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What things should an intern look for in an internship outside of the amount paid?

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closed as off topic by Yannis Rizos Mar 7 '12 at 6:56

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Probably belongs at programmers.stackexchange.com –  Michael Mar 28 '11 at 19:34

8 Answers 8

up vote 2 down vote accepted
  • The opportunity to apply your knowledge in practice, in larger systems than you've seen previously
  • The opportunity to learn new technologies
  • Interesting people in the organization where you're interning
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The other answers are the really important parts. But I would add:

  1. Free soda pop
  2. Offices (not cubicles)
  3. Free lunch (or at least donuts)
  4. High powered computers
  5. Dual large monitors
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Apart from the paycheck and be with the technology that you would like to work with, I would also recommend looking at opportunities to start building your professional network. In many ways, your internship is the start of your professional career, not after you graduated. The work that you see and the people that you deal with are the "real deal", so it is an incredible opportunity to start networking and start exposing yourself to the professional world.

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Make sure you get a recommendation letter at the end

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Look for a company that you would be interested in working for after you graduate, since this is your chance to test that sort of company to see if you really like it. Your internship might also lead to a full-time offer upon graduation, so you want to pick somewhere where a full-time offer would be a Good Thing.

You also want to be reasonably confident that the company is interested in mentoring you and helping you grow (and maybe become an employee after graduation), and isn't just looking for cheap labor to do their scutwork. The former will give you useful experience and hopefully build your passion. The latter will get you started with a jaded outlook on software engineering, and could kill your self-confidence (because they may not be prepared for the limits or mentoring needs of an intern).

You want something that will look good on your resume. A well-respected company name, an interesting product, or a conversation-worthy project that you can discuss in future interviews should be involved.

While the paycheck shouldn't be the reason for taking the job, the paycheck is a sign of how much respect interns get at that company. Getting paid more implies other good things about the internship (they value their interns, they see interns as a long term investment, etc.), so do let money sway your decision.

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The best internships include working closely with more senior developers who are genuinely interested in helping. Know that typically interns consume a lot of resources from regular employees relative to how much you'll produce. That's expected. But for that reason there are a lot of devs who don't much care to mentor and/or help interns succeed so you'd want to avoid those.

Beyond that, gain as much experience with good technology as you can.

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While there is a potential to get good pay (relatively speaking, compared to working at a grocery store), being an intern is more about the experience you get while at work.

You should try to find a position where there is a mentor, or otherwise senior employee, that is able to take a bit of time outside of working on his own projects to show you "the way." That is not to say that he will be teaching you a certain language and/or framework; more showing how the software industry works and how software development as a process takes place, at least in that company.

You will mostly get somewhat tedious and menial tasks at first to learn the codebase and prove your worth, but hopefully after a few weeks/months they will let you start working on real projects.

Then if they really like you, they may ask you to stay on for full-time work.

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Better to watch good programmers in action than fetching coffee and searching for white papers. –  JeffO Mar 29 '11 at 2:47

You'll want to be getting good experience and working with good technology...That's all that really matters. Paid internships are nice, but you'll want internships that look good on your CV. A paid internship where you don't do anything is a complete waste.

Other than that, you're unlikely to see any real benefits. Interns are bottom tier pseudo-employees, and are seldom considered to be any kind of asset.

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