Whatever your chosen industry, an internship is usually the best way for you to get your foot on the ladder after graduating. This is typically low-paid work, and sometimes you will find yourself working for free; making coffees or running errands for people in high-up positions. But it is all experience, and this kind of placement will give you that first window into your chosen field.
While an internship will look great on your CV, it will also allow you to ‘trial’ working for a firm in your chosen sector, providing some idea of what the future position may hold. But remember – as well as being invaluable experience for you, it is also an opportunity to show prospective employers what you can do.
You should treat your internship like an extended interview. It’s important to make an impression right from the start. Securing a position with a reputable firm is no easy feat, even if it is unpaid. There will likely be hundreds of applicants, all with similar qualifications to you, so it’s important to make yourself stand out if you’re going to be in with a chance.
This means starting with your application. Remember, your covering letter is the first thing a prospective employer will see (even before your CV) so the pressure is on to make a great first impression and put yourself a head and shoulders above other candidates. You may interview well, but you also need to look good on paper to get past that initial application stage.
Firstly, spend some time studying other successful cover letters to gain some insight into what employers are looking for. It’s helpful if you can access applications relevant to your chosen industry – or even geared towards the organisation you’re applying to work for. You could ask family or friends who work in the field for advice, or you could look online.
There is a wealth of resources online to help candidates with job applications, but you may need to delve deep to find ones that are relevant to you. The best way to do this is by performing a Google search. If you’re applying for an internship with a bank, for example, try searching for ‘covering letter for finance internship’, and see what you find.
There are websites set up for this very purpose, but you may need to pay a small fee to gain access to the information you require. This is usually a small investment, and is well worth forking out for. This way, you’ll acquire invaluable access to inside knowledge of the industry you’re applying to work in – and maybe even the exact organisation.
These platforms will allow you to communicate with people who’ve been in your shoes, but now have successful jobs in the industry. Their advice is an incredibly useful tool, and can be used to help you target your application to certain employers and make the best impression.
Take note of the layout and format of the covering letters you see – all these little details will make a big impression on an employer, and could determine the difference between your application being top of the pile, or ending up unread.
Top organisations will receive hundreds – if not, thousands – of applications, and they may not have time to read every single one, so presentation is important.
If you’re not confident about your spelling or literary skills, why not ask a friend or family member to proofread your application for you? Alternatively, you may be able to find a professional online to do it for a small fee. It’s worth making these investments if you want to be taken seriously in your covering letter.