Tips for Success

First things first. Prepare your presentation: résumé, cover letter, and projects.

Work with Career Development to prepare for your internship. They can help with your résumé, portfolio, job search, and more! Don’t forget to search internship and job opportunities on CCA Works, Weekly Picks, and attend Career Expo to connect with employers.

Things to think about:
  • Networking! Get noticed (you might get only 15 seconds to make an impression).
  • Perfect is the enemy of the good!
  • A fully finished portfolio is not necessary to get an internship.
  • Show process work as well as final presentations.
  • Projects should be one- or two-page summaries for each.
  • Be clear, concise, and well-designed graphically.
How to contact the firms?

Research firms you believe to have a connection to your work. Firm websites are an excellent source of information about a firm’s mission, goals, project types, professional bios (alumni networks!), work on the boards, and positions available.

  • Contact the company first by phone and verify to whom your application materials should be personalized.
  • Send a PDF of a formal cover letter, résumé, and a few pages (no more than five) of images of your sample work. This can be sent via web link or email.
  • If you send work by email, be sure that your file is a PDF of maximum 5MB and references your name. (i.e., Susan Smith_Architectural Intern.PDF).
  • The body of your email should be consistent with your cover letter.
  • Your cover letter and sample work should distinguish you from your peers (there are many students from other institutions throughout the world looking for internships here in the Bay Area). Adhere to conventional, elegant graphic layout, but allow your words and images tell your story.
  • Follow firm guidelines for the submission of your application materials. Many firms have FTP sites that facilitate the application process. Be sure to learn if this system applies to the application process before you follow up with the firm.
Strategy: How to request a face-to-face meeting?

Don't ask for an internship! Instead, ask for a meeting to review your work. If you say you are looking for an internship, it puts the person on the other end of your communication in a tough situation. Currently the company may not be looking for an intern. Or they may be looking for one, but the intern supervisor may not have time to meet with you. Or they may need someone but haven't officially set the internship hiring process in motion.

Often the person you talk to will say, "We are not looking for an intern right now," or something like that. You need to get your foot in the door, literally. One strategy is to ask the person you are contacting if they can meet with you to review your portfolio or work you have done to date in college.You want feedback from a professional. That's it. This sets up a good first meeting feeling and agenda. All the person is committing to is a meeting to discuss and give feedback on your work.

If you cannot get a meeting, do not push too hard. This may create a bad impression for future opportunities.

How to prepare for the meeting?

You get the appointment! Do your homework. Learn as much about the company as you can:

  • Visit websites (company websites, local chapter AIA job boards, Archinect, SF BAYA Facebook page, and so on).
  • Read national and international press. Find information on local firms that have been published.
  • Talk to your professors, peers, and alumni to see what they know.
  • Talk to upperclassmen who have already done internships.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Practice your presentation at least three times with someone. Get comfortable with your material. Do not go in cold; it may be your only shot. Career Development can help you practice by doing mock interviews.
  • Plan ahead. Confirm the appointment a day in advance (call or email) and ask with whom you will be meeting (i.e., project manager, design principal, project architect, HR)
  • Dress casually, but presentably: clean, ironed shirt, pants, skirt, and so forth. Suits are not necessary. Ask your instructors if you have questions.
  • Be on time, or even a few minutes early. Do not be late. Give yourself time to stop sweating from the walk or bike ride you took to get there.
  • Be courteous, professional, and articulate in all of your interactions with any staff.
How to approach the meeting?

Show the person your work and engage them in discussion. If you have prepared in advance, you will have questions about the company.

  • Before beginning the conversation, clarify how much time you have for your conversation.
  • Be pleasant and as articulate as possible. Be clear when you explain your work.
  • Be accepting of criticism. Take notes!
  • Ask for a tour of the office.
  • During the conversation, if it seems appropriate, ask if they hire interns. In some cases, the person you are meeting will volunteer this information before you ask. If the situation is awkward, don't bring it up.
  • When you leave, say "thank you".
How to follow-up after the meeting?

Send a thank-you note via postal mail and let them know you will keep in touch.

Check in every month or so and ask about a follow-up meeting for an internship. Now, since they know you, the second meeting will be easy!

You get an ambiguous or no response. They keep saying, "Call me next week," "We are busy, but aren't ready to hire," "We are waiting for this job to come through," and the like. What this means . . .

They aren't ready to hire, so keep your options open and go on other interviews and meetings. Don't wait around for this one opportunity. Have as many irons in the fire as you can.

No one returns your phone calls or emails. This means they are busy, and the internship isn't the first thing on their to do list. Keep trying until you get in contact with someone, even if it means you have to call and/or email weekly.

If you begin to feel too uncomfortable, stop. You want to be persistent without harassing anyone.

You are rejected. No one likes it, but get used to this. It's impossible to please everyone, and people are entitled to their opinions. Part of the job of finding an internship is finding a place where you want to work. If one potential employer doesn't feel the fit, that is OK. Just accept it, thank them, and move on to your next choice. You will likely have many meetings and interviews before you get the one you want.

Keep in touch with them either way. You never know where it might lead.

You get the internship. Congratulations! Contact the Internship Coordinator and give them the Learning Contract in advance so they have time to research and give site approval before the internship begins.

International students will also give the CPT form to sign before turning into ISAP for authorization to work.