A Guide to Off-Term Tech Recruiting

Let’s talk about non-summer internships. Maybe you have enough credits to graduate early, but want to stay in college a term longer. Maybe you want to take a term off school to gain industry experience. I go to Dartmouth, where students take classes their sophomore summer, then take an arbitrary quarter off. With this off-term, you’re free to seek supposedly-less-competitive off-term (non-summer) internships!

The catch is, most tech companies don’t offer off-term internships, so I scrambled quite hard to find mine. A few tips from my struggles to free you from yours:

  • Tech Companies DO offer winter (and fall and spring) internships. Yelp, Google, and Lyft all have formal applications for the winter — check their application pages in the beginning of summer and fall. If your school is open to off-terms like Dartmouth, the career board may have extra options too.
  • LinkedIn stalk upperclassmen friends, and ask for their in’s at their past winter gigs. One of my friends not only gave a (responsive) recruiter contact, he also became a (positive) topic of conversation during one of my interviews. (Thanks Jason Feng!!)
  • Start early enough. The Yelp app opens around the beginning of summer, and for reaching out to recruiters, there’s no set timeline. Winter and summer recruiting can overlap, but you can avoid it by starting early. If you want to put off applications, at least start prepping technical interviews. I learned Python a week before a coding challenge, and almost cried during the challenge because I couldn’t remember syntax. (Don’t be me.)
  • Have instantly relevant skills. For the companies that don’t have a formal internship (thus training) program, you will only be interviewed if you already have the relevant skills. Research each company’s tech stack to market yourself as someone who can actually contribute, and learn the necessary skills before recruiting. Knowing React and full-stack web was the only reason I got most of my winter interviews. (“You know React? We’re using/just switching to/thinking of switching to that.”)
  • Consider alternative career paths. Dartmouth has a formal recruiting program sophomore summer for finance and consulting, so I wrote a nontechnical resume and interviewed with consulting and investment firms. These interviews required some extra prep (yay case interviews and mental math), but they were a chance to do something completely different, and allowed me to take advantage of Dartmouth’s established pipeline to ~Wall Street~. Find the industries your school is well-connected to, and explore those paths.
  • Cold email recruiters. If you begin early sophomore summer, recruiters will be at their freest, as new grad and summer intern recruitment hasn’t started. A typical email starts with your name, major(s), and what kind of opportunities you’re looking for. Attach your resume, or a small paragraph about your skills or why you want to work for this company. End by asking if any opportunities are available, or by asking to chat. This feels shameless beyond belief at first (I wallowed in embarrassment for roughly an hour per email I sent), but it’s literally the recruiter’s job to find talent, so think of it as helping with their job! Way better than just badgering people for work.

Advantages & disadvantages of off term recruiting

If you’re contemplating whether you should consider an off-term internship, here are a few pros and cons of the off-term:

  • Pro: You can use winter recruiting as practice for the summer, and have one continuous interviewing block to get good at technical interviews. You would only have to study once for two internships!!
  • Con: If you decide to take classes during sophomore summer at Dartmouth, you won’t have the equivalent of your “sophomore summer” internship before recruiting for junior summer, which can put your resume at a disadvantage.
  • Pro: You’re most likely a better candidate before sophomore summer than during sophomore fall, so you’re in a position to land a better internship for junior winter if you do it right!!
  • Con: You will miss your friends on campus if you leave for a term 😢

In sum, “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” so strengthen your will! Bribe yourself if necessary; I ate a string cheese per coding challenge I did. Off-term tech internship do exist, and you can get them! Good luck (and try to not cry).

Banner photo by Meve R. from Pexels