Getting your first internship can be very stressful. If you feel frustrated that companies seem to prefer interns with previous internship experience, you’re not alone. Every student feels this way at some point, and there are ways to help you get a software engineering internship with no experience.
- Let go of the idea that you need experience
- Cover the basics
- Go to every recruiting event
- Apply for one of these beginner-friendly internships
- Create a side project/portfolio
- Don’t limit yourself
1. Let go of the idea that you need experience
The whole point of an internship is to get experience. Very few companies expect you to have experience going into an internship. The first step in getting a software engineering internship with no experience is letting go of the idea that you need any experience at all.
It’s good to be involved in something. This can be a professional society, club, research position, or even an independent project. If you’re not involved in literally anything, choose something to start, but you definitely don’t need any industry experience to get an internship.
2. Cover the basics
Let’s cover the basics. When applying for internships, always make sure you have a LinkedIn profile. This profile should be up to date, filled out, and have a profile picture.
You should also make sure your resume is in good shape. Have at least one other person read over it before giving it out. Ideally, this person would have some experience reviewing resumes. Your school probably has a career resource center that has specific people designated for reviewing resumes. You can also ask a professor or trusted friend.
If you have nothing to put on your resume, fill it with any projects and assignments you’ve done for your classes. List each project individually and use the bullet points to describe what you did for the project, what the goal was, how you improved it, and anything else you can think of.
Read 8 Ways to get an Internship with no Experience for tips on the basics, such as how to perfect your elevator pitch and resume. It’s more generic and applies to internships outside of software engineering, but it still contains universally useful information.
3. Go to every recruiting event
By every event, we mean every event. The easiest event to go to is your school’s career showcase. Go and talk to as many companies as you can. Make sure you prepare your elevator pitch and bring copies of your resume.
There are other national career fairs you can go to such as SWE (society of women engineers), SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), and NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers).
These are great organizations to be a part of in general. There is a chapter of one at almost every school and they are great resources for career development. If you can afford to go to the national conferences, you should definitely go to increase your odds of getting an internship.
4. Apply for one of these beginner-friendly internships
There are also some companies that have internships specifically designed for first or second-year students. This is a great first internship opportunity if you’re a younger and less experienced student. Here are some to check out:
- Explore Microsoft is Microsoft’s beginner-friendly internships. It is specifically intended for first and second-year students. it is open to students majoring in software engineering, computer science, computer engineering, or other related degrees.
- Google’s STEP is a computer science internship also designed for first and second-year students. It is similar to the Microsoft one, just run by google.
- Meta university is another paid internship for first or second-year college students. The program is divided into three different areas of interest: data engineering, data science, and product design.
- Twitter academy is a summer internship designed for second-year computer science students. Although it would likely accept students with related majors.
- Google summer of code is different from Google STEP in that it’s not technically an internship. However, it is a paid summer program designed for young engineers. This would still be a great experience for your resume.
For more information about these internships including pay, location, qualifications, and information about the application process read 5 Software Engineering Internships for Students with No Experience.
5. Create a side project/portfolio
Creating a side project or portfolio is a great way to make yourself stand out when applying to internships. For a software engineering internship, your side project can be something as simple as creating a website. Make a website with basic features (chat box, visualizations, statistics, etc..). It can be about anything. Anything to show that you can create something and put it on the internet.
You can also expand this idea and create a personal website. Here are some things you could include on your personal website:
- An about section so the reader can learn more about you.
- A portfolio section to showcase the various projects you’ve done.
- An “interests” section where you can implement different features. For example, if you’re into sports, you can show different statistics, graphs, and visualizations of your favorite team.
At the very least, upload all of your class/personal projects to GitHub and put the link on your resume and on LinkedIn.
6. Don’t limit yourself
Getting an internship, no matter how much experience you have, is a numbers game to some degree. The best way to increase your odds of getting an internship is by simply applying to more internships. You should apply to as many as you can without decreasing the quality of your applications.
Apply for every internship, big and small. Apply for the small companies that no one knows about. These are often less competitive and still look great on resumes.
Also apply for internships that aren’t exactly what you want to do or ones that are even entirely outside the realm of software engineering. Any internship is better than no internship. A big reason hiring managers like to see previous internship experience is because it shows that you can successfully operate in a professional environment.
There are lots of interns that don’t know how to conduct themselves professionally. Having a previous internship experience with a reference at least shows that the candidate was professional enough to not get fired. This extends to other jobs as well. Never leave out work experience even if you think it’s irrelevant (such as campus jobs or food service jobs). Being able to hold a job is not something every student can do, and it’s a huge green flag to employers.