Education is vital, professional and volunteer experience is helpful, but perhaps nothing will better prepare you for your future career than an internship. If you've read a posting for one that you believe is an ideal match, you'll want to write a letter of intent to express your interest and suitability for it. Approach this important task in a humanistic way, with your goal being to give the internship sponsor key insights into who you are as a person: your motivations, your passions and your goals. Remember that your resume will enumerate the details of your life; your letter of intent ought to enable the internship sponsor to envision who you are until an interview completes the picture you've painted.
Embark on a brainstorming exercise after reading the internship posting and highlighting key words and phrases. Structure a list with four columns: your academic achievements, skills, personal attributes and goals. Identify the symmetrical ideas between the internship sponsor's objectives and your potential contributions. Jot down words and phrases, which will serve as fodder for your letter of intent.
Pack some punch with an opening paragraph that culls the main themes of your letter: that you are a serious student who has the skills and attributes necessary to make substantial contributions to an organization whose mission mirrors your own. Dazzle the sponsor with your enthusiasm for the internship in the last sentence. Remember that other students probably will be competing for the same internship and that the sponsor wants to award it to a student who stands the benefit the most from it -- and truly wants it, too.
Continue to follow the “map” you drew in your opening paragraph by hitting the high points of your academic achievements. Single out your honor society inductions, awards and campus involvements. Don't be hesitant to show your pride and especially your enthusiasm. Small touches -- such as saying that you're a “proud member” of an honor society or that you are “thrilled” to serve as a member of a campus organization -- will demonstrate that you're an upbeat, positive person -- and exactly the type of person the organization will want to have around as an intern. .
Segue to the professional skills you have honed through part-time jobs or volunteer opportunities. The more you can connect your academic history with your work history, the more purposeful and serious-minded you will appear to the internship sponsor. For example, you might say something like, “While I believe my courses have prepared me well for my future career, I also have found challenges in...” or “While I value the academic rigor I have found in my courses at ABC University, I also value the real-life challenges I have found in...” Shed light on what you did and what you learned and why you value both.
Merge two key ideas in the fourth paragraph: that you believe your background makes you “well suited” for the internship while explaining why you want it. Demonstrate that you've done your homework on the organization by explaining what it is about it that appeals to you and how the internship represents an ideal conduit to accomplishing your goals in the field.
Close your letter with an upbeat, forward-looking message. Express your interest in meeting to discuss the internship during an interview. Provide your contact information. Strive for a classy last statement, such as: “Until then, I thank you kindly for considering my candidacy for this exciting opportunity.”
Give yourself the benefit of time -- and revisions -- to craft a letter of intent that truly sounds like you. Write it, put it away, return to it, read it out aloud, tweak it and start over, if necessary. Proofread it carefully. Writing is a recursive process; an internship could very well be the steppingstone to the career you dream of. Don't sidestep the former on your way to securing the latter.
- University of California, San Francisco: Application Materials: Presenting Yourself Well on Paper: Letter of Intent
- University of California, San Diego: Letter of Intent
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Quick Content Tips for Cover Letters
- Virginia Tech: Cover Letters: Types and Samples
- Colorado State University: Writing Guide: Business Letters
- Writing Forward.com: 21 Proofreading and Editing Tips for Writers
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