Any modern day American college student will say the whole internship process is a pain. You not only feel like you’re being pressured into getting a real job before college even ENDS, but you also have to repeat the application process every year. Couple that stress with finals and midterms, and you’ve got plenty to worry about already during the school year. This year was my first year at taking a shot at this whole process, and due to my annoying struggle in the last few months, I decided write about a few good tips for getting summer jobs (this is late, I know, but it’ll be useful when you need to REPEAT this whole process again next year).
To start off, I’ll quickly recount my own internship search process this year. After thinking I was lucky and “getting an offer” with a security technology company, I was thrust into a job scramble after they lost their government contract along with 2.7 million dollars, and were forced to drop me as an intern.
All the way up until June I applied for any jobs I could find that fit engineering. Online applications, nervous phone interviews, and way too many cover letters were an unfortunate daily routine. That is, until a friend of mine managed to get me into contact with an HR representative at my dream company: Tesla Motors.
Thinking I had a slim chance, I was surprised when they offered me an interview. Then, thinking I was underqualified, I overprepared for the interview and…somehow…made it through the hour and a half hour technical question process. I ended up getting a job offer with the exact department I wanted (systems integration) and boom, I had a job with a company I worshipped.
Now I get the opportunity to bike over to the Tesla headquarters everyday, walk pass the supercharger stations at the entrance, glance at the beautiful Model S cars in the garage, and head to my desk.
That said, I’ve been incredibly fortunate this summer, and I want to impart as much wisdom as I can to incoming students and underclassmen at Tufts. Tesla’s been amazing so far, and I want everybody to end up in their happy place during summertime. Here are my best bullet points of wisdom I can give to all you Jumbos:
- Never assume anything. Don’t assume you’ve got a job guaranteed. Don’t assume you don’t need to prepare for an interview. Don’t assume there’s no possible way some place could reject you. You never completely know what you’re up against. You could be interviewing for an Apple position against the daughter of Steve Jobs for all you know. No matter what advantage you have, never assume you’re safe until you’ve signed that contract and been handed a desk (and even then don’t assume you get to keep it).
- Connections matter (unfortunately). I don’t mean you need to know the CEO of the company personally, but any sort of “in” that you can get will help. Even if you’re resume has “President of the United States”, knowing somebody will usually give you a huge leg up. Why? Consider it this way: when somebody introduces you to HR, they’re recommending you for the position themselves, a past or current employee. However, when you apply online, who’s recommending you? The internet. You’re in the same bag as cat memes and youtube videos of people getting hit in unpleasant places. How’s that sound? I’m not saying applying online is useless, but it’s much harder to make yourself stand out over hundreds of applications (especially with all those cats everywhere).
- Don’t apply for the jobs you want to be doing, but the jobs that will get you to where you want to be. This one is a little confusing. An internship is a stepping stone, and is anything but permanent. While some positions and some companies may look better than others, see if the spots they offer are going to give you the qualifications for what you want to do AFTER college. Granted, the job you want may be the job that gets you places, but if that’s the case then you better be applying for that one.
- When you have an interview, do your research, but don’t show it off. It’s always essential to know what you’re talking about during an interview, but it’s much better to show them what you know in a bit of a backwards fashion. For example, you may know all about “the company’s commitment to fostering an atmosphere for design and competition”, which is great. But don’t just say: “I love atmosphere’s which foster design and competition”. Instead bring up a story about that time you joined the Tufts Hybrid Race team and competed in that event. Or that time you spent months writing a paper and then was awarded a prize. They’ll be impressed with what you did while making the connection you want them to see.
- Ask questions. Every interview you’ll ever have will ask you if you have any questions at the end. While it isn’t mandatory that you ask things obviously, it always helps to show your interest in the position. They know there are things about the position and company you won’t know about, and this is your chance to ask. I’d actually advise coming up with 2-3 questions before the interview. Asking questions at the end also makes sure you don’t finish the session off in an awkward silence.
That’s a good portion of the advice I’ll give for right now. I’m sure I’ll try and write another post on this very soon, and maybe next time I’ll actually write it when people are looking for jobs. Until then, enjoy your summer, your job, or whatever else you may have going on.
Oh, and get excited for August! See you in a few months Jumbos!