Internships I: Your Initials Are Not a Ligature

Right about now, midway between freaking out about fall final reviews and spring final reviews, architecture students take a break to freak out about getting a summer internship. DUAL has been very lucky to find great interns over the years, and so we're sharing their secrets of success. Here are the first two:

Overrated: Email

Underrated: Documents

We try to acknowledge every legitimate inquiry we get with a response, but not every firm does. That might be because they're overwhelmed, uninterested, or because the sender ignored the format or process the firm asked for. Whether or not it's acknowledged, however, it's pretty likely that at least one person HAS seen your email.

Has someone actually read it? Less likely. That's not a knock on you, that's just email! Like multilevel marketing schemes and unseasonably warm weather, today's world has too much of it.

Email is no more than a container for your documents: cover letter, portfolio, resume. These will show an employer way more about you, and be much more interesting to read, than a long email. The email text needs only a couple (properly spelled, capitalized and punctuated) sentences saying that you're interested, and why.

Overrated: Portfolios

Underrated: Resumes and Cover Letters

Portfolios get all the attention from students, and of course they are important. But portfolios are heavily influenced by the culture of a school, and they only show how good someone's studio work is. They provide little basis to judge how effective someone can be as an intern.

That's where the other documents come in. If we had to pick just one thing to assess an applicant, there's no question: it's the resume. All the important data points are there, and savvy students know the resume is actually an opportunity to showcase design and communication skills. Not graphic design (keep it simple: graphs showing "skills" and logos fashioned from initials are self-indulgent), but just getting the basics right and thinking clearly about the end user. In this case, 90% of the information the employer wants is: 1. where you go/went to school 2. what sort of work experience you have. If these things are easy to find, clearly detailed, and not riddled with sloppy errors, that speaks well.

If you don't have a lot of work experience, maybe because you've been working hard in school, immersed in student initiatives and competing on a sports team, your resume can convey that. If your history includes work outside of the field, that can be good; we've hired interns with not much architecture experience but who had worked in retail and restaurants, so it wasn't a surprise to find them well dressed and unflappably polite. The one-page resume rule: who came up with that, anyway? We've seen plenty that could be less and plenty that could be more. Go for the unusual length instead of cramming or padding.


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