Need Help?

Skip to Content

CCA Portal

Internship Tips

Last updated on Aug 29, 2018

Prepare your presentation: résumé, cover letter, and projects.

Work with Career Development to prepare for your internship. Advisors can help with you prepare your résumé, portfolio, job search, and more!

Remember . . .

  • To search internship and job opportunities on Handshake and attend the annual Career Expo to connect with industry leading employers.
  • Networking! Get noticed (you might get only 15 seconds to make an impression).
  • A fully complete portfolio is not always necessary to land an internship.
  • Show process work as well as final presentations.
  • Projects should include one- or two-page summaries for each.
  • Be clear, concise, and well-designed graphically.

Contact the Firms

  • Research those firms you think are connected to your work. Websites are an excellent source of information about a firm’s mission, goals, project types, professional bios (alumni networks), work on the boards, and positions available.
  • First contact the company by phone to verify how to personalize your application materials.
  • Send a formal cover letter, résumé, and a few pages (no more than five) of images of your sample work. (This can be sent as a PDF via a weblink or email.)
  • When sending via email, your file attachment should not exceed 5MB. Be sure to personalize the file name (e.g., "Susan Smith_Architectural Intern.PDF").
  • The body of your email should be consistent with your cover letter.
  • Your cover letter and sample work should distinguish you from your peers (many students from other institutions around the globe are seeking internships in the Bay Area). Adhere to a conventional yet elegant graphic layout, allowing your words and images to tell your story.
  • Follow the company's guidelines for submitting your application materials. Many firms have FTP sites that facilitate the application process. (Hint: Find out if such a system applies to the application process before you follow up with the firm.)

Strategy: Face-to-Face Meeting

Ask for a meeting to review your work (as opposed to asking for an internship outright). If you say you are looking for an internship, it puts the person on the other end of your communication in a tough situation.

The company may not currently be looking for an intern. Or it might be looking for one, but the intern supervisor may not have time to meet. Or the company may need someone, but hasn''t officially set the internship hiring process in motion.

Often you'll hear, "We are not looking for an intern right now" or something similar. Remember you just need to get your foot in the door.

One strategy is to ask if someone might meet with you to review your portfolio or look at your latest work. You want feedback from a professional. That's it. This sets up a promising first meeting and establishes an agenda.

If you cannot get a meeting, do not push too hard. This may create a bad impression for future opportunities.

Be Prepared for all Meetings

  • Prior to any meeting, learn as much about the company as you can.
  • Visit websites (company websites, local chapter AIA job boards, Archinect, SF BAYA Facebook page, and so on).|
  • Read national and international press. Find information on local firms that have been published.
  • Talk to your professors, peers, and alumni to see what they know.
  • Talk to others who have already had internships.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Practice your presentation at least three times with someone. Get comfortable with your material. Do not go in cold without doing this; it may be your only shot. (Career Development can help you practice by doing mock interviews.)
  • Plan ahead. Confirm the appointment a day in advance (call or email) and ask with whom you will be meeting (e.g., project manager, design principal, project architect, HR)
  • Dress casually, but presentably: clean, ironed shirt, pants, skirt, and so forth. Suits are not necessary. (Ask your instructors if you have questions.)
  • Always arrive a few minutes early. Never be late. (Give yourself time to stop sweating from the walk or bike ride you took to get there.)
  • Be courteous, professional, and articulate in all of your interactions with any staff member.

The Meeting

  • Show the person your work and engage them in discussion.
  • Be sure to have questions about the company prepared.
  • Before beginning the conversation, clarify how much time you have for your conversation.
  • Be pleasant and as articulate as possible.
  • Be clear when you explain your work.
  • Be accepting of criticism. Take notes!
  • Ask for a tour of the office. (During the conversation, if it seems appropriate, ask if they hire interns. In some cases, the person you are meeting will volunteer this information before you ask. If the situation is awkward, don't bring it up.)
  • When you leave, thank the person(s) for their time.

The Follow-Up

Send a thank you note via postal mail ("snail mail") and indicate you will keep in touch. Check in every month or so and ask about a follow-up meeting for an internship. (Now, since they know you, the second meeting will be easy!)

You get an ambiguous or no response (They keep saying, "Call me next week" "We are busy, but aren't ready to hire" "We are waiting for this job to come through," and the like).

This probably means they aren't ready to hire, so keep your options open and go on other interviews and meetings. Don't wait around for this one opportunity. Have as many irons in the fire as you can.

No one returns your phone calls or emails

This means they are busy, and the internship isn't the first thing on their to do list. Keep trying until you get in contact with someone, even if it means you have to call or email weekly, or both.

If you begin to feel too uncomfortable, stop. You want to be persistent without harassing anyone.

You are rejected

No one likes it, but get used to this. It's impossible to please everyone, and people are entitled to their opinions. Part of the job of finding an internship is finding a place where you want to work.

If one potential employer doesn't feel the fit, that is OK. Just accept it, thank them, and move on to your next choice. You will likely have many meetings and interviews before you get the one you want.

Keep in touch either way. (You never know where it might lead.)

You got the internship.

Congratulations! Contact the internship coordinator and give them the Learning Contract in advance so they have time to research and give site approval before the internship begins.

International Students will also give the internship coordinator the CPT form to sign before turning into ISAP for authorization to work.