The most practical guide ever written to land an internship!

About author (in his own voice):

I am Sankalp. I am a 3rd year (moving into 4th) Computers’ student at not-so-famous Bhagwan Parshuram Institute of Technology affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi.

I have a keen interest in UI/UX design and have managed to secure 8 internship offers in last 15 months which made me write this article.

In this post I’ll talk about internships in India, what I have been through and how to possibly secure an internship. So, this post is supposed to be of particular interest to students in India.

Internships in India

Current Scenario?

Current scenario for internships in India appears to be recovering from its previously broken stage. With the emergence of considerable number of start-ups in India itself, foreign start-ups outsourcing work to India, increasing value to practical knowledge and people adopting technology to their daily life, this is supposed to get far better from here.

In current scenario, we speak about leagues of colleges in India. First come, IITs then NITs and recognized ones like BITS, DTU etc. and at last, there are surplus colleges contributing to the impressive number of 1.5 million engineers graduating in India, every year. If you look at this number and give it a minute of thought, you might agree that no country can produce this many quality jobs for relevant streams in a year. This is why there is a cut-throat competition going on in the market to survive.

Why Internship?

Once graduated; the fight is not only with your friends in college or against other students of India. Instead it is with those employees too who are already working.
So, what should students do to stay ahead? For me, there is one stop solution for this: Internships. Prove your mettle in an internship so that a future employer can trust you more than your friend who (unfortunately) couldn’t do that during his college.

Internship vs Training

Now, in India there is a misconception that I have faced myself. People, parents, friends, family, teachers, college administration, chaar log, and almost everyone might get caught up with the very mistake of rating a training equivalent to an internship. This isn’t true. Neither it can be.

Internship: “A real, ideal internship will be a temporary position with focus on the assigned job with the intern given respect and responsibilities like a regular employee. The learning comes from the experience of the work the intern does.”

Training: “A training is different from an internship in terms that it is much more focused on teaching by someone rather than a self-learning experience coming from the environment around and the job done. I consider it to unfortunately leading to spoon-feeding at times.”

Before/While trying for an internship

For you to try for an internship, you need to know where your interests are. What you can do for a company? Having the confidence to say “Yes, I take the responsibility.” is something that can put you way ahead in the race.

– Explore Interests: This is very important. I am from Computers but have an interest in UI/UX design. You can have your interests and depending upon circumstances you have to choose whether you’d like to pursue your interest or need to find a new one that you can pursue. Depending upon the society that we all live in, this can be tough. But, it’s necessary. And, you have to decide early!

– Network: Join groups on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn related to the topic of your interest. Connect with more and more people in your field. Many of them might have been through what you are facing currently. For finding use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, StackExchange. Spy on them or whatever (under legal obligations) that can help you.

Pro Tip: Try connecting with an HR of any company who recruits for your field of interest. HRs keep on connecting with similar people. Now, you know whom to spy on. :)

– Work on communication skills: My mother tongue is Hindi. I speak and understand it way better than English or any other language. No doubt about it. Same could be true for your mother tongue too. Levels of proficiency may vary but the fact is we need to work upon our English because it is the current day language of communication.
I am not a big fan of gaining so much of vocabulary that it gets tough for the other person to understand without using a dictionary. I call it show-off English or GRE English. That said, I strongly support that a student should at least learn to convey his message in English via written way.

Even I started like hell. When I see the 2 year old emails of mine that I have sent to some big names, I feel ashamed. My own English is not awesome and you can well realize it while reading this article. But today, I am confident enough to give a tough fight in email etiquette to anyone working in the industry for years too. :)

Pro Tip: Work upon email etiquette and writing English, firstly. But that doesn’t mean you skip the speaking part. Writing needs to be first because firstly we send application then only we can secure interview. :)

– Follow good blogs: One of the very common problem that students come across is that they are blank on which company to apply for. For this to fix, I’d suggest following good blogs such as TechCrunch, The Next Web, Mashable, Yourstory, TechInAsia, NextBigWhat and many more.
For us in India, Yourstory is ideal. It covers emerging start-ups, their founders and market scenarios surrounding them. This gives an idea of what is going on and I am optimistic you’ll be able to come across some firm which is perfectly ideal for you.

– Learn on your own: Try learning on your own. There is plethora of content available for you to learn for free or for cheap. If you’re a coder, follow peers on GitHub, learn from them. Keeping you updated with your skills in of much importance.
Current day example can be, Apple’s release of Swift language. I can safely bet that in the next two years or so, there’ll be thousands of jobs for this language itself. And, what’s best: Everyone has a chance. Nobody has an experience with it. All are starting now.

Pro Tip: I am a big fan of Lynda and TutsPlus. Websites like Coursera and edX, no matter how great they are, I have found tough to manage with regular college and so many exams. Since they offer quality they need time. Try giving them a go if it works for you.

– Compete/Freelance: Competing with other UI/UX designers on a global scale has made me learn a hell lot that I couldn’t have otherwise. And, there is still a lot to learn. Similarly, freelancing helped me learn what is going on in the market with my field. What are the requirements these days? How other designers and developers approach problem statements given by various employers? Inspirations and much more. Possibilities are limitless. Who knows you can gain some contact over there who hires you for permanent job!

For freelancing, there are websites like Odesk, Elance, DesignCrowd, 99Designs and Freelancer.com. I have used freelancer.com and have good words about them. It is pretty much easy to use website with nice support. Let me know if I am of help there.
For competing, I have used TopCoder.com other than Freelancer and DesignCrowd.

– Gain Satisfaction and self-confidence: Try doing something with your interest that gives you both satisfaction and self-confidence at the same. Like for me, it is earning. I freelance trying to mint as much money as I can. This gives me confidence that I have gained the knowledge and people consider me of that much value for money. Satisfaction comes from spending that money for causes, own use and treats.

There can be many more points similar to these. But, I feel these are the key ones. Now on to the next part-

Applying for an internship

India is a land of diversities. These diversities vastly prevail in its education system too. I am not going to spend time on that. Rather, on the point; how to apply for an internship?

There are various possible strategies that one can follow. It depends on which college you study in, what your interests, priorities and expectations are, and much more. So, let’s go through it.

– Training & Placement Cell: If you are in a premier college, I believe the chances of you securing an internship via the training and placement cell are much brighter than if you’re not. Premier colleges are undoubtedly and much deservingly, centre of attraction for jobs and internships. For you to secure an internship via T&P cell; you should try keeping your resume updated and previous work/projects (if any) ready to be presented.

Referral: Oldest trick in the book is referral. Employee/Friend referrals still hold very much value in the internship field since they come from trusted sources. This is where networking can prove to be extremely beneficial. If you can gain someone’s attention and he/she can recommend you for an interview call; this can’t get better. My own first internship was through a referral interview call. :)

– Postal mails: This is slightly old fashioned trick that I gave a shot this year. I applied to 9 companies via postal letters. Each containing my business card, cover letter with the link to portfolio, resume and previous certificates. As the link was a shortlink that I can track, I was able to conclude that this is a blatant fail.

There was just a single click out of 9. No reply. So, I am not going to recommend it because it’s costlier than any other method both in terms of time and money and apparently, with the increasing use of internet has lost its trend.

– Online Portals: With the rise of internet, sense of market opportunity and understanding the needs of students, thankfully, there are many websites to help you in your search of an internship. India has Internshala, LetsIntern and Twenty19 that I know of.

I am biased towards Internshala because I have worked with them and it was the first one that I encountered in my search. The interface is easy and straight-forward. Internshala is worth giving a shot. Let me know if I am of any help there.

Fun Fact: When I joined college in 2011, there was no such website. And, I thought of starting my own. But now there is already a tough fight going on in the market. :)

– Walk-in/Advertisements: I don’t have a first-hand experience of this but a few companies do conduct walk-ins where you just have to go to the venue for the interview. It may be via prior appointment/registration or without it.
Do keep a check on local newspapers or some walk-in info related websites. Let me know if there is some.

– LinkedIn: There can be an altogether different post and even books on how to use LinkedIn for your search but to keep it short-

  • Join groups of your interest. Take part in discussions.
  • Connect with people working in your interest. Exchange few messages with them and see if they could be of help, if needed.
  • Try connecting with HRs who recruit for your interest.
  • Premium membership gives LinkedIn InMails. InMails have a reply rate of 3/10 and get refunded in 7 days of no-response. InMails are useful when you have found the person whom you want to contact to but don’t have their email-id or anything else.
    I got one of the major company’s reply via this. Possibly turning into a job interview rather than internship only. :)
  • Follow companies, check if they have internship openings.
  • Check LinkedIn recommended jobs and internships.
  • Read posts, follow leaders. Learn.

Pro Tip: LinkedIn offers one month premium membership trial, once a year. Use it strategically during the time you are searching for internship. I did the same. :)

– Emails/If there is a job, there is an internship too: Now this is something that I followed this time. The approach was simple, “if a company lists for a job (but not internship) in UI/UX field, I’ll apply for internship there.”

The approach was based on thought and confidence that the company needs a person to do the job and I am capable of that. I got 3 calls following this. And the company that I’ll be joining very soon is one of them. :)

It works as follows:

  1. Search for job in your field. Google/LinkedIn are of help.
  2. Learn about the company that is offering job. Does it appear to be a good place for internship?
  3. Try searching for HR of the company on LinkedIn. Or for an email ID for contact (like jobs@company.com) so that you can explain that the application is for internship not for job.
  4. Keep calm and wait for the good.

Since this is something that company is not actually not looking for, you need to be very smart in the way how you present yourself to get the attention and secure an interview call. This is why you need to work upon the communication skills specially email.

Quotes that inspire me:

  • Nobody’s gonna serve you success in plate. It’s upon you to achieve it.
  • Good things come to those who wait for it.

That’s all I have for now. I hope the article is of help. All the best! :)

Do leave your comments, feedback and constructive criticism as I am open to all. Since there is a long life that I have to look forward to, I’d love to improve early.

The original article was written for LinkedIn & reproduced on Internshala blog with author’s permission.

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