How I landed my first software internship

Since the beginning of 2017, I was thinking about getting an internship to practice the things I learned and to see how people solved real problems using software. Unfortunately, things didn’t happen in the way I expected.

I follow some groups aimed at beginner programmers and almost every day someone would share how difficult it is to get the first opportunity, especially for those transitioning from another area. In fact, it is very hard to find a place where you can start without having much experience, even if you are motivated, curious and eager to learn.

People just look for senior developers ready to fit in the position but underestimate the value of training a junior. And that sucks. I believe that everyone who is a good professional today is someone who had a great opportunity to start, in a place that values knowledge sharing and skills that go beyond coding.

So I am here today to share some things that I think helped me to finally launch my project of being a software intern last year and I hope this can help others in the same situation:

Networking, networking, networking

I decided this year to go to tech events more often and that made all the difference. I read this everywhere, but I was always busy studying for my tests and I decided to change that a little. By doing this, you can show up, meet another amazing people who can teach you a lot of stuff and perhaps meet a potential company that values your efforts in learning how to code.

In fact, it was on Rails Girls Sao Paulo 2017 edition that I met the CTO of the startup where I did my first software internship 🙂

Build a portfolio for yourself

What I mean is that usually a portfolio is made to show your skills to other people, but instead I think you should focus on building one to develop your skills and to build more confidence. This will help a lot during this journey. I am coding a personal project right now (which I am very proud of) and I am learning a lot of cool stuff. It gave me a push to go to Rails Girls Sao Paulo as a coach (again, where I met the CTO of the startup where I did my first software internship 🙂

Search for companies whose products you like

Last year I started to study more about finance and investments. I combined that with my internship search and started to look for companies whose products were in the financial area.

The more you know about what you are looking for, the better for you because that lets you focus on some technologies, for example. I knew that it may not come true, but dreaming big does not cost money, so I didn’t care about it. For me, this was more exciting because when that finally happened, I would be working with experts in that field. And in that case I would be learning more than coding, right?

It is also important to say that it’s not a problem if you haven’t figured this out yet. Maybe you’ll find a cool company that motivates you to like something new? Never stop exploring!

Show them what you like to do

I always liked writing and I’ve been doing this on my blog for almost 2 years and I never imagined that it would be a plus. But I realized that it is!

Maybe finding a way to show your hobbies or interests is something that will distinguish you from other candidates. Perhaps you enjoy making tutorial videos? Or drawing/illustrating concepts? There are infinite things that you can do to share your learning path and help you show how much you can offer.

Ask your friends how was their first internship

And a final advice to help you relax and focus on the big picture: ask some friends to share with you how was their first coding internship. It also helps to be a member of communities as CodeNewbieNewbie coder warehouse and Tech Ladies (an amazing community for women in tech). People are very friendly and always happy to help.

I even asked the Practical Dev community to give me some advice for new interns and I got valuable answers there. You will see that everyone that is starting knows more or less the same as you. You are on a good journey, don’t give up. While you don’t get there, prepare yourself for when the opportunity shows up!

A personal note about my hiring process

Another great decision that I made this year was to start therapy. I was getting really anxious about not finding a job and I started to notice that it was affecting other areas of my life. When the opportunity came, I went into a spiral of anxiety that I’ve never faced before.

All of this is to say that I was ready to give up on my hiring process. Yes, you read that right. I tried to do a pair programming with the CTO and I was frozen. I wanted so much that job that I was caught in a wind of bad thoughts of how I was not ready and no one would hire a person that did not know how to code and more bad thoughts. Maybe I should study one more year to feel ready to apply again, I started to say to myself.

I sent an email saying that I was not ready and I did not want to make him lose his time with me. But then, he called to go talk with the team next day and I was really honest about how I was feeling.

I don’t know exactly what I did right, but they accepted me. I was very welcomed by the team and I will be eternally grateful for this opportunity. If I had given up, I wouldn’t be here writing this.

So, if you are facing some real issues like anxiety, find someone to help you and take care of yourself. Mental health is as important as you getting an internship. And if you are scared of not succeeding, go scared. You will never know if you don’t try.

A little funny fact: The hiring process was occurring at the same time as when the movie It was being played in theaters and I went to see it. While watching the movie, I suddenly started to imagine the clown would appear to me as a code interviewer (I am kidding (in part xD)).

Have any other advice to add? What do you think that is holding you down from getting an internship? Want to share anything else related? Feel free to comment and to share with someone that you know that is on the same journey. Cheers!

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