How to Make a Strong Impression at Your Tech Internship

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Congratulations! After countless hours spent polishing your resume and submitting applications, you’ve landed an awesome tech internship. You may be thinking the hard work is over, but it’s only the beginning. While there’s no guarantee that an internship will lead to a job offer right off the bat, it can help you get there if you come in with an open mind, willingness to learn and an understanding of what you bring to the table. We spoke with two seasoned tech professionals to get their top tips on how to make a good impression at your internship.

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Flexibility is Not Overrated

There’s a reason why flexibility is considered a top quality in interns and employees. Unlike school, work doesn’t come with a course outline. The same holds true for an internship, especially one at a tech company. “A lot of internships, apprentice programs and early college grad programs I’ve seen are built with a very vague set of expectations,” says Rachel Rogers, director of Small Business Solution Engineering for the Central Region at Salesforce. “When you work in a workplace, and especially in a very fast moving industry like tech, you have to be a little bit flexible in knowing that they’re going to write a pretty broad syllabus for you, and it’s up to you to fill in the blanks.”

While that may sound scary for some, view this as an opportunity to flex the skills that make you unique and show why they hired you. Start your internship knowing your strengths and figuring out how to leverage them to solve a problem for the business–even if the problem isn’t necessarily in your wheelhouse. “An internship is giving you a trial run of a potential full-time job in the future, so you want to show yourself as a high value candidate who isn’t going to be inflexible when problems arise or when things are not as promised,” says Becki Ellis, principal career strategist at Bex Consultants.

Show Your Value

As the saying goes, “Fortune favors the bold,” and being bold at your internship means being unafraid to speak up when you have an idea or feedback. This demonstrates to your colleagues that you’ve done your homework, read up on the company, and have an understanding of who they are and what they do.

“If you feel like there’s something that can be done or something that can be learned, go for it. The tech industry favors people who are willing to take action rather than sitting back and being told what to do,” says Rogers.

Strong Impression Internship Quote

If you need more guidance on understanding what showing your value means, Ellis breaks this down with a couple of questions you can ask yourself during your internship:

  • What is your professional superpower?
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • What value can you add to the project you’re working on?

Says Ellis, “Don’t discredit yourself because you’re an intern. You bring a different perspective an employer is looking for.”

Be an Investigative Reporter

Your internship is the time to be curious about everything. Ask lots of thoughtful questions to help you piece together how the company works: What needs to get done in the short-term? How does the department function? How does the product you’re working on function? In addition, ask yourself: How can I get to know the people around me? How will this experience help me understand the type of people I want to work with and for? How can I learn more about the company, the industry and myself?

Be resourceful about how you gather your information and know that a wealth of knowledge exists outside of who you report to. “The really outstanding people can figure out where to go to get the answers that they need. And they’ll do it in a way that’s not always asking their boss,” says Rogers.

There’s a lot of collateral built inside an organization such as internal wikis or Slack groups. Use your downtime to explore those sources both inside and outside the company. “Figuring out where you can find the information is just as important as the information itself,” says Rogers.

Build Your Connections – and Nurture Them

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention networking. It’s a term that makes people cringe but is understood as a necessity in your career development. Approach a networking event as you would hosting a party. It’s your job to mingle and start forging relationships based on genuinely getting to know people versus what they can do for you. “Set the foundation for camaraderie and then build on that and use it for an ask down the road,” advises Ellis.

Once you’ve sparked those connections, follow up within 48 hours of meeting them so you’re still fresh in their mind. LinkedIn is the ultimate networking tool to send a short and simple message to connect. The act may seem small but it goes a long way. “That follow up is what makes the networking event worthwhile,” says Rogers, “and a lot of people don’t do that.”

Even if you don’t end up getting a job offer at your internship, make your time enjoyable and conclude it on a high note. Says Ellis, "People remember how you leave an organization, not how you join it.”

Looking to get started in tech? Download the IT Career Guide and learn how you can harness social media to turbocharge your search for an IT internship or entry-level job opportunity.