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General Discussion

How to get an internship with limited experience?

Hi treehouse family,

Like many of you on here im trying to take that first step into the web developer industry but im finding it increasingly hard to do so and feel frustrated that at this point that I sometimes feel like I have no chance especially in the hot market of the SF Bay Area. My first chance was blown when I was called in to a face to face interview at a Bay Area startup for a QA gig last week, it seems like they needed way more experience and depth that I could give and unfortunately I was turned away almost immediately!

My question is how does one get that vital experience needed to get my foot in the door. It seems like most web startups just want people who already well established for an internship, but will look over you if you dont have deep coding skills despite you wanting the job really bad and being really passionate about what you do!

4 Answers

The good thing is that you have the numbers on your side. There is a huge tech talent shortage, so there are a lot of companies looking for help. That doesn't mean that google is hiring any intern they can find, but it does mean there there is plenty of opportunity to gain some experience helping build a site for a smaller client than something the likes of Google. I am not sure the level of the startup you tried out for, but there are tons of businesses that will take any help offered. When I first started out, I interned (for free) for a couple friends who were starting out ecommerce stores online. I was able to get the experience I needed because I knew the guys I was helping out personally, so see if you have any friends that may need some web work done. Even if it is a small project building out a friends online portfolio or something, that will give you valuable experience, and if you do a good job (worth showing to an employer on a job interview) you can add it to your online developer portfolio. Your portfolio is one of the things that will help you out the most come interview day.

I wrote an article on my experience learning how to code & getting my first developer job in hopes I might be able to help others that are starting out just like I did, but if I were to give you one quick paragraph of advice:

When you are starting out take on projects no matter the size, because you never know where they might end up leading you. Go to meetup events and cool stuff like Startup Weekend etc. You cannot wait to be discovered, you have to build your own empire of skill and make it hard for an employer to say no. It takes time to get there, but it's incredibly rewarding.

Aaron Walton
Aaron Walton
3,557 Points

It would be more accurate to say that there was a tech talent shortage but hiring has slowed dramatically since last summer.

Eric Murphy
Eric Murphy
407 Points

Hello Warsama Gabriel,

Don't feel discouraged about not getting a job. I have had a BA in computer science for web development, now for 6 months. I have had plenty of interviews and still no job. I live on the east coast not to far from Baltimore and the DC area. You would think it would be easy, well it's not.

Every company that I have talked with wants you to know everything under the sun and have 5+ yrs experience doing so, along with a degree. No one around here, even the smaller companies want to hire someone coming straight from school. My thing is how are you to get job experience without work???

So, I decided to start freelancing to get that experience. Yes the pay isn't all that great, but the end goal is the experience. There is lots of ways one can freelance. Some are writing your own templates or themes (regular html or for an open source project like wordpress or Drupal), create a plugin of some type, do PSD to HTML conversions, sign up at freelancer.com, and many other ways.

Another thing I might point out to is to pick one thing you like doing and get really good at it, like html, css, javascript, etc.. Then move on to the next language. The more you know the better you will be all the way around.

Best of luck with your endeavors,


Hey Riley, thanks for the response ive read your blog before and it really meant a lot to me as I can relate to everything you went through. Its just that im going through a pretty dark time right now and that intern position would have totally helped!

I do agree that having a portfolio is important but for me it seems that I have so much information to go through before I feel like I should attempt my own project. CSS HTML, JQUERY etc. I have several subscriptions on different sites like treehouse but I still have a long way in covering all of the technologies used today. Ultimately I do have that big project in the back of my mind which is an electronic music app but have no idea how to even start it!

Money is also a huge problem for me right now and I cant lie about that but it would be so awesome if I could get some kind of help while working and studying programming full time as an intern. Obviously prospective employers see my enthusiasm and drive but im routinely turned away because im not skilled enough. Whatever happened to giving someone a shot/chance??? who knows him or her could be the best hire they ever had!

When starting out, it is important to pick projects that are much more 'small picture' than 'big picture'. If you like music, you can totally start making some really cool stuff by using API's from stuff like SoundCloud, but making something big picture like a social music site will probably burn you out before you can complete it enough to get stoked on your own work. If you're short on ideas, a good spot to start is make your own personal website where you can both develop your skills, showcase your work, and write about your experiences. You'd be surprised how much you end up learning when just setting up a wordpress, theme, and start messing with the internal settings/code.

Just keep in mind, some of the smartest people in the world have been turned down at interviews. You can't really blame a company. Many need to develop quickly, and may not have the support structure to help teach a greenhorn and grow their business at the same time. Many people's lucky breaks come from personal referrals (mine did), which is why going to meetups, and networking like a champ is super important. You can't expect to walk into an interview with a blank piece of paper and a good attitude and come out with a job. You're going to need to prove that you're as kick-ass as you are, and show the interviewer that passing you by would be a mistake.

Thanks riley your such a big inspiration to me you dont even know it lol! It is true that im super into electronic music and programming and I really want to do something with that marries the two!

I think you nailed it on the head for me. Thanks!

James Barnett
James Barnett
39,199 Points

> If you like music, you can totally start making some really cool stuff by using API's from stuff like SoundCloud

With an API can make tons of cool stuff with them and there are so many to choose from.

Investigate the companies that you'd like to work for. If they have job openings and you feel you're not qualified then save the job listing and familiarize yourself with each of the technologies listed. KEEP MAKING STUFF! Blog about things. If you run into an issue blog about how you solved it. If you Googled your name what would come up? When you apply for jobs thats generally the first thing thats done. To get my foot in I made connections and stayed in touch. I was respectful of their time and gave them quick updates of what I was working on.