It’s intern *offer* season…

Hey everyone! I hope y’all had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with lots of fun… and lots of stuffing.

Before we begin, some quick notes:

First off, thanks to everyone who signed up over the last two weeks! It’s been really amazing to hear your feedback and to watch this thing steadily grow.

I also wanted to say a quick shout-out to everyone I met at the Forge conference two weeks ago in Chicago, where I joined a panel with Matt Rastovac (UIUC Founders), Anant Akash (intern.community), and Archita Mishra (Midway Ventures) talking about how to build entrepreneurial communities on college campuses. I really admire the effort these awesome people have put in to make their campuses better for students to start things and find meaningful work.

On that note – let’s get to the newsletter.


Question: “Hey Phil! I’m currently choosing between a few internship offers, one with [a big company, not a FAANG] in the San Francisco area, one with [a large startup], one in Boston, and one in New York City with [bank name]. I’m inclined to take the SF offer, but I think the NYC offer would look great on my resumé and would keep me closer to home if I decided to take a job there after graduation. What should I choose and why?”

Let’s unpack this question (also, if it’s not clear already, I modified the question heavily to avoid using specific company names; I work directly with a bunch of them so I’d rather not specifically name any of them).

When selecting an internship offer, there’s a few things I think you should keep in mind:

  1. Will this job pay me enough to live comfortably – not well, but comfortably – so money isn’t a concern? Just because you’re an intern doesn’t mean you should be taken advantage of. You’re doing real work, and while it’s reasonable that you wouldn’t be paid the same hourly rate as a full-time employee, you also shouldn’t be paid $20/hr for a software engineering job that normally pulls 5x that on the open market. No one is “doing you a favor” by hiring you – you’re doing them a service by working for them.
  2. Will this job give me opportunities to learn from highly skilled people who will actually be invested in my success? If you’re going to intern as part of a tiny software engineering division in a larger company that isn’t explicitly a “tech” company, you ought to do as much research as possible to understand how much opportunity for skill growth you’ll actually have while there; I’ve heard from plenty of students who did internships at companies with weak CS divisions where they got paid really decently, but didn’t learn much by the end of the summer. Internships are investments in your future; seek the highest possible return.
  3. Will this job give me solid networking opportunities (location, alumni network, etc) that broaden my pool of options? Never bank on a company giving you a full-time offer. If you’re good at what you do and widely recognized as good at what you do, you should assume you’ll be able to take your pick of good opportunities down the road; what matters, then, is that you’re in the position to be widely recognized as good at what you do. This is one place where location matters. I hate to say it, but if you do an amazing internship in Cleveland, OH and learn a ton but don’t have much of a chance to network with people who can get you solid referrals to opportunities at other companies… I’m not saying it’ll be a bad experience, but it won’t be asgood as if you intern in San Francisco and walk out with solid skills and a Facebook friends list that’s 500 friends larger than when you walked in.

That’s my checklist/rubric/whatever you want to call it. It’s pretty short, because I purposely didn’t include a bunch of things on it: company prestige, free housing, vacations/off-sites, full-time offer guarantees, etc.

I’ve seen companies offer a lot of perks to interns. Plaid, in San Francisco, offers a free trip to Mexico – to Cancun – to every intern. Readme.io flew their interns to Hawaii. YouTube flew some of their interns to Disneyland so they could test a new app. I have heard of companies paying interns upwards of $8k/month + housing stipend (looking at you, Tinder – who also offers free Tinder Gold to all their interns as an added perk).

Actually, here’s a list of what all the big tech companies paid their interns in 2016 (and pay’s definitely gone up since then):

Now that I’ve put all this in front of you, please listen to me when I say this:

Please, please, PLEASE do not select your offer based on the numbers you just saw.

It’s hard to do that – especially as a broke college student, likely with loans, who’s seen plenty of Instagram stories of teens living large in Silicon Valley as they work at companies with free snack bars stocked with TCHO Chocolate and Stumptown Coffee, in-between flying to company off-sites in Cancun and Tahoe.

It’s hard, but it’s necessary.

Got an offer that’ll pay you \$8k/mo + housing for three months during the summer? Nice, but your goal is to net an offer that’ll pay you \$8k+/mo for twelve months per year.

The goal is to get a full-time job after graduation that’s legitimately helpful to your career goals, and taking the Facebook offer if it’s not actually helping you achieve your goals isn’t better. Want to work in self-driving car tech? Take that Lyft offer in Palo Alto, but even if the Apple internship pays more, it’s not necessarily more helpful.

When evaluating offers, you should think about the possibilities to grow your connections and your knowledge, not solely your wallet.


Other cool stuff: how to negotiate a salary offer!

Since offers are starting to go out this time of year, you might be in the lucky position of having a bunch of offers to choose from (and if so, congrats!).

That’s why I thought this Medium article by Helen Zhang, a recent BU CS grad, might be a really helpful read.

Quoting her:

Earlier this fall, I found myself with 5 job offers from IBM, Disney, Capital One, Squarespace, and Appfolio. If I’m being 100% honest, I never thought in a million years that I would ever be so fortunate as to having that many offers in the first few months of my senior year… And sometimes, I do still question how I managed to pull it off… In addition to being so lucky as to have 5 offers — I somehow was able to successfully negotiate my compensation packages to be $35,000 more than the original value (in stocks, sign on bonuses & base pay). These series of events (namely, dozens of emails and phone calls) is what I’m summarizing here as my top tips for you to negotiate your first job!

I don’t want to steal her piece, so I’d advise you to go read itShe discusses a bunch of unwritten rules about salary/offer negotiation that most students don’t know – and really should.


Thanks, y’all 🚀

Thanks for reading this week’s issue! If you liked it, have an idea for how it could be better, or have a question for me, please don’t hesitate to email me directly at [email protected].