The ultimate guide to IT internships

Where to find them, how to ace the interview and what comes after

Man and woman looking at server racks

Are internships really that important to landing a successful IT career? Just how invaluable is hands-on training when considering a shift into IT? 

Internships are the tried-and-true way to get the hands-on training you need, help you build must-have tech skills, and develop long-lasting connections in your field. Internships can help you get your proverbial foot in the door and determine which IT field or industry is perfect for you.

Utilize your internship to its fullest by developing a great rapport with your manager, and you can get a solid reference letter that'll play a significant role in landing a tech job after graduation. 

Finding an IT internship

Many internships, particularly summer internships, have early deadlines and start recruiting in the fall. You can build valuable connections early in the process by starting your search early. These connections can include alumni or professionals within organizations of interest who can help you before jumping into the interview process. 

Remember to leverage personal and collegiate connections too. Talk with your family, friends, college advisors and career counselors about what type of internship you're looking for and what goals you'd like to achieve during your internship.

Leverage the internet's power too, as many tech companies devote entire sections of their websites to IT internship programs. Try doing a job search for employers and your career interests in your area, and you're sure to find IT internship opportunities in your community. You'll want to create a job alert so you don't miss any new internships that pop up.

Six tech companies that offer IT internships

While there are a number of companies that offer IT internships, we've highlighted just a handful of them below. 

Each company on the list is committed to providing college students with hands-on experiences in the tech industry and offers a range of internships for students to apply to. 

1. Google

Google offers a number of internships, ranging from software engineering to infrastructure technology. All the company asks is as an intern at Google, you "Bring your insight, imagination, and a healthy disregard for the impossible."

Visit Internships+ to apply for a Google internship. 

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2. Amazon

Whether you're working toward an undergraduate degree or a Ph.D., Amazon offers a host of technical internships worldwide. Most Amazon internships at Amazon are in the summer and last 12-16 weeks.

Visit Amazon internships for students to apply for an internship. 

3. Apple

Interns at Apple are given the opportunity to work on critical projects on the company's Silicon Valley campus. Internships are also available at Apple's Paris, Singapore and Beijing offices.

Visit Jobs at Apple to apply for an internship. 

4. Hewlett-Packard

At Hewlett-Packard, there's no shortage of career-changing internships to choose from. As an intern at HP, you can expect the kind of hands-on experiences that will bolster your resume and cover letter, while you build your professional network and contribute to critical projects.

Visit HP careers to apply

5. Salesforce

There's a number of reasons to intern at Salesforce. Not only are interns encouraged to mingle with senior leadership, but IT interns can also explore new skills through guided learning experiences at the company.

Visit Salesforce to apply for an internship. 

6. Microsoft

Internship opportunities at Microsoft vary by location and education level. There's a host of options to choose from, though. Whether you're interested in software engineering or cybersecurity, Microsoft promises its interns the opportunity to work on cutting-edge technology.

Visit Microsoft internships to apply for one.

What to look for in an IT internship

Some people seek internships with the goal of just adding another bullet point to their resume. If your goal is to have a career in IT, though, you want to make sure your internship serves as a stepping stone into your field of interest. Finding such an internship might require some extra effort on your part, but the added focus is sure to pay off in the long run.

Apply for internships that give you hands-on work experience in the IT field too, then you can be sure a career in IT is the right career path for you. Internships are a great way to expose yourself to a multitude of career paths, so don't miss out on the chance to do so.

As you navigate the internship process, it's also important to consider programs that offer mentors available to interns. A mentor will help you navigate your internship and settle into your working environment. Often, mentors can also give interns access to higher-level executives, allowing them to learn from the experts within the company.

It doesn't hurt to consider internship programs that offer full-time job opportunities at the end of them either. 

Interviewing for an IT internship

You've made it to the interview stage. Now what? 

First impressions are important. There's nothing worse than a candidate who shows up to their interview dressed inappropriately or looking disheveled. 

As a general rule, you should dress business casual, unless directed otherwise. Also, consider leaving your cell phone in the car, or at least switching it to airplane mode before entering the building. 

Don't underestimate the value of being overprepared. Show up to your interview with multiple copies of your resume. Should the interview go well, you might find yourself sitting across the table from more interviewers than you originally planned for. Plus, you never know when an interviewer will face unexpected printer problems.

When it comes to answering questions, there's no way to predict every question the interviewer will ask. That said, spend some time before the interview considering answers to some of the most common interview questions. At the very least, practice a 60-second elevator pitch that gets across your ultimate career goals and interests.

Don't forget to show a real interest in the company and its goals too. Doing your research is a surefire way to impress your interviewer and proves that you've made an informed decision in applying for an internship at the company.

You're applying for an internship, so employers may not expect you to have practical experience. Keep in mind, though, if the interviewer wants to see what you're capable of, they may give you an assignment. Don't underestimate the importance of this task. Doing so could make or break your chances of receiving an offer.

Having thoughtful questions prepared for an interview will show that you're engaged in the interview process too. Interviewers expect questions and will wait to answer any inquiries that you may have.

Making the most of your IT internship

Internship programs offer everyone a fantastic learning experience. Use that opportunity to educate yourself about the business that you're engrossed in, and the kinds of job opportunities that might become available.

Also, make sure that you get to grips with the company you're interning with, so you can be best placed to learn and help out with the tasks at hand to the best of your ability. It's crucial to understand what makes a good employee, and why the best employees are in the position they're in. 

Meeting and speaking with your manager early on is also important, given you'll need to establish positive working relationships to make the most of your experience. If there are any particular areas that you want to learn more about, or would like to transition into, the best way to go about this is to just ask around, and meet the right people. Contacts are crucial.

You should also socialize with any fellow interns that you meet during your experience, as you're all going through the same process together, and forming a small network will be really helpful. Make sure to attend as many company events as you can, as well, so you can really get your name out there. You may even find a mentor that can show you the ropes, offer essential advice, and draft a positive recommendation letter when you're looking for your next opportunity.

You finished your internship. What comes next?

When you have a chance to look back on your time as an intern on your last day, it's a great exercise to note down everything you've learned along the way. 

Are you more suited to working on your own, or did you really excel in a group setting? Are you an amazing communicator, or is this something that you need to work on in your next role? How do you see your leadership skills? These are only a handful of the questions you should be asking yourself. 

You should take stock of everything you learned during your experience, your strengths and weaknesses, as well as any skills you've picked up, and what you'd like to learn in future if given the chance.

It's also the perfect time to update your resume and include details around the most important projects and tasks you were assigned to. Note down some accomplishments that are relevant to your career pursuits. 

With a fresh perspective on your future goals, you might feel motivated to further expand your IT skills, gain more real-world experience and even expand your professional network by joining various IT organizations.

No matter what you do though, never stop learning. 

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