Many engineering internships don’t require previous professional experience, but most companies prefer candidates with proven expertise over those with only academic qualifications & technical skills on paper. So, how can a college student get an engineering internship with absolutely no professional experience?
To get an engineering internship with no experience, only apply to the right kind of internships, get involved in as many side projects as possible, and craft a polished resume to show your enthusiasm for the given position.
Ideally, find a substitute for experience. Exceptional academic abilities and extracurricular activities often impress potential employers. In this article, we will discuss secret tips that college students use to land engineering internships with no experience.
1. Leverage Letters of Recommendation & Self-Taught Skills
Letters of recommendation can compensate for an aspiring intern’s lack of experience. Any letter from a credible authority at your college or university, industry professionals, scholars & mentors, and organizations endorsing or acknowledging your practical skills can be effective.
The letters of recommendation don’t have to be limited to your engineering degree, academics, or lab classes. These letters may include your:
- Soft skills, whether behavioral or interpersonal
- Communications and leadership skills
- Time management
The other attribute you may highlight in your resume is any self-taught skills you may have developed over the years, whether within or beyond your academic curriculum. Like your technical prowess, every acquired soft skill and professional attribute will make a difference.
However, you must choose only the most relevant skills and letters of recommendation based on the opportunity. The resume, cover letter, and any supplemental document should not demand a lot of time from the recruiters, or they may ignore the application, perhaps unread.
2. Decide on Your Forte According to Your Engineering Major
Companies prioritize experience, even for interns, because they want people with demonstrated skills and familiarity with actual work environments. However, academic qualification is not a substitute for practical implementations of acquired skills, a reason why engineering undergraduates should sign up for lab classes and projects as early as possible in their four-year degree program.
One attribute that can substitute the experience required for engineering internships is expertise or forte. Every engineering field has a vast scope of implementation. Try to find a niche within your major that you excel in and turn it into your core expertise or forte for the first internship.
Take the example of computer engineering. You may specialize in:
- Robotics & cybernetics
- Distributed computing
- Embedded systems
- Network security
- Graphics & visualization
The hardware niche alone is an enormous spectrum, so are all the others.
Choose a forte if you have expertise in a particular segment of a selected major. Of course, every other aspect of your academic history and extracurricular achievements is still worthwhile. Still, this forte will set you apart and make your profile valuable for a recruiter or employer.
Also, you may want to work on a project or get involved in a program that provides you with tangible backing to establish your forte. Companies don’t restrict their assessment to academic and extracurricular projects. Individual projects in an engineering field have significance, too.
3. Get Involved in as Many Side Projects as Possible
Most applications to become an engineering intern look similar: close to no experience, a list of the same skills, and relevant courses passed with flying colors.
Getting involved in engineering projects during extracurricular activities or under the supervision of a professor will make your application stand out. It shows your enthusiasm and usually makes a strong impression on recruiters.
Engineering internships require insightful and dynamic thinking to solve real-world problems. Side projects are a unique opportunity to gain skills that are not taught in the classroom and show that you can work independently.
4. Write a Convincing Resume and Bespoke Cover Letter
A resume should be one page long, and the cover letter should not exceed four to five paragraphs unless a company asks for more information in the curriculum vitae. The two-page format does not offer much space, but you must accommodate all essential information.
The only way to write a convincing resume is by crafting it specifically for a particular engineering internship, not a generic profile, even if you tweak a few parts to suit the job description. Only the academic credentials and other factual information will be identical.
Take the example of ‘career objective.’ Generally, aspiring interns write a career objective based on their goals or ambitions. Many engineers, undergraduates or freshers, tend to have a broad stroke statement about their field. Such statements don’t impress, especially sans experience.
Create a career objective according to:
- The engineering internship opportunity
- Job role and description
- The responsibilities
- Your forte for the given application
- The interests or priorities of the company
A concise, customized, and employer-first or internship-specific career objective is more effective than a statement about academic, professional, and life goals.
5. Study & Prepare for the Engineering Internship Interview
Ideally, you should study and prepare even before you apply for an engineering internship. This research will help you to customize your application. Nothing else can facilitate a recruiter’s sifting the received applications and shortlisting your profile, except for highly relevant experience or a spectacular achievement in the field. Prepare for every application distinctly.
The secret to finding your way through the piles of applications, securing an interview, and finally impressing the recruiters is often readily available, more so now with infinite resources accessible online. Try to find one reason or more which you can leverage in your application.
The reason could be a pertinent issue a company is dealing with. This problem could be transient or topical in one place, or it could be systemic for the organization. Also, you may learn about the company’s topmost priorities regarding the job, interns, and entry-level employees.
Write a resume and cover letter based on your research and prepare for the interview accordingly. A lucid understanding of a company, its policies, vision, culture, and the focal points of an internship can empower inexperienced graduates or freshers and undergraduates.
6. Present One Unique Deliverable for an Engineering Internship
An engineering internship is a two-way street. Companies evaluate potential recruits and try to develop a talent pipeline. Likewise, engineering interns can assess if they wish to pursue a career with the organization in the foreseeable future. While you can explore possible career progression in due course, you must try to present at least one unique deliverable at the outset.
This unique merit doesn’t have to outperform professionals with many years of experience but your contemporaries, those with internship history, and other fresh graduates or current undergraduates. Also, the deliverable may not be entirely technical or restricted to your engineering major. The objective is to offer something of relevant value to the company.
A significant reason why some people scale up the ladder of success faster than others is their ability to solve problems to bring about changes that can script a new journey for a brand. Most chief technical officers, heads of departments, and senior executives reach those echelons through unparalleled contribution. Likewise, a unique deliverable makes you an eligible intern.
7. Follow Up in a Fortnight and Sustain a Networking Strategy
Last but not least, wait up to a fortnight or longer if explicitly asked to do so and follow up for an update. Even if you don’t secure an engineering internship after following all the steps in this guide, you must sustain the established contact as an integral part of your networking strategy.
Like employees, engineering interns quit, and some get fired. The recruiters may reconsider you in such instances or for other emerging opportunities if you don’t part ways completely. Professional networks should be sustained with as much commitment as the alma mater.
Where To Find Engineering Internships With No Experience
Here are ten mediums to find engineering internships with no experience:
- College or university placement office
- Alma mater and other associations
- Engineering job sites and internship portals
- Local or virtual job and career fairs
- Industry events, seminars, and webinars
- Official company listings online
- Social media and professional networks
- Direct inquiries: emails or cold calls
- References: personal and beyond
- Google Careers for jobs and internships
College or University Placement Office
Your college or university’s placement officer can provide all the available information regarding jobs and internships. The only shortcoming of this option is the typical limitation of a placement office. A placement office cannot provide information about companies not associated with it.
Alma Mater and Other Associations
Engineering graduates with no experience can rely on their alma mater and other students’ associations for myriad purposes. You may find mentors, resourceful seniors, and also future colleagues. Always leverage your college or university resources on campus and beyond.
Job Sites and Internship Portals
Many job sites have listings for internships. Plus, there are a few dedicated internship portals. You may find thousands of opportunities for engineering internships with no experience on these sites. However, as mentioned earlier, you should look for opportunities relevant to your forte.
Here’s a list of the popular engineering internship portals:
Local or Virtual Job and Career Fairs
Engineering undergraduates and freshers with no experience are no longer confined to their local job fairs. Now, you can attend virtual career fairs hosted practically anywhere in the country and worldwide. Job fairs are still a reliable medium to find engineering internships.
Also, many colleges and universities host job and career fairs. The University of Southern California hosts them twice a year, so does New York University. Private institutions like the American University in Washington D.C. also regularly host job & internship fairs.
Industry Events, Seminars, and Webinars
Like job and career fairs, industry events are also taking the virtual route. Even if a significant event is held at a popular venue, it may be streamed online with online participants. Consider industry seminars, local events, and webinars relevant to your engineering field & major.
Official Company Listings Online
The online classifieds and job or internship portals should provide you with sufficient opportunities to keep you busy for days, if not weeks. However, you should check the official websites of companies to learn about available internship opportunities that may be unlisted.
Also, many companies have a regular internship program. Some may induct interns once a year, and others may do so twice in twelve months. Keep a tab on these dates, be updated with information about the programs, and consider opportunities that are appropriate for your profile.
Social Media and Professional Networks
Most companies are active on social media now, and many share jobs and internships updates. If Elon Musk can tweet about Tesla looking for AI engineers, you can expect HR departments of many companies to do the same on all major social media platforms.
Also, you should use LinkedIn, the standout social network for professionals. The site is a treasure trove for internships, in general, and engineering jobs, among others. Platforms like YouTern use many online resources to compile internship opportunities, and so can you.
Direct Inquiries: Emails or Cold Calls
Companies like entrepreneurial interns that are proactive and already have an idea of their products or services, how they operate, what their policies are, and other information available in the public domain. Shortlist a few companies, email or call them, and ask about opportunities.
References: Personal and Beyond
Like the alma mater, your professors can be a reliable source of references and more resourceful, in some cases. Many companies & industry associations sustain a cordial network of access and exchanges with academia, and many professors & scholars are equally active.
Google Careers for Jobs and Internships
Google Careers should be among the list of job sites and internships portals, except for the singular reason that the platform is also a search engine and aggregator. Hence, you can explore all the above mediums while simultaneously navigating the lists on Google Careers.
Tips for Aspiring Engineering Interns With No Experience
Not all companies have engineering internships, and many do not hire freshers with absolutely no experience. However, there are hundreds of organizations that do. Here is a list of 100 companies hiring students, a vast majority of which welcomes interns and freshers.
All the information shared in this guide until now is relevant for all types of engineering internships, irrespective of the field, major, or desired career progression. Let us now discuss a few pragmatic ways to secure engineering internships in specific fields and for selected majors.
Mechanical Engineering Internship Tips
Almost 48,000 mechanical engineers graduate every year, and currently, there are around 300,000 jobs available in this field. An additional 21,000 new jobs may be available for mechanical engineers in the next 10 years. Evidently, the supply exceeds the demand.
These figures plummet when you consider only the entry-level jobs and filter them further to shortlist the available internships. Many of these internships may have experience as a prerequisite, but some might not. Thus, you must have a highly targeted and bespoke approach.
Consider engineering internship & co-op programs like Honeywell’s or become a motorsport engineering intern with Bosch. Check with your alumni if it has opportunities like these that are available for the mechanical engineering students of the University of South Florida.
Electrical Engineering Internship Tips
Electrical engineering is the second most popular field, with more than 30,000 graduates every year. Like mechanical engineering interns, this niche also has co-op programs and opportunities for freshers. For instance, DuPont has summer internships and co-ops for electrical engineers.
Also, you may look for specific electrical engineering internships, depending on your career objective. As an electrical engineer, you may want to pursue design, testing, controls, systems, or communications before taking on leadership roles in projects. Plan an internship accordingly.
Chemical Engineering Internship Tips
Chemical engineering undergraduates and freshers can use domain-specific resources to explore available opportunities. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers has several internship programs, some of which are for chemical engineering students and pay stipends.
You may explore government internships with the Department of Energy for recent graduates and summer students. The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) has a Summer Scholars program that does not require students or freshers with experience, but it asks for a 3.5 GPA or higher. You can find more information about such programs here. Also, There are corporate internships with AstraZeneca and Genentech. The American Chemical Society has several internships, too.
Aerospace Engineering Internship Tips
A quick search on LinkedIn will lead you to a few hundred aerospace internship opportunities. However, if you prefer a regular program, consider the likes of Boeing, GE, and Pratt & Whitney. These aerospace engineering internship programs are seasonal, so you can choose an appropriate time when you are ready, prepare accordingly, and then submit an application.
A noteworthy advantage of many of the internship programs cited here for mechanical, electrical, chemical, and aerospace engineers is the potential induction of entry-level professionals into their full-time workforce. Thus, these programs are worth exploring.
Furthermore, as an aerospace engineer, you can consider NASA’s Internships and Fellowships.
Similarly, you may explore the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s opportunities for engineering students. Like NASA, NOAA’s programs are not limited to ocean engineers. Those majoring in environmental engineering, robotics engineering, marine engineering, geoscience engineering, and biological engineering, among many others, can check out the available opportunities.
It is possible to get engineering internships with no experience. However, aspirants should focus on their forte and select relevant opportunities, not only from the employer’s perspective but also per their career objectives, acquired skills, and preferred pursuits in the foreseeable future.
Engineering internship opportunities are finite, like all jobs across sectors. Also, almost all unpaid internships, fellowships, paid internships and co-op programs are time-bound. Thus, it is imperative to prepare well, shortlist the preferred options in advance, and apply with a bespoke resume & cover letter.
- Chegg Internships: home page
- University of Southern California: General Career Fair
- New York University: Career Fairs
- American University: Job & Internship Fair
- Handshake: Top 100 Companies Hiring Students on Handshake Right Now
- American Institute of Chemical Engineers Internship Board: home page
- American Chemical Society: Internships for Undergraduate Chemistry Students
- NASA Internships: home page
- NOAA: Student opportunities