5 things you should know before applying to your first internship



Find out what you need to know to land your dream internship and set yourself up for a grad role you love.

Internships are gamechangers! Regardless of your path into tech – university, bootcamp, and/or self-taught – internships are an immensely valuable opportunity to get a soft landing into the industry and professional working. Plus, there’s a pretty general consensus that you learn more on the job than in formal studies, so expect to walk away with lots of new skills.

One of the best rewards is that internships often lead to grad roles – in many ways they can be considered an extended interview. I consider them to often be the easiest way to get into a Big Tech company as they hire for potential.

That being said, here are some tips for prepping for and landing an internship:

1. Pay attention to application timelines

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to get an internship is missing the application deadlines! Or even if they make the official deadline, roles are often filled on a rolling bases – meaning they interview sooner than the final deadline – so there are still no open spaces left by the time you apply.

The easiest way to combat this is to follow a timeline that lines you up to apply as soon as applications open. The timeline below does just that:

Summer – 1 Year Before Internship: Yes, you want to start a year in advance! This is when you should do your groundwork. Research the companies you want to apply to, create/update your CV and start building relationships with those who can help you. The key is to stay organized – track each application in a document eg. Excel.

Autumn – 9 Months Before Internship: Internship applications open at the start of the university year around September-October. You want to apply as soon as you can – of course, taking time to complete the application thoughtfully.

Winter – 6 Months Before Internship: Many internship applications close around December. Ideally by now you will have received an offer. If that is not the case, then no worries because there are still options. Keep applying, attend career events, and be sure to tailor your CV to each application.

For those attending universities with a placement year, you may be able to do up to 15 months work experience. If you start a 12 month internship in June, then you can squeeze in another internship before the next university year starts. That gives you double the chances for a grad offer, a bigger network, and, of course, more experience.

2. You don’t need to know everything!

For full-time roles, you don’t need to know everything on the job spec to apply – that is even more true for internships! Companies expect to train you. In fact, training you is part of the career development given by your colleagues.

your first internship

All you need is the confidence to believe that regardless of what the challenge is, you will be able to learn what you need and complete the task. There is always help on the team! Ultimately, just don’t let “imposter syndrome” hold you back from applying to an internship.

3. Seek out external advice and career services

A second pair of eyes is always helpful! At the most basic level, have someone else read and provide feedback on your CV. On a deeper level, seek out formal career services to help you prep- universities usually provide these services for free.

your first internship

In particular, informational sessions on phone, video or 1:1, as well as assessment centre interviews can all teach you about the structure of that style of interview, what interviewers are looking for, and tips on how to be successful. This additional training helps you be more confident, relaxed, and ultimately more prepared for the real interview which translates well to your interviewer.

4. Make sure you understand what work you will actually be doing

During conversations with the recruiters and interviewers on the team you are applying to, be sure to ask for details on what the role entails. Other options are to speak to past interns and read reviews on sites like Glassdoor.

your first internship

If you are seeking out a software engineering internship, make sure you will be doing proper development, ideally on a “real” project vs an “intern” project that is never going to be used post-internship. Sometimes people seeking development internships end up doing work like IT, QA, or customer service instead. Since internships often lead to grad roles, it is worth making sure you know what you are signing up for.

5. Your network can open doors

The saying “your network is your net worth” has some truth to it! Your network can help get your foot in the door and elevate your application. While it likely won’t get you the job outright (and it shouldn’t), it may mean you can skip some interview steps and raise your application’s visibility.

The key stakeholders you want to connect with are the recruiters, team members, and most importantly the hiring manager (they are the final decision maker). Think about who in your network you can pull on to connect you to one of these people or refer you for an open role – use every “in” you can!

your first internship

If you don’t have a super strong network yet, events run by recruiters are a great way to get an “in” if you don’t have one in your network. Connect with company recruiters on LinkedIn to watch out for information events on internships. They review the CVs of those who attend these events and will boost your application, particularly if you are engaging, ask questions, and make yourself known. You can also reach out to key stakeholders directly on LinkedIn if you want to make your name known – express your interest, and share what you can bring to the team.

Bonus: Lets talk money!

Here are a couple of extra tidbits to consider as you begin your internship journey:

a. Opportunities abroad may pay more (E.g. in the USA a big tech internship can pay more than an $80k salary)! If you need a visa to work abroad, you won’t run into as many challenges, as you are a student. Internships abroad are an incredible life experience, help you grow an international network, and create an “in” to move abroad post-graduation.

b. When you are looking at steps post-internship, be aware that some grad roles pay less than full-time entry roles, enforce job role rotations (can be a good thing if you want to try out different roles), and may start you at a lower level than a normal entry-level employee. Consider whether it is better joining the company as an entry-level employee vs through their grad scheme.And there you have it, you are more prepared than ever to land yourself an internship!

Holly BoothroydAUTHOR: Holly BoothroydSheCanCode Blog Squad

To find out more about Holly please click here.


Showing up as a software engineer means more than just writing code. Unique backgrounds can provide the skills and perspective for a well-rounded dev.
Nobody will give you a job without experience, and you can’t gain experience without a job. It’s the chicken and egg problem. In this article,...
Isabel Nyo helps professionals in the tech industry drive and grow their career via mindset and strategies. In her latest blog we learn how to...
Athiya Deviyani, Co-Director of Hack The Burgh shares with us her Top 10 Technical Interview Tips.