Getting your first software dev internship

Getting a software dev internship can be a daunting process but there are a few things that you could be doing to make the process a little easier. I had to complete a year's worth of internships to complete the professional engineering portion of my software engineering degree. I initially found this process to be a challenge but with a few tweaks and learnings along the way, I think I made the process a little easier for myself. I want to share some of those tips with you to make the process easier and hopefully get you the internship you want as well.

For all the information I provide in this post It will be in the context of finding and applying for an internship in Sydney Australia as a software engineering student. However, most of this information should translate to other regions as well.

Writing your CV

For your CV you want to aim for a length of about 1 - 2 pages, anything more than your going to be hiding information in pages that most likely won't be read. Your CV should have your current work experience, your current academic attainments and your technical expertise in things like languages and frameworks you're comfortable with. You should be aiming to try and match the qualities on your CV with the qualities that the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate. I want to also stress that you don't need to include everything in your work or education history if it is not relevant to the role, For example, if your halfway through your university degree you don't need to include your high school on your CV anymore and you should be using that space for something more relevant for the position your applying for.

On your CV you want to also make sure you have your current contact details present including your full name, email and phone number. You may also want to consider having the details of some of your other social accounts if they are related to the role such as Github, Dev or CodePen so that the employer can see some of your actual projects or writing.

Finally with your CV, save yourself some embarrassment only realising you missed something after you sent off your application and get someone (or more if you can) to read over your CV to make sure you don't have any silly typos, spelling or weird grammar you missed after reading your CV for the 100th time.

Searching for internships

Now that your CV is all polished and ready to go we need to find some jobs to actually apply for. The job posting sites can be pretty region specific so use what's available in your area but ill just list all the ones I used in my internship search and note if the site is available somewhere else. I would recommend that where applicable you set up alerts for these sites so that you can stay up to date with new postings so you can use your time more efficiently when applying for roles.

If your currently studying in university make sure to reach out to the careers department of your institution. They usually have some great resources when it comes to finding jobs such as a list of which companies have internships or they might even host their own job boards just for students like my university did.

Preparing your cover letter

This step isn't always required but is definitely recommended if you have the time. A cover letter is basically just a short (usually 1 page) description of yourself and an example of how you're interested in the internship and how you would be suitable as a potential candidate for that role. Employers are likely to read your CV and cover letter at the same time so make sure your grammar and spelling are on point and that the information between your CV and cover letter match.

It can seem like a lot of work to have to write a cover letter for each application you make so I recommend you write up a template for your cover letter early. This is going to save you a lot of time with you just needing to change names and a few sentences here and there to tailor your cover letter for the company your applying for. At the peak of me trying to apply for internships using templates, I could have a custom CV and cover letter tailored for the requirements of the roles ideal candidate done in just 30 minutes on average.

Check out these articles for getting started with writing your cover letter:

Interview prep

WOOO! You got yourself an interview and now you just need to get through this step and you're probably home free. For your interview, you're going to want to prepare both your soft skills and your technical skills.

For your soft skills, these are things like your ability to communicate, provided feedback and work in a team. Soft skills are something you develop over time but if you're wanting to practice them or get warmed up with these skills I would recommend you try and find a friend or mentor who can practice asking interview questions with you.

For your technical skills, these can also be hard to prepare actively for your interview but I would recommend going over some basics courses for the languages you would need to work with if you got the role. I would also recommend you try and complete and explain your solution for some common technical interview questions. Additionally, look through some of the projects you've worked on and try and link those to what the company is looking for in the advertised role so when asked how you demonstrated a skill you can show off a project you've already completed nicely linking what you've already done with what they are looking for.

If your looking for some more info on preparing your soft skills to check out the links below:

And if you need help with your technical skills these articles below could be helpful to you:

My personal tips

  • Save yourself some embarrassing mistakes easily and get the grammarly extension, you just need the free version and use it to check your CV and cover letter before you send it to anyone.
  • Try and be personable but professional, being too formal makes you sound like a robot and unfortunately quite forgettable so remember to be friendly and yourself.
  • Take the effort to personalize at least some portion of your internship submission for every company be that your CV or cover letter.
  • If you don't like the company, people or terms of the contract don't be afraid to say no, being unhappy or working under an illegal contract is never worth the work experience you may get.
  • Rejection is part of the game but not the end, Don't be afraid to ask for feedback on why you didn't get the role and take that on board to make each application better.

Conclusion

Hopefully, these tips are able to help you out in your journey to getting your internship. It's a hard process and can feel very defeating at times, but people have done it before and as long as your learning throughout the process you'll get the internship in the end.


Cover photo by Nastuh Abootalebi on Unsplash

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Aaron Berry

I'm a big fan of backend programming, dev-ops automation and all things in the cloud. I like to write about things I'm currently working on and new things I've learnt / learning.

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