Lessons learnt…100+ Applications, and 0 offers later
More than a 100 internship applications in the last six months. At least fifty automated rejection emails. No responses from the rest. Not a single internship offer.
Am I particularly under-qualified? I don’t think so. I am a Sophomore majoring in Computer Science with a decent 3.8 GPA. I have participated in hackathons and done side-projects. Sure, I’m not from Carnegie Mellon or Stanford. I am at the University of Rochester, but hey, it’s not your local community college. And sure, I’m not a US citizen. And yes, I am looking at a paid internship. These factors do make it harder, I know. But I dropped my resume at more than hundred companies. You’d think at least one of them would respond. With the exception of Google, not a single company responded (I interviewed with Google for their Software Engineering Internship but didn’t get through).
My friend from another college who had managed to get a paid internship after his Freshman year, told me this back in September: “Dude, just keep applying. It takes hardly two minutes. It’s all random. Think about it mathematically. If you have a 5 percent chance of getting an interview and if you apply to a 100 places, you’ll at least get 5 interviews.” I said, “Yeah, that makes sense”. And so I applied. To more than a 100 companies. But I heard back from only one. What went wrong? Was I just really unlucky? … Possibly. Or it’s that the big companies now are getting thousands of applications and don’t even bother to look at most people’s resumes and it’s a game of luck with the odds of your resume getting noticed by recruiters being as slim as that of Trump’s wall preventing Mexican immigrants from entering the US.
But let’s say hypothetically, that I might have got lucky, and maybe five or more companies had selected me for interviews. Would it have been worth it? I am not so sure… I spent a lot of time searching for companies I didn’t know about, filling out applications for positions I wasn’t sure if I was interested in, hoping that once I get an internship I would figure all this out. I realized all this time I was focusing on the wrong thing- sending my resume and getting a paid internship instead of building relationships, pursuing my passions, learning about different fields and getting experience. Getting a paid internship and getting experience are two completely different aims. I can get experience by simply approaching the people who are in the company or field I’m interested in and offering to work for free. After all, the purpose is to learn and to discover what I’m interested in. Then why wait for a paid summer job which locks me for three months when I can start figuring things out right now and then reach out to those companies I am actually interested for work I’d actually like to do.
I have switched gears now- instead of sending applications to random companies, I have decided to focus on building relationships, doing the things I love, growing myself, and getting experience by offering what I can do.
… Lessons Learnt:
If you apply online to big companies, your resume goes into a big pile, and odds are, it won’t get noticed. If you want to get noticed, go through someone who works at the company, or knows someone at the company. If you don’t know enough people, first work on building relationships…Don’t know where to begin? Reach out to alumni of your college. I have just started doing that. I emailed four alums and all of them responded. I ended up having phone calls with three of them, and one of them even connected me to the COO of a startup which I’m really interested in. Sure, none of them has offered me a job yet. And they may or may not in future. But the idea here is to build genuine, meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships, which is a much more worthwhile goal to pursue in the long run, as opposed to searching random companies and sending your resume.
Focus on growth. Grow your skills. Expand your network. Offer what you can do for people. And sooner or later, an internship opportunity will come your way, either through someone you know or through the work you have done in the past. The nice part about his approach is that even if it doesn’t, you will still have mastered new skills and built invaluable relationships which is an even bigger win than landing an internship.
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P.s.- Update: Got a paid internship in NYC, at Weight Watchers as backend tech intern!