Alumni Advice: How to Land an Internship (or Job!)

by | Aug 8, 2018 | Alumni

By Gabriela Amaral

Whether you are in high school, college, or ready to start working full-time, landing an internship or job can seem daunting, especially if it’s your first. But you’re not alone! Gabi Amaral, a Willow Class of 2010 graduate, offers her easy, actionable tips to get you closer to your career goals.

Build your résumé from your life experiences

You probably have more information to put on your résumé than you think. Experiences like babysitting, lawn mowing, and volunteering all help to show valuable work skills that employers want to see. Just because you haven’t had a job like the one you are applying for, doesn’t mean you haven’t acquired the skills necessary to succeed.

Outlining all the jobs and extracurricular projects you’ve worked on is a good way to get started and will give you a sense of the experience you can bring to your next potential job. If you have relevant skills such as knowledge of other languages, experience with a certain computer program, or anything else that would be relevant to your employer, list it!

Look at examples and résumé templates, which you can find here.

Be thoughtful about your cover letter

A cover letter is an opportunity to show your potential employer you would be an asset to the company, describing the skills you bring that would allow you to perform well in the position and why you want to work there. Be honest and professional, and make sure your letter:

  • Addresses a specific individual with his or her correct title and business address
  • Uses a business letter format (and keep it all on one page)
  • Has a simple three- or four-paragraph structure
  • Includes your contact information.

You can find some templates and examples here.

Be specific and avoid the passive voice

Mention your achievements in concrete and quantitative terms when possible. For example, saying that you “recruited 10 news members as recruitment head of your club” sounds stronger than simply saying you were the recruitment head of your club. It helps give your potential employer a sense of your achievements. Use action verbs and dynamic language in your résumé and cover letter.

Always proofread! Make sure your résumé and cover letter are free of typos and your verb tenses are consistent.

Ace the interview

Plan to arrive at your interview location 10 to 15 minutes early, especially if you have never been there before. Your timeliness is the first impression you present to the interviewer, so punctuality is key!

Consider the type of organization you are interviewing with as you prepare your interview attire. A fashion magazine might have different standards of dress than a law office, but it is always a good idea to aim for business casual. Dressing slightly more formal is always better than being too casual. Make sure your clothes are neat and wrinkle-free. Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and a warm smile, and look them in the eye.

Bring a notepad to jot down questions that may occur to you, and points you want to remember to make on your behalf. Write down at least 10 questions in advance to ask your interviewer. Most interviewers will ask if you have any question about the position, so plan extra questions in case some of them are answered over the course of your interview. Having questions to ask will show your interview that you are interested and excited about the position!

Don’t forget to follow up!

Always follow up your interview with a thank you note! Your note is an opportunity to reinforce your strengths as an applicant, affirm your interest in the position, and, if necessary, respond to any concerns that came up during the interview.

An email is a great option for a thank you note, especially if time is of the essence. A note should be sent, at most, 24 hours after your interview. A handwritten note sent by mail is also a great option and shows that you are willing to take the time to thank your interviewer, if time is not as pressing.

Whether you send the note by mail or by email, be sure to read through the message carefully before sending it. You are still trying to make a strong impression, so a professional, well-written letter is key. Click here to read example thank you notes.

Gabi referenced in writing this article. If you have any of your own tips or ideas you’d like to share with alumni, email Gabi at!

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