Best-Practice Tips for Success

First Things First

Prepare your presentation by having the following with you (or immediately accessible):
* résumé
* cover letter
* projects

Some Things to Think About

  • Get noticed (you might get 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 books from some of your projects and lots of drawings
  • Projects should be one- or two-page summaries for each
  • Be clear, concise, and well-designed graphically

Contact the Companies

Use the internship list but also come up with some ideas of your own. Start to figure out now where you want to work when you get out of school; this will help you target appropriate sites.

Contact the company first by phone and verify to whom information should be sent.

Send cover letter, résumé, and a few (no more than five) images of work you have done. This can be sent via email or regular mail.

If you send work by email, you need to figure out how to stand out from the rest (there are many students from other institutions throughout the world looking for internships here in the Bay Area).

Better to send the work by regular mail. Then, follow up by email to make sure they received it and to let them know you will contact them in a few days to talk about your work. Make sure you follow any guidelines for submission.

Strategy: 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 very 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.

Before the Meeting

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

  • Visit websites (the company's website, IDSA, Core77)
  • Read I.D. magazine, BusinessWeek, and the like
  • Talk to your professors to see what they know
  • Talk to upper-division students 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 without doing this; it may be your only shot.

Plan ahead. Confirm the appointment a day in advance (call or email).

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.

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.

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.

The Follow-Up

Send a hard-copy thank-you note via post, assuring them 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 or email, or both, 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 either way. You never know where it might lead.

You got the internship. Congratulations! Let the internship coordinator know so that we can get the registration paperwork done and celebrate.

Pick up the evaluation forms and the hours log from the Academic Services Office. They are in the forms rack just inside the door.

Turn in the completed evaluation forms and hours log at the end of the internship so you get credit for it. Failure to do this will mean no credit.