Written by Rafael Musa, iXperience '14 (Coding), Stanford University
After a year and a half, the college routine of going to class and completing assignments has become familiar and comfortable. I’m now good at choosing appropriate classes, managing my time to make sure I complete all my well-structured assignments, and squeezing as many minutes of sleep as possible out of each day. Unfortunately, real life does not have a syllabus detailing everything that’s expected of me that I can refer to on a weekly basis. Real life is hard.
One of my first stabs at real life was getting an internship for next summer.
I updated my resume, made it look nice, and went to some career fairs at the start of the year. Career fairs are terrible places. They’re invariably hot and crowded and you have to do the usual small talk with every single recruiter before getting to what you really want to know (what kinds of skills are you looking for? Here’s my resume. Do I need to do anything else to apply?). I talked to a bunch of companies and sold myself as best as my introverted self allowed me to.
After the career fair, I think luck plays some role in determining who gets through. If you’re lucky, some recruiter is going to spend a whole minute looking at your resume before deciding whether to offer you an interview. As you’re waiting for some email about next steps, maybe you’re thinking about the hundreds of other people in your CS classes and at the job fair, who in your mind are undoubtedly all more experienced and better qualified than you. Honestly, I was too engrossed in the quarter’s usual grind of assignment after assignment to stress about it. I never heard back from most of the companies I talked to. Actually, I only ever heard back from two.
Ok, I’m past the initial resume screen. Now I just have to do well on the technical interview. Sounds nerve-wracking. (It is.) Some companies do phone interviews, some send a recruiter to campus, and some of the bigger ones even fly you out to their headquarters so you can be interviewed. They tell you to prepare. Know your data structures and be sure to go online and work through some example interview questions! I certainly would if normal schoolwork didn’t already feel like two full-time jobs. Preparing is essential though, because this isn’t a usual college assignment where you have a whole week to think about the problem and you can discuss it with friends over dinner. You have fifteen minutes and ideally you should have a fully functional solution up on the whiteboard when time is up.
But things are rarely ideal. I nailed some interviews but I definitely messed a few up. The process can be tiring, especially on top of just the stress of the usual college issues. However, perseverance is key, and every bad interview is good practice for future opportunities.
After job fairs, phone calls, email exchanges, interviews, and time spent preparing, I received an offer to intern at Facebook next summer.
I’m sure everything I learned in Cape Town will be very useful on the job and I’m very excited for the summer and to think about what I can do next. Although the Bay Area is not as exotic as Cape Town, I hope I’ll be able to say that next summer was even better than last summer.