How parents can help students secure internships at top tech companies

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If your child will soon be headed to college, and they’re serious about developing a career afterwards, they’ve no doubt considered pursuing an internship. 

Internships are a great way for students to gain real work experience, network with potential employers, and learn about the business world or industry they’re interested in getting into.

But without experience or contacts, securing an internship can be a frustrating task. 

Fear not. We’ve collected some great advice for helping your student land an internship, and gathered insights from students who have already faced the challenge—and went on to intern at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other Fortune 100 companies. 

Your teen can land that internship, and here’s how:    

Help them research prospective companies and start asking questions.

If you want to work at any company, it’s a good idea to become familiar with their products and understand their business model. Having a good grasp of the company’s “big picture” will help your kids interview better when the opportunity arises. 

If you know other people who work at the company, talk to them, or better yet, have your student talk to them to ask about their roles and responsibilities. If one of your contacts secured an internship themselves, ask them how they got it. Look for any insight into what hiring managers are looking for. 

Remember though, what worked for someone else might not work for your child, so have them investigate as many options and inroads as possible. 

Show them how to build a network.

LinkedIn is the Facebook of the business world. If your college student doesn’t already have an account, get them to create one. Have them set their profile so that recruiters and hiring managers know they’re open to new opportunities, and then have them start reaching out. Connecting with alumni who are already working in their desired field of interest or at the company they want to intern for, is an easy first step on LinkedIn.

On the platform, you can easily advertise your availability and post that you are looking for an internship at X company. In the case of one student, her LinkedIn post got her a Microsoft internship and a note from the company’s CEO. This method not only gets prospective interns in front of potential hiring managers but also helps them expand their networks. 

Teach them that nobody can “sell” their skills and abilities like they can.

There’s an old idiom, “you should never blow your own horn.” 

Nonsense. 

Your best salesperson is yourself. If your student is an accomplished coder, has built a website or app, or even has their own ecommerce side-hustle, so long as it's appropriate, tell prospective employers about it; show it off. They can easily do so in the form of a link to a project website from their LinkedIn account.

Accomplishments and achievements are something to be proud of: encourage your kids to show their work. (That includes the project they developed during their week of coding camp.) Even if it’s not directly related to the position or company they’re targeting, it can be seen as a form of initiative, creativity, or some other desirable skill.

The goal is to craft a compelling story around what they have accomplished and can accomplish moving forward. 

Importantly, have your student dig deep to tell their story, and not just skim through what they think an employer might want to hear. Chances are other candidates will be saying the same things, which just ends up grouping everyone into the same, boring bucket. If your student doesn’t have a project to show off or an interesting story to tell, it’s never too late to develop one. 

“You can’t get work if you don’t have experience and you can’t get experience if you don’t have work.” That used to be true, but nowadays with open access to technology, coding courses and other types of hands-on technological experience that’s no longer a valid excuse. Have your child take a coding course or learn to build a website. Endeavors like these are sure to impress future employers.  

Instill the idea that they are one fish in a sea of many, and need to work hard to stand out from the crowd. 

Most internship applications don’t even get read. In fact, hiring managers receive over 250+ applications in the first 48 hours of posting an internship position—this is one of the many facts about internships—and the first step in reviewing applications is filtering out the bad ones. Explain the need for your student to spend extra time crafting a great resume—and steer them away from beginning one with “resourceful, self starter,” because per the point above, everyone else is, too.  

Also have them send a cover letter (even if the hiring manager didn’t ask for one) to demonstrate how they can provide value and impact the company. While you’re confined to a page of more or less straightforward facts about education and employment experiences with a resume, the cover letter allows students to step outside of the box and truly showcase what they’re made of.

Pull the curtain back on the interview, and help your student see that they are interviewing the company as much as the company is interviewing them.

Once your student has a  scheduled interview, help them prepare to nail it by identifying the nuances based on the target position. For instance, if they’re interviewing for a software engineering job, they may have more of a technical interview - where hand coding is a requirement - and will be asked to show off their coding skills. 

Then sit down and do a mock interview with them. Prepare them to talk with the interviewer about projects at the company, and how they could potentially impact them, especially if they’re applying for a non-software engineering role. 

For example, Google might test business savvy by asking not how their search or ad targeting algorithm works but how to increase ad revenue from a specific market segment. In this case, knowing Google’s business model and how their ad platform works will make your student a much stronger candidate and ideally a better interviewee. Importantly, convey to your student that they don’t need the perfect answer, and instead, that the interviewee is trying to gauge thought process. 

Last, and hugely important, is helping your student understand the interview process in terms of them being interviewed as a candidate, while also interviewing the company as a fit for their skills and goals.

How to get started

Sometimes the most difficult thing about the internship process is getting started. 

Have a student who is looking for an internship or job at Apple? Apple offers a unique opportunity to work at the company through the Financial Development Program (FDP). The FDP is a two-year program that exposes young talent to different, non-technical parts of Apple’s business, including retail, operations and enterprise sales. Most candidates start out as undergraduate students. After a 12-week internship (and assuming they performed well), they receive an invitation to return to Apple’s FDP full-time after graduation).

Also, have your student check out Google’s student career portal, which has a number of jobs and internships available. Google even offers virtual job fairs and other opportunities for students. Just remember when they apply to Google that they’ll use their Google account for the application, so make sure it and any activity on their Google+ account is appropriate.

If your student doesn’t live in or plan to attend school in California, they can still find a great internship with a tech company—just have them search for technology companies in their area and follow our tips to get started crafting their story and building their career! 

Got tips of your own? We’d love to hear them in the comments. 

A photo of Vince

Vince has worked as a camp director for iD Tech. Previously, he spent over 20 years in the video game industry, working for companies like Sony, Microsoft and Disney. Vince has his nerd card fully stamped, with his favorite stamps including: Pokémon, D&D, comic books and of course, video games.

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