Contrary to popular belief, getting an internship or co-op your freshman year is easy for many students at RIT. However, it largely depends on the field. Everyone I know in Computing Security who tried to get a co-op freshman year got one. I snatched a co-op at Deloitte’s 30 Rockefeller headquarters my second week of school. Some of my closest friends received co-ops at technology companies, banks, and universities.
In most cases, “internship” and “co-op” are synonyms. They are synonymous in this post.
Why is it important to get a co-op your freshman year?
Your first co-op is the hardest to get. Furthermore, your first co-op is rarely your ideal co-op if you dream of working at a hyper-selective company. In other words, if you are a technology student, your first co-op is rarely at high-performing, Silicon Valley/Trading (SVT) companies.
When I applied to co-ops freshman year, most companies flat out rejected me or never responded. I only interviewed for two companies, and I applied to over fifty companies before receiving an offer at Deloitte.
When I started applying to co-ops my sophomore year, I averaged three interviews per week for two months by applying via company websites. For most companies, I did not have a referral. By the end of the fall semester, I received five offers; one of which was on Offensive Security Internship at a MANGA company. Although the MANGA gig may be slightly rare, receiving multiple offers is standard after your first security co-op, as employers know you are somewhat responsible, and the cybersecurity field is in high demand.
🌸👋🏻 Let’s take this to your inbox. You’ll receive occasional emails about whatever’s on my mind—offensive security, open source, academics, boats, software freedom, you get the idea.
SVT happens to be the most selective in tech, but that does not mean that they are the most likely to make you happy. I just wrote about SVT because some kids feel like failures if they do not get into SVT for their first internship. Furthermore, some kids treat SVT as the only respectable companies to work at, which is untrue.
How do I get my first co-op?
(1) Create an elevator pitch
Memorize your elevator pitch for in-person and online interviews, but also have a written pitch to use at online fairs.
(2) Create and or improve your resume
You can get your resume reviewed informally by clubs like RITSEC, RIT’s Cybersecurity Club, and the Society of Software Engineers (SSE). Additionally, your Career Service Coordinator (CSC) should review your resume once or twice. Be careful! You need to schedule appointments with CSC’s far in advance because they are busy.
Some students exclude their graduation year or year level to get more interviews. Removing graduation year has a high success rate for many underclassmen because companies are most interested in juniors and seniors, who can quickly convert to full-time employees.
Making direct connections at companies through alumni, friends, and professors is a great way to get your foot in the door. Once you make connections, you can cite them as a reference when you apply. You can also mention your connections to recruiters at career fairs and through direct messages on LinkedIn.
(4) Attend as many career fairs as possible
The best career fairs are the ones that are specific to your field (e.g., the Women in Cybersecurity Bi-Annual Career Fair). Fewer people will attend these, making it easier to talk to recruiters.
(5) Career Fair Reconnaissance
One or two weeks before the career fair, look at all the companies who will be attending. Career fair reconnaissance will help you determine which companies will be worthwhile in terms of interest.
(6) Apply to companies
Apply to all the companies that interest you. Since this is your first co-op, you should not be too selective. Applying to companies before attending the fair is crucial because most recruiters will ask if you applied to any positions. If you say “no,” they will push you aside.
(7) Print out resumes and business cards; pick out your outfit.
This step is making sure that there is no added stress on the day of the fair. You should also email your professors if you need to skip their class to attend the fair.
(8) Attend the fair
General advice for all fairs
- Contact information
- Always ask recruiters for their business cards or email, so you can contact them later.
- Always connect with them on LinkedIn after the fair with a message like “Hi [name], this is [you name] from [fair name]. It was great talking with you today about [things]. Let’s connect!”
- Wait a few days and follow up. Specifically, ask about when you can expect to hear back about [position x]. (Position X being a position you applied for).
- Five minute plan
- Send your written elevator pitch to every company that interests you. I do this during the first five minutes after the fair opens.
- Away clause
- Add a clause in the pitch, which states that if you do not immediately respond, you need to attend class and that if recruiters DM you their contact information, you will reach out. This clause allows you to schedule interviews after the fair, making it easier to do more interviews in total.