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Tips From a Recruiter: How to Stand Out During Your Tech Internship

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This blog originally appeared on RippleMatch on October 18, 2023.

Here's how you can make sure you’re squeezing everything you can out of your program.

Landing a high-quality tech internship has the opportunity to open so many doors, with the chance to network with industry leaders, engage with new mentors, and hone your skills in the industry. You may even learn about new cutting-edge technologies and discover a new passion of yours within the field!
But how can you make sure you’re squeezing everything you can out of your experience? 

To help you excel in your tech internship, we sat down with Hailey Smyrniotis, early talent program specialist at leading cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks, and Billy Hewlett, Palo Alto Networks director of AI research, who has hired and converted several successful interns over the years. 

Continue reading to hear their valuable insights on standing out as a top performer during your tech internship.

Be a Strong Collaborator In a Team Environment

When it comes to tech internships, collaboration is key. Employers want to know that you can work well in a team and apply your technical knowledge to solve problems with the assistance of colleagues.

“Collaboration is one of our company values at Palo Alto Networks, and it’s very important that all of our interns embrace teamwork when they join us,” Hailey said.

Establishing meaningful relationships within the workplace is not only beneficial for team cohesion but also instrumental in personal and professional development. Connecting with mentors and colleagues can broaden your perspective on your role and the team culture, as well as provide valuable insights into the tech industry.

“I set up mentors for every intern, and I want interns to have lots of questions. The benefit of asking different people for help is that interns can collaborate with lots of different experts, helping them network and understand the team culture,” Billy explained.

Part of strong collaboration is the ability to keep your team in the loop with progress and the ability to clearly communicate your ideas. Hailey comments, “make sure you let your team and manager know about the progress you’re making on your projects. Sharing updates helps everyone stay on the same page and makes your contributions visible.”

Take Initiative on Projects and Actively Seek Feedback

Another critical approach to stand out during your tech internship is taking initiative on projects and actively seeking feedback. Billy shares that, “asking questions and taking initiative is very important. I like to give interns a problem that is difficult but solvable in the short time that they are with us. They need to figure out the hard problems, and they need to have a real sense of urgency.”

Billy also emphasizes the importance of being proactive in implementing feedback and not shying away from suggesting improvements or new project ideas. Those who demonstrate a willingness to learn and take initiative will be remembered by the employer after their internship comes to an end.

Communicating early on with your mentor to set clear goals and expectations for your internship is a great way to ensure you are on track and delivering results. The earlier you have these conversations, the better!

“Our team hosts a session that teaches interns tips and tricks about asking for feedback from their manager; we know this can be a daunting task,” Hailey added. “The Early Talent team provides a session on the importance of feedback and how to ask for it in a professional manner throughout the summer.” 

Embrace Change and Adaptability

The pace of evolution in the tech industry is rapid and relentless. With the introduction of new programming languages, web development frameworks, and database management systems, the tech landscape is constantly altering. Demonstrating a willingness to learn and adapt to these changes shows your passion for the tech industry and proves you’re willing to put in the work necessary to stay on top of trends.

“In the fast-paced tech industry change is constant: Demonstrate how you are adaptable and willing to embrace change. Are you willing to learn new tools and technologies? Are you willing to pivot when priorities change and how will you proactively embrace change?” Hailey explained.

Being prepared with examples that highlight how you have embraced change in the past will help you stand out among other applicants. During your internship, be sure to document and showcase the learning experiences you obtain, such as courses, certifications, and activities that demonstrate your ability to adapt.

Maintain Post-Internship Connections

After your internship concludes, keeping the connections you’ve forged alive is important. Reach out to your team members and colleagues on platforms like LinkedIn. This not only keeps the lines of communication open but also allows you to stay updated on company developments. Billy advises, “I think it’s a good idea to keep in touch with your manager after your internship whatever your decisions are, tech can be a small place. I’ve had an intern that did really well and chose to go with another company and I have reached out to them years later. 

Bonus Tip: Approach the internship as a two-way evaluation process! As the company assesses your skillset, you should determine whether the company aligns with your long-term career goals and aspirations.

The tech world is ever-evolving and brimming with opportunities. Internships serve as a launchpad, providing a glimpse into this dynamic landscape and equipping you with practical experience. Whether you’re aiming for a return offer or using it as a stepping stone to explore other opportunities in the tech industry, it’s the skills you acquire and the connections you make that will steer your career trajectory.

Looking for a tech internship to gain real-world experience? Learn more about Palo Alto Networks and their opportunities here!

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