Some might say that I got incredibly lucky. At eighteen years old, I was perhaps the youngest intern in Microsoft’s thousand person intern class. Most of my fellow interns had three times as much experience as me, and I couldn’t help but wonder, “What am I doing here?”
Indeed, there’s no denying that I got very, very lucky to land such a prestigious internship at such an early age. But there’s more to it than just that.
The tricks below enabled me to get the right experience, flaunt it on my resume, get the attention of recruiters, and eventually land positions with Microsoft, Apple and Google.
Here’s a list of 10 things you can do to improve your chances to do the same:
- Start Something: Launching a small tech company, or just a project, can demonstrate virtually everything a tech firm wants to see: field expertise, passion for technology, initiative, leadership and creativity. Don’t have software development experience? Not to worry – you can hire an outsourced development team from sites like odesk and elance
- Create an Online Portfolio: Almost everyone can benefit from a portfolio. A simple web site with a description of your major accomplishments (both inside and outside of work) can provide more context than what your resume can provide. Recruiters may reference this after seeing your resume, but they might stumble across your portfolio online and give you a call.
- Get Out There (And Online): Online job boards are tough, and the best way around them is a personal referral. Attending tech events will help to build your network, but don’t forget about the online channels. Recruiters search for potential candidates on blogs comments, industry forums and Twitter. Being active on online – while providing a trail back to your portfolio – can be an excellent way to catch a recruiter’s attention.
- Make a Short and Sweet Resume: Let me tell you a little secret: recruiters don’t really read resumes. They glance at them, often for as little as fifteen seconds, before putting it in the ‘yes’ pile or the ‘no’ pile. For this reason, a short (usually one-page) resume is advantageous. This will ensure that the resume screener notices your most impressive accomplishments, without the mediocre items getting in the way.
- Focus on Accomplishments: Kill the fluff; no one buys into vague statements like “excellent problem solver.” A resume should focus on your accomplishments: concrete ways that you’ve made an impact, quantified if possible. Remember that your list of accomplishments goes beyond the “official” work that you’ve done. Any project that is reasonably substantial can be listed on your resume.
Gayle Laakmann McDowell, a former Google engineer, who interned at both Apple and Microsoft, is CEO of CareeCup.com. She’s the author of “The Google Resume” and “Cracking the Coding Interview.”
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