For a long time, I didn’t think I’d write with this post. My internship hunting experience had been months upon months of disappointment and rejection, and I didn’t feel in any place to impart wisdom. But, things are looking better now, and I swear this post isn’t me humble bragging about gaining an internship, but rather, I wanted to write about this because I was so horrendously uninformed at the start of this year’s journey, and I don’t want you guys to be too.
So, I had read advice online. I had perused Reddit threads. I had tried to put myself out there and gain confidence in social scenarios (never mind that I’m still woefully inept). I even got my older sibling in tech to help me with writing a good CV. None of it helped much. The advice was too generic to fit the unique position of having very little to offer the industry yet still needing experience.
So this is the advice I have from first-hand experience. I’m going to break this down into a couple of sections for you guys. I’ll give you guys all the wisdom before telling you about my own internship hunt experience.
- Get your driver’s license. At least restricted. So many positions rely on a driver’s license, and I had to skip them because I stupidly chose to wait to learn how to drive, then lockdown hit and halted my plans. For those who don’t already have their full/restricted license, please learn from my mistake. Seriously.
- Being open to internships outside of Auckland is important. The ones in Auckland are often more competitive, so be open to spending your summer elsewhere. It’s an exciting opportunity to do something a bit different with your summer.
- A Linkedin account is always a good idea. (Sincerely, someone who does not have Linkedin.)
- Practice your social skills. These days engineers need to be adept be at socialising too. Interns rarely are hired for skills. The most important thing is to be likeable and to have the ability to hold a conversation.
- Relatedly, NETWORK. I don’t care how introverted or wallflowery you are. Stumble your way through conversations, embarrass yourself, just be out there and talk to your fellow students/engineers. Careers expos are your friend.
- Your CV should be a dynamic document. There’s no done and dusted. As you learn and grow, you should constantly have new things to add to it.
- Use CDES to check your CV. They’re there for a reason, and they know what they’re talking about.
- Don’t be too formal. In NZ, we’re known for being a bit laid back, so you don’t need to be buttoned up to the chin. Just relax a bit, use a few big words if you want to seem intelligent, but overall you want to be relatable and someone they’d be keen to have in the workplace.
- Describe your background, your passion, and why you’re applying.
Beyond the application
If they like the look of your experience, many companies will ask you to complete a one-way video interview. This involves a question popping up on screen and getting time to think of an answer before recording yourself. In the beginning, I royally sucked at these. I can barely hold a conversation with another human, let alone the lack of one. But now I’m comfortable talking to my camera. Here are my tips.
- Don’t practice an exact speech or spiel. The more natural, the better. It’s okay to stumble on a couple of words as long as you can still speak coherently.
- Standing up while recording helps boost your confidence. I learnt this in ENGGEN 204, yay! Have a wide (not weirdly large, though) power stance. Take up space.
- Be the happiest version of yourself. When they say to be yourself, it’s true, but they don’t mean be the depressed version scoffing a packet of chips in front of Netflix at 2am. They mean be the brightest and bubbliest version of you.
If they like you enough, you’ll eventually be contacted via phone call. Be on the ready! Don’t be like me and leave your phone muted because no one messages me anyway.
And eventually, if you’re lucky, there is the dreaded interview. With so many applicants, making it this far is a massive achievement alone. The most important thing is to be likeable. You don’t need to be super knowledgeable. Unless it’s an extremely big name company, the interview should not be too technical. Learn about the STAR method and use it for interview questions. Have interesting stories to tell. Don’t lie during interviews. Just don’t.
So, as I began earlier, my experience was months upon months of nothing much. I kept applying. Always keep applying, even when it feels hopeless. Then, in one week I got two interview offers. Both for the same day. One from NZ’s rail company and one from an engineering consultancy (no specific names for their privacy).
It was intense. It was exciting. The adrenaline was pumping. Both interviews were casual conversations which I appreciated. One even included lots of jokes and banter. I think I did well overall. But ultimately, I was rejected from the consultancy despite that being my better interview. I wasn’t too upset because I knew I showed them the best and brightest version of myself. They called me two days after the interview, and my heart skipped a beat when I got the call. I hadn’t processed it, so luckily, I wasn’t too disappointed when I heard the news. They said they had no negative criticisms but chose someone with more experience (a third year). I was encouraged to apply again next year, and I plan on doing just so! But the worst part is, I hadn’t realised how much I’d love to intern there until the interview itself.
I also wasn’t selected for the position I applied for at the rail company. Still, they did call about a week after the interview and offer me another internship role. However, I didn’t accept it because it would be 1.5hrs by public transport. While I was willing to relocate, I didn’t want to relocate to somewhere still in Auckland. Once again, get your driving license. Don’t get me wrong, I probably would’ve taken the offer. However, a few days prior, I received an email titled Outcome of your application for a Summer Research Scholarship. After so many rejections, I braced myself for yet another one before opening the email. But then I saw the word congratulations. I had to read it at least ten times to be sure. But I did. So, I’m very excited to say I’ll be spending my summer at the university completing a research project.
Take home message
It isn’t easy to find an internship. Especially when you don’t know much about what companies are looking for. I hope some of this advice has helped clear things up a little more.
Keep applying. Keep pushing through. Internship/job hunting can feel demotivating and depressing when you don’t hear anything but no’s. Still, the important thing is to push through till the end of the internship hunting season. It took genuine persistence and fortitude to move past each rejection, but they encouraged me to improve myself. I can say I’ve grown so much this year as a person, and it’s primarily attributed to having to put myself out there into the internship market. Beyond anything else, it has helped me become a stronger, more confident person. It’s tough and often not rewarding in the traditional sense. Still, I can guarantee you will grow if you take rejections in stride and use them to better yourself.
And that’s all from me this time, folks, until next time!