If you’ve just finished your university studies, or are looking for some work experience during term holidays, you might be wondering where to start. What’s the best way to grow your skills to take you to the next step? How do you get ahead in the ever competitive job market?
Internships are a good route to take, as you can get immersed in the working world and test the waters with different career options that might work for you. Most importantly they also give you a chance to flesh out your ever important CV with new skills and knowledge.
As someone who knew very little about recruitment before leading our Talent Programme at Capital Enterprise, this year I’ve learned a few key do’s and don’ts of how to go about finding an internship.
So, if you’re a student looking to take your next step post-study, or if you’re wondering about how to break into the tech scene, this article details 3 key steps you can take to make finding an internship in tech as pain free as possible.
1. Do your prep
The first (and most important) step when looking for any work opportunities, is to take time thinking about what you would actually like to do. What are your broad career interests? What sectors or areas of work are you interested in? What skills do you already have that you’d like to develop, and what new skills would you like to learn?
It might sound like an obvious first step, but taking the time to go through this process will help you align your goals and aspirations, as well as be realistic about what you can bring to any internship that you apply for. This should make the search for internships less time consuming and much less confusing.
Once you know what kind of role you’d like to do and where you see yourself fitting in the tech scene, have a browse for employers, organisations and companies who fall into this space. Just taking a look at what’s out there, and the kinds of roles in tech that people recruit for, could also help you be clearer on where you see yourself fitting in the tech scene.
Although we’re talking here about internships in the tech scene, it’s worth remembering that you don’t need to be a techie to work in tech! Tech companies need non-technical talent too, to work on roles such as marketing, business development and sales. Don’t let the idea of working in ‘tech’ put you off if you’re not a keen coder; there are still plenty of opportunities out there for you.
2. Tailor your application
Now that you’ve figured out your general career aspirations and where your broad interests lie, it’s time to get started on the fun part – The applications!
When it comes to applying to roles, your CV is key; it is the first port of call employers use to learn about you, your interests, and the experience and skills you can bring to their role.
It’s important to tailor your CV to each individual role that you apply for. Your CV should demonstrate how your existing knowledge, interests and skills are relevant to the specific position you’re applying to.
Employers only spend on average 1 or 2 minutes looking at each CV they receive, so be really clear on what you’d like to include in your CV – What makes you stand out? What can you bring to the role that makes you unique? Employers can tell a blanket application apart from a tailored application, so it’s worth taking the time to get your CV right.
It’s also often useful to draft a cover letter for each role you apply for. Cover letters bring your CV to life; they highlight your key aspirations for doing the internship you’re applying for, and the key things you will bring to the role.
Even if a cover letter isn’t required by the employer for the application process, drafting one anyway will help you be even more clear on your fit in the organisation, making your application more relevant and giving you a better chance of success. It’s also good practice for when you start applying to full-time jobs, where cover letters are, more often than not, required during the application process.
3. It’s interview time!
You spent time working out what you’d like to do. You tailored your CV. And now you’ve got an interview. Woo! The hours of prep so far were worth it. The interview is often the most challenging part of the application process, but they’re easy to crack with the right preparation.
Before delving into interview prep, it’s worth noting that if you’re applying for a tech-focused role you are likely to have to complete a test or coding task before reaching the interview stage. These tests, which are often time limited, allow employees to test how you can apply your skills to a problem they might be looking to solve and are used as part of the screening process before selecting candidates for interview.
One of the key steps you can take when preparing for an interview is to do your research about the company ahead of the day. Check out their website or LinkedIn page for key things they are working on, and make sure to bring some of this knowledge along to your interview. Mentioning key topics they are concerned with or key updates of the work they are doing demonstrates your dedication to the role, and will set you apart from other applicants.
This is perhaps even more important when applying for a role in the tech scene, as the industry is constantly evolving. Acknowledging the company’s work shows you can keep up with the times.
Interviews are inevitably about showing off the key achievements and aspirations that you’ve spoken about in your CV and cover letter. When answering questions during the interview, be sure to back up your response with a relevant example of a particular skill or experience that you have, and the impact this skill or experience had on the placement you were doing.
A final way to stand out from the crowd is to ask a question at the end of your interview. With the research you did before your interview, you may have come across something that either fuelled your curiosity about the role or got you thinking about the company. A question at the end of the interview, when invited to ask one, shows you are proactive, engaged and interested in the role, all key qualities of the candidates employers look to hire.
Above all, be yourself! It’s easy to get caught up in the nerves that interviews bring and in the pressure of wanting to impress. It’s totally normal to feel that way. But remember, personality is important too. Interviews are opportunities for companies to get to know more about your skills and expertise, as well as you as an individual. Try and let your personality shine through during the interview, and you’ll be in for a winning chance of success.
Good luck with your internship hunting!
Capital Enterprise are London’s startup experts, creating an energising a world-class entrepreneurship ecosystem. We connect startups to local talent for 8-16 week internships through our CAP Talent Programme. If you’re a student and are interested in learning more about CAP Talent, please get in touch with Gracie Jones, Talent Lead at Capital Enterprise, via firstname.lastname@example.org