?

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to get an internship with no experience. We’ll cover how to prepare to apply for internships, specific events to go to, specific positions to apply for, and preparing for your interview.

Quick Links:

  1. Perfect your resume
  2. Perfect your elevator pitch
  3. Go to your school’s career fair
  4. Go to national career fairs
  5. Ask around
  6. What to Apply to
    • Internships outside of your specific interest
    • Apply to smaller companies
    • Big companies that hire underclassmen
  7. Consider applying for a co-op
  8. Prepare for the interview

1. Perfect your Resume

The first step to getting an internship is perfecting your resume. Don’t underestimate what recruiters find relevant. Clubs, design teams, honor societies, and research are always good to include on your resume.

If you have no extracurricular activities, list any projects you did for classes. You’ve probably had at least one class with a final project. List that on your resume and be specific about what you did for it.

You should also list non-engineering-related experiences. Worked at Chipolte during high school? That shows that you were a reliable employee and have a good work ethic.

When listing things on your resume, focus on what you specifically did.

For example, “designed, cadded, and manufactured the rear wing of my universities formula one car” is a lot more impressive to employers than “participated in the design of my university’s award-winning formula one car”. Showing that you had ownership over a small part of something is more impressive than stating you were part of something big. Employers want to know what specific skills you have.

2. Perfect your Elevator Pitch

First impressions matter at recruiting events. When you only have a few minutes to talk to a recruiter, you want to make the most of your time. That’s why you need to perfect your elevator pitch. 99% of the time a recruiter will ask you “so, tell me a little bit about yourself”. This is your cue.

You want to sound confident and prepared. Keep it simple and to the point. A safe template is your name, school, major, the most relevant thing on your resume, and why you want to work at the company you’re talking to.

Here are some examples of good elevator pitches:

"My name is Justin and I am currently a Sophomore majoring in Mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech. Last summer I worked at P&G where I got the opportunity to work as a quality engineer on the crest toothpaste line. I’m looking to work at Boeing this summer to get experience in the aerospace industry and to hopefully improve my design skills."
"My name is Sophia and I’m a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in biomedical engineering. I work in a biomechanics lab where we design robotic prosthetics for amputees. I’m excited about the opportunity to work at Medtronic because I want the chance to practice my skills as a biomedical engineer in an industry setting."

The goal at recruiting events is to get an interview. Recruiters are looking to see if you’re the type of person they want working at their company. This isn’t the time to try and impress them with every little thing on your resume, that’s what the interview is for. By mastering your elevator pitch, it will make you stand out and identify you as the confident and prepared person they’re looking for.

3. Go to your School’s Career Fair

The easiest way to get an engineering internship is by going to your school’s career fair. It’s worth going even if you don’t have any experience. Make sure your resume and elevator pitch are good to go. Wear a business formal outfit and bring copies of your resume (preferable in a portfolio folder).

Prioritize your top companies but try and talk to as many companies as you can. Also, make sure to talk to the smaller companies that don’t have lines. They tend to be more approachable and less competitive. You never know who you will click with.

4. Go to National Career Fairs

A great way to get an internship is by going to national career fairs such as SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), SWE (Society of Women Engineers), and NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers). They are open to everyone, and many people have a lot more success at these career fairs compared to their university career fairs.

These societies are great organizations to join in general. They are likely already clubs on your campus. They are great for making friends, networking, professional development, and finding internships/jobs.  

5. Ask Around

Another common way students get internships with no experience is through people they know and there is no shame in this!

Ask your family members if they or any of their friends might know of companies hiring interns. It also never hurts to ask your professors. Many professors have friends in industry and might be able to help you get an interview.

6. What to Apply to

The best way to get an internship with no experience is to apply to as many internships as you can. This can be on linkedin, Indeed, your school’s career center, and wherever else you can find internship postings. Many students apply to 100+ internships a year. This is the best way to increase your odds of getting an internship. That being said, here are some specific things/internships to consider when applying:

Internships outside of your area of interest

In engineering, any internship is better than no internship. Even if an internship is not exactly what you want to do, it’s worth applying for. Let’s say your dream is to work in aerospace. A candidate with a previous internship at a medical device company is still in a better position than a candidate with no internship experience. There is something to be learned from every internship and more skills than you think are transferable.

Don’t be afraid to apply for internships outside of your specific area of interest.

Smaller Companies

There is generally less competition for internships at smaller companies. Therefore, they are more willing to hire younger and less experienced interns. Interning for smaller companies can be more beneficial than interning at larger companies because they offer an opportunity to take on more responsibility.

Larger Companies that hire less experienced interns

Contrary to popular belief, there are large companies that hire younger and less experienced interns. Unless specifically stated in the job requirements, it’s always possible for large companies to take younger or less experienced interns. It’s just not as common.

Here are some large companies that are known to frequently hire less experienced engineers (traditional engineering majors):

  • GE Aviation
  • P&G
  • NASA
  • Disney

If you’re majoring in computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, or something similar, there are some companies that have internships exclusively for first and second-year students:

  • Explore Microsoft is a program specifically for first and second-year students majoring in computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, or other related degrees.
  • Google’s STEP program is a computer science internship designed for first and second-year undergraduate students.
  • Meta university is a paid program designed for first or second-year college students and allows you to specialize in data engineering, data science, or product design.
  • Twitter academy is a summer internship designed for second-year computer science students.
  • Google summer of code, while not technically an internship, is a paid summer program designed for young engineers. This would be great to include on your resume.

7. Consider applying for a co-op

The terms internship and co-op are often used interchangeably, but they are in fact, different. The biggest difference is the time frame. Internships last for 2-3 months over the summer. Co-ops last for about 6-7 months and occur over the summer and either fall or spring semester. Co-ops are much less competitive to get since fewer students are willing to take off an entire semester and potentially push out their graduation date.

There are a lot of really great benefits to co-ops. Read Co-ops vs. Internships: 7 Major Differences for more information.

8. Prepare for the Interview

It can be hard to prepare for an engineering internship interview if you’ve never had one before. The more interviews you do, the more comfortable you will get doing them. For the first few, all you can do is be as prepared as possible.

Always have your elevator pitch ready to go for when they ask you to tell them about yourself. This will get the interview off to a strong start.

Next, there are common interview questions to be prepared for. These questions typically fall into one of five categories: accountability/responsibility, leadership, teamwork, creativity/innovation, or technical skills.

Research the STAR method and implement it into your responses. Before you go into the interview, think of 5 things you want the interviewer to know about you/your resume and think of ways to work them into your responses.

Read 5 Steps to Acing your Internship Interview to learn what the common interview questions are, how to prepare for them, what questions to ask during an interview, how to follow up after an interview, and more.


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5 Steps to Acing your Engineering Internship Interview

Co-ops vs. Internships: 7 Major Differences

3 Alternative Entry-Level Jobs for Engineers