The Internship (Search)

I’m finally done with my internship search! That feels so weird to write, especially since it’s been a huge point of stress for me, but somehow, I’ve finally managed to land a decent paying position with a great company. I never even thought I would get to this point, but to be honest, I’ve surprised even myself with how successful I’ve managed to be in this whole process.

I remember when I was in high school, reading about internships and how much they helped with landing full-time offers at companies. I saw how many colleges required them as part of their computer science programs; how many companies used it as part of their recruitment process for full-time hires. But I also remember doubting I’d ever get one, because of my relative lack of experience or expertise compared to others in my field. This hurt me badly; it degraded my self confidence and kept me from even trying to get one in high school or my first year of college.

However, when sophomore year rolled around, Penn State was kind enough to remind me that, yes, I did indeed need an internship to get my $150k piece of paper at the end of my senior year. So I began my search, tossing in applications to places like Google, Tesla, Facebook, Amazon, and more. I didn’t really intend to actually land an internship, but rather, get the lay of the land and figure things out so I’d have a better chance in my junior year. I went to a ton of networking events, seminars on job searching, meetings with recruiters, and more, aiming to hone my resume and LinkedIn to perfection so that I would have the most appeal possible to any company I applied to.

I could write some kind of article on how exactly I curated my resume and LinkedIn profile and try to make money off of it, or charge people for one on one help sessions. But I have no wish to fall into the industry of career coaching, where everyone and their mom thinks they can help you achieve the career of your dreams — all for a $500 one on one coaching session! Don’t fall into that trap: it’s a get rich quick scheme for the people offering it to you, just like dropshipping or retail arbitrage. If they’re the experts they claim to be, why are they not raking in six figures at a big company and living their lives to the fullest?

(To be entirely clear, there are real career coaches out there, just be weary of who you pay and check out their credentials thoroughly. The most qualified coaches will be the ones you reach out to, not the ones who reach out to you, and they’ll usually have years of experience recruiting or working with big tech. Don’t pay someone underqualified who’s looking for a quick buck!)

What I’ll say is that I put my best foot forward: I carefully curated my resume and LinkedIn to the point where, if I imagined myself as a recruiter, I would hire myself. I used succinct summaries and effective overviews to explain my experience, why it mattered, and how I would bring that to a company. I appealed to recruiters by injecting strategic mentions of hot words: Scrum, Agile, machine learning, cloud technologies. I took off irrelevant experiences that didn’t add to my litany of experiences, and showed off the few personal projects I had. I pitched myself hard, both through text and through showing off my work.

When junior year rolled around, I was as ready as I could ever be… in terms of pitching myself. I’d intentionally skipped technical preparation, such as Leetcode or Hackerrank practice, due to the fact that I have a distaste for whiteboard interviews and because I know I could never beat out a CS student. Because of that, when I began applying, I aimed for lower level programming roles, project management roles, product ownership positions, and the like: where I would be involved with, but not be writing, the code. I liked project management better than coding anyways; I’m a firm believer in not getting a job that involves your hobby, else you might grow to hate your hobby. Coding is my hobby, and I have no wish to end up hating it.

Within a few months, interview opportunities began rolling in. CarMax, L3Harris, FedEx, Roblox, and more followed up with me on my applications, advancing me in their interview processes. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I had expected that, out of the 100–200 applications I’d submitted, I’d get offers from a handful of smaller companies; not a bunch of huge companies that were actually interesting to me! Despite not getting advanced at any of the usual “tech companies” like Facebook/Amazon/Google, I was more than satisfied with my lot and stopped applying early, focusing on the opportunities I had.

I moved onto my interview stage at these companies with trepidation, not knowing whether I’d made a mistake by not continuing to apply for more positions…

To Be Continued

Day 8/31