Trying to find internships can seem super daunting: some people just seem to magically find internships at big name companies while you’re still finding your bearings with your classes and joining clubs.
But fret not! There are tons of resources and opportunities at USC to help students find internships at tons of points throughout the school year.
I was lucky enough to land an internship my freshman year, and needless to say it was rather surprising to both myself and my peers that a biomedical engineering freshman was offered a software engineering internship after being in college for less than 3 months! But if internships are something you want to pursue, it’s nowhere near impossible for this to happen to you as well!
So many internships, especially in computer science and engineering, are very competitive so my biggest piece of advice is to start small! Before starting college I thought I knew exactly what I would end up doing with my life, but after the beginning of freshman year I realized that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career. I knew I liked biology and coding, but I definitely didn’t want to restrict myself to just those two possibilities. So, after I created a new resume in my ENGR 102 class (shoutout to my Freshman Academy Coaches who were super helpful in helping me figure out a career path), I went to every networking event possible: the engineering career fair, alumni panels, the general career fair, Trojan Talks, etc. I’d handed out my resume to a few people and filled out some applications online but I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My hopes weren’t high, especially considering I had just started college, but I knew there was no harm in trying. Then one day as I was leaving math office hours, I saw a poster for another career fair I hadn’t heard about yet — the startup career fair.
I was available for some of the startup career fair, and it seemed like a more casual event than most of the other ones, so I decided to spend some time and go! I printed out new copies of my resume, put on some sunscreen, and walked over to McCarthy Quad. There were a surprising amount of companies there, some famous, others that I’d never heard of but it was a bustling environment! Lots of students walking around and talking to people, lots of recruiters making conversation with passing students. There weren’t many bio-related companies around, so I looked more for companies that would match my computer science skills. I spoke to ~10 companies in the hour that I spent there (which is a lot for a career fair; most of the time you wait in long lines to talk to recruiters, but that was not the case at this event), and one specifically caught my eye. An aerospace and hardware engineering company founded by USC alumni that was looking 1) for a software engineering intern and 2) looking to expand their use cases from just the aerospace industry to biomedical purposes. It seemed like a perfect fit; I spent probably 20 minutes chatting with the recruiter there while a line formed behind me. But I was almost out of time before class, so I gave them my email and said thank you then ran off to class, hoping I had made a good impression.
Little did I know I had been talking to the CEO of that company! I received an email from them later that day, and ended up doing a small technical challenge that week which led to an interview with the CEO and Heads of Data Science and Engineering a couple of weeks later. Within a month I was given an offer to work for them over the summer in Santa Monica (and I was offered a salary better than internships at most major tech companies!) While I only ended up being able to visit the office a couple of times due to COVID, I worked ~40 hrs/wk over the summer and had a blast! Since I was one of their only interns, my schedule and workload was a lot more relaxed than internships tend to be. I even got to have the freedom to work on projects of my choosing, and I learned so much about software engineering, hardware engineering, and managing a startup.
I ended up working at this company for almost 9 months! They were so accommodating with my class schedule and my coworkers became very close friends of mine. Although I won’t be working there this summer, I still try to keep in touch with the team there and may work with them again in the future. I follow their company exploits on LinkedIn and still receive the occasional email from my old bosses. I can’t wait to see where our work ends up!