Internships II: Your Cover Letter has a Champagne Flute

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 last two:

Overrated: Letters as testimonials

Underrated: Letters as toasts

Resumes convey experience, not personality. The cover letter gets the job of conveying who you are in a way that can’t be expressed within the resume format.

A cover letter can also be a chance to show a mastery of communication design: If it can, using the same graphic identity as your resume, demonstrate an ability to assemble a few sentences that other human beings can read without needing to find a stiff drink and a heating pad, that's a good start.

A cover letter isn’t for sucking up to the firm. If you genuinely like something they've done, briefly say why and point to how your own work shows similar interests (or if you're bold, suggest how you might redo the project). Platitudes and drawn-out testimonials aren't that useful, even if the praise is genuine, because good firms want to get better using the fresh perspectives and energy that new interns bring to the office.

A cover letter should be like a toast: upbeat, charming, brief. Its main purpose is emotional, creating a sense of goodwill and anticipation, while smoothly highlighting a few specific items in your other documents. A good toaster at a large event introduces themselves and why they are there. Similarly, the letter can situate the applicant and articulate their place in the local cosmos when the other documents can't.

Overrated: The Internet

Underrated: Not the Internet

Social media, job boards, email: necessary evils. They've increased the reach applicants and firms have, but at the cost of flattening us all into the requirements imposed by those media.

A handful of high-profile practices would never want you to do anything but meekly apply through the online processes they've set up to channel the massive flow of applicants (who will all be out of luck when the position goes to Big Developer Client's kid). But that's not most offices.

Step outside the online comfort zone -- call to follow up an email, stop in to drop off a portfolio, mail a postcard to say hello -- and you'll not only break the tyranny of the inbox but remind the firm that you exist offline. You'll show persistence, self-initiative and willingness to think outside the box, which for a small firm is a perfect pairing with intelligence and a keen design sense.

Good Luck!