It’s that time of year again. The time when college students across the nation begin to get bombarded with the unavoidable question: “Where are you interning this summer?” We live in a wonderful world where people start looking for summer internships in the heart of winter (SIX months in advance), and if you aren’t on your game, all the coveted internships will be gone before you can say “March. And so the crusade of endless cover letters, resumes and applications begin!
Normally we think of the so-called perfect cover letter as one that highlights all our talents, brags about every activity we have ever done and shows that we are a perfect match for the job. Okay, I think you should sit down for the next part of this. It seems that maybe employers aren’t always looking for the “perfect” cover letter. Gasp! At least, top employers on Wall Street seem to think so. Very recently, an undergraduate student sent a very honest and humble cover letter to a Wall Street financial exec saying that he came from an average university and he wasn’t going to waste the employer’s time “inflating his credentials.” The student went on to say that even though he doesn’t have any extraordinary skills or “genius eccentricities,” he is a hard worker and he would be very willing to do anything for next to nothing (e.g. fetching coffee, shining shoes, picking up laundry…).
So this got me thinking. What can we learn from this cover letter, and what are some other good tips (not “perfect” tips) to make a good professional cover letter?
1. For anything you write in the future, sometimes a personal touch makes it all the better! Instead of addressing the cover letter “To whom it may concern,” take a few extra minutes to figure out who your cover letter is actually going to! Writing “Dear So-and-So” could actually help the employer relate to you better and make you stand out!
2. Here is a no-brainer: always be respectful. Thank the person you’re applying to for taking the time to read your cover letter and always maintain formal language.
3. Make your cover letters short and sweet. Especially when you are applying to a more formal internship, like one on Wall Street. Employers don’t have time to read every word, and usually the less time they have to spend, the happier they are!
4. The biggest thing we learned from this student is: don’t lie about/inflate your skill set! Honesty goes a long way, and if you are putting a laundry list of things you have haven’t really done, employers will start to see through it. Just include two or three activities that you are passionate about/ devoted a lot of time to that fit with the internship you are applying to, but make sure you are not cocky about your accomplishments.
5. Finally, show that you are enthusiastic about the job! This kid was so enthusiastic he clearly stated that he would shine shoes if he had to. Maybe you shouldn’t go to that extreme but you get the idea…
Try these tips out and tell me how your internship pursuits go!
[Lead image via Stephen VanHorn/Shutterstock]