At Chapter Friday, we hardly hire interns. Of course, it crossed our minds several times – we work with a small team and have big dreams. That said, an internship isn’t something to take lightly. It’s not free labor. Every intern deserves good quality full-time mentorship and due to hectic schedules, we can’t provide something like that (crossed fingers it will change in the future).
But then, something happened. We got an internship application from Janine last December that blew us away. Her cover letter is the perfect example of how to make a good impression and literally made us change our minds. We were dying to meet this girl who could point out so clearly what she wanted, expected and drew our attention from the very first sentence. We agreed to a part-time internship construction and off she went (read her stories here, here, here and here). Sad to say, our wonderful Canadian lady is leaving us soon. That’s why we asked Janine (you can follow her adventures on Instagram) to share her thoughts on cover letters as she’s killing it – although she wouldn’t admit it ;).
Here she comes:
Internships feel like you’re 16 again; you’re not old enough to sit with the adults but not young enough to sit at the kid’s table. You’re at a point where you’ve learned a lot through your education but haven’t quite made it into the professional realm just yet. It’s a weird in-between.
But sometimes, that weird in-between is where you strive to learn, grow, and hustle towards your goals. That’s where internships come in. They’re to fuel your hustle and goals.
I wouldn’t consider myself an “expert” at internships – I’m still learning and understanding how to make the most of them – but, from my experience I’ve had, even here with Chapter Friday, I want to share in this post.
I’m Janine, Chapter Friday’s editorial intern. I’m from Toronto, but studying in Utrecht for the semester and thought I’d look into possible internship opportunities to really make the most of my months in the Netherlands. I’ve been reading Chapter Friday for ages now, even before I started my own blog four years ago. So when I recognized they were an English publication based in Amsterdam, I knew I had to take this opportunity and reach out.
There are internship opportunities all around you. But success to scoring your dream internship doesn’t happen by sitting in your bedroom and scrolling through job postings. Stop searching online and start searching offline. Being immersed in the industry of your interest is essential to succeeding. Look out for events to network not only with professionals but also others who are in the same boat as you. If you don’t choose to attend events, talk to your professors, your friends, and even your family. The world is a small place and you’ll never know the connections that people have. When I go to conventions and conferences, I try to challenge myself to approach people. Just by talking to someone is how you can learn about a new start-up or company that has the same ideals as you. Following up with those people you meet can give you ideas about new internship opportunities.
Impressions through Email
Emails are my go-to method to pitch myself to a potential internship opportunity. My email to Chapter Friday back in December is one of my proudest, mostly because I wrote it genuinely and honestly. Before I started drafting the email, I reflected on what I wanted to say and as a whole, what I want to come across in my pitch to intern for them. And that theme was my drive and genuine passion for Chapter Friday and writing.
Here’s my outline:
1. A brief introduction about me, my goals and my mission
2. Next, I went into my relationship with Chapter Friday as a reader, sharing my favorite articles and what it has meant and continues to mean for me in my life.
3. The pitch: What did I have to offer to Chapter Friday? What were my ideas? Why did I choose to approach them?
4. I added relevant links which in my case was my portfolio on my website that also housed links to my social media accounts. I also a brief paragraph with a couple links on my previous experience. I like linking my work rather than jumping right into attaching a resume because attaching documents can be a hassle; sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. My theory was if the Chapter Friday team was interested to see my resume and CV, I would be happy to send it over.
5. Wrapping it up with my thank you, and eagerness to join.
I try to keep things sweet and to the point; keeping stories short and linking previous work rather than listing them all in an email. Preventing yourself from writing paragraphs and paragraphs and rather really narrowing down on what you want to say is probably one of the hardest parts of crafting an email. Once you get that down though, revise, revise, revise (and make sure there are no errors!)
This notion of unpaid internships is tricky. It raises tons of questions: “Am I just being taken advantage of for free labor?” “Is my work not valued enough to be compensated for?” “When is it acceptable to take up an unpaid internship?” I wish I knew the answers to those questions but I think at the end it really depends on you. For me personally, I know my value and I will only ever accept an unpaid internship if I know I’m not being overwhelmed with work I should be getting paid for or taken advantage of, but also if the experience is worth a replacement for compensation. I do think there is a line though with unpaid internships because, after some time, you can no longer just use the “experience” as an excuse. You’re skilled, you work, and most importantly your time is valuable, not that money should determine that value, but that you need to live as well without worrying about monetary struggles.
Making the most of your internship
What happens after you get an internship and you start working? I think most people try to do anything and everything to make themselves useful, which is great, of course! But I also like to take the chance to ask questions and observe how things work. I learn through observation. For example, during meetings I think there is pressure to always be contributing something new, especially as a new intern. But from my experience, I like to focus on the interactions, the ideas, and critically thinking through things before I am confident in what I want to contribute.
Overall, talking and especially working with others with similar aspirations and goals as you is motivating. Being around and communicating with like-minded people only brings you further towards your dreams. I firmly believe in that. If you surround yourself with people who are negative and don’t hustle, you will become that too. The energy of others is very contagious, so make sure the energy is positive.