Silicon Valley interns are some of the most brilliant, talented, creative, and ambitious people I’ve ever met.
So naturally, when I first met them, they scared the shit out of me.
My internship at Adobe has hit its halfway mark, and it still blows my mind that so many young, innovative human beings could all congregate into the small radius that constitutes the bay area. And the thing that astounds me the most is how diverse they all are.
If you’re picturing a bunch of computer science nerds huddled around a computer all day (I can make jokes because I AM a computer science nerd), think again – I’ve met advertisers and engineers and financiers and PR reps and designers and sales people and support agents. Long gone are the days where working in a tech field requires knowledge of SQLs and data structures – to make it as a silicon valley intern, the only thing you really need is drive.
So instead, I decided to pick their brains.
This summer, I’ve chatted with Tech Interns from all over the Bay, ranging from employees at the smallest startups all the way to those at the giants of Google, Facebook, and Apple. Based on my own personal experience and the stories of my colleagues, I’ve compiled a two-part guide that details some tips and tricks on how to actually make it out here to Silicon Valley. And I’m not saying that this list will be your surefire guide to success in the tech industry, but I can guarantee that a few insiders tips certainly wouldn’t hurt.
So, you’ve decided that you want a silicon valley internship this summer? So have a good percentage of the tech-inclined 18 to 30 year olds in the world. As if trying to score your dream job wasn’t scary enough, it becomes all the more daunting when you realize the amount of highly-qualified students vying for the same positions.
Luckily, time can be your biggest ally when looking for a summer internship. Most interns I spoke with started thinking about their summer internship possibilities no later than winter holidays. Many silicon valley companies start their interview process around early January to February, so having a good idea of where you may want to work before then will give you plenty of time to tailor your resume and portfolios to the companies you’re interested in.
Now here’s the kicker: only one person that I interviewed this summer got their job by simply applying the old fashioned way.
While I’m sure it’s still very possible to be impressive enough on paper to score your dream job, it’s simply not the name of the game out in Silicon Valley.
“But Emily!” you cry “How the hell am I supposed to score all these awesome jobs if they won’t even look at my application?”
Lucky for you, my colleagues and I have documented some of the best ways to connect with Silicon Valley recruiters one-on-one to get your foot in the door to a great opportunity:
LinkedIn man. Who knew?! It’s the social media you’re told you should have but never told what to do with. Well I’ll tell you what to do with it: everything. Do everything – make connections, post articles, vie for good endorsements, and document your past work experiences in excruciating detail.
When I waltzed into my first day at a silicon valley internship, I had less than 30 connections and hadn’t visited my LinkedIn in months. I shortly found out that not only did my intern coworkers have better profiles than I did, but that a huge percentage of them actually got their jobs through LinkedIn. My company had personally reached out to my fellow interns based on their LinkedIn profiles to set up the first round of interviews.
Upon hearing this news, I made a mad-dash to quickly connect with every semi-professional person I’d ever met on LinkedIn (if you were one of the couple hundred acquaintances I requested over a 2 hour span of panic – I’m sorry).
But you can take your own action on LinkedIn as well – the LinkedIn job postings are one of the easiest ways to find internships at big companies, if you’re willing to do a little corporate stalking.
Career fairs can be intimidating, but coming from someone who got her first interview from a 3-minute career fair conversation, it’s oh so worth it. The best thing about career fairs is that the employees that the big companies are sending are their university recruiting team – aka, the ones who control the fate of your beloved resume and application. Make a good impression on them, and they’ll be more likely to forward it along to as many managers as possible. (I chatted with a University Recruiter about how many thousands of resumes he got per day – he said that good impressions were the second most important thing he considered when sending on a resume, right after the impressiveness of the resume itself.)
Some schools and organizations are great at shoving career fairs, networking events, and meet-and-greets down your throat as soon as syllabus week rolls around. And while it may seem like just another stress to add to your plate, it’s foolish not to take advantage of getting a leg up! Print out a couple or resumes, practice that elevator pitch, and (for god’s sake) iron your suit and get out there!
I can’t begin to describe the number of positions, both internship and full-time, I’ve seen people land just from spending an hour at a career fair that they thought wouldn’t matter. One of my best friends was able to score a job for the school year and one for the following summer within the same career fair session!
Outside Conferences and Programs
I’m incredibly fortunate to go to a school that has so many opportunities to network with big companies that I feel like a complete failure every time I miss one. But I know that not every college provides those opportunities.
Luckily, there are some amazing organizations that plan conferences and programs where companies are practically throwing interviews at your feet: Grace Hopper, Google supplementary programs, Girls Who Code, and CCCC are a couple of names that were mentioned by my colleagues, who said that the networking and guidance they received in these programs were invaluable.
One girl that I interviewed took part in Google’s Freshman EDGE experience: she said that not only did she gain incredible experience through the projects she worked on, but also grew close relationships with her mentor at Google who kept her in the loop about future job opportunities.
I’m not going to harp on something you’ve heard a million times before: it’s not what you know, but who you know. It’s no secret that one of the best ways to land a job is by playing off of your built-in connections through school, social life, past jobs, etc.
But what I will harp on is the correct way to network: while pursuing higher education, nearly every person you meet could be a fantastic potential contact.
Shake the hands of in-class speakers at the end of their presentations. Be an active member in your on-campus organization’s alumni efforts. Try being nice to your poor TAs, and use those office hours your professor holds for something other than to discuss a failing grade. These kinds of connections will be some of the most surprisingly valuable.
Don’t believe me? My roommate landed her position at Adobe for being the only person to thank a guest speaker after his talk in her master’s-level college lecture, and he was later willing to pull all necessary strings to get her to the first round of interviews.
With these steps in mind, you’re already a third of the way to spending a killer summer out in the Bay Area working for your dream company! As for actually standing out and landing that interview? Well…we’ll get to that next time. Stay tuned!
*photo creds to Steven Bruce, who is the best ever for letting me stalk his insta and steal this photo*