How NOT to secure a summer internship

Stupid_meter There are many smart and strategic ways to stand out from the competition, demonstrate knowledge of a prospective employer's business, impress the reader with one's command of the English language and secure a summer internship.

And, then there is this steaming pile that found its way to my in-box on Wednesday:

“Hey my name is Clueless McWhocares and I am from Long Island, NY. I'm going to be a senior at Pineapple State University in Pineapple Kansas where I also play football and major In Political Science and minor in communications. I'm desperately trying to get a jump on other students who are attempting to get internships for the summer, So that is why I am contacting you guys now. I am really interested in Public Relations and would like to know if you have any internships for the summer of 2012? “

College and university students as well as recent grads should study this e-mail as a worst case example.

Let me share with you just a few of its fundamental flaws:

– It begins with “Hey”. As my mom loved to say, “Hay is for horses”. If I don't know you and you're connecting with me for the first time, try a salutation along the lines of Dear Steve or Dear Mr. Cody.

– I counted at least four grammatical mistakes in the first two sentences. That's akin to a death sentence for any job seeker. Show me you don't care enough to check the spelling, punctuation and grammar in a cover note to me and I guarantee I won't let you within a football field's length of my clients.

– “That's why I'm contacting you guys now.” You guys? You guys may work in the huddle of this guy's college football team, but it's a critical fumble in a cover note. Again, lose the tone of familiarity and text abbreviations you use with your buds. I don't think our contacts at Fortune 500 corporations would appreciate their Peppercom account manager addressing them as “you guys” in monthly reports that they, in turn, forward to senior management.

– “That's why I'm interested in Public Relations.” What's why you're interested in public relations? The student hasn't told me anything about his experience, relevant internships or why he's gravitating towards public relations as opposed to, say, bricklaying.

– Last, but not least, there's no closing to the letter. No yours sincerely, Best wishes or even Regards. Nada. Just white space. That makes me feel special. Very special indeed. 

The final nail in this student's coffin is the impression that his note was one of hundreds blasted to PR firms across the country. I don't like spam from vendors, stockbrokers or measurement firms. And, I really don't like them from students.

So, study this missive from hell and learn from it. Tailor your cover notes, use formal business language that is grammatically correct and last, but not least, show me you've taken the time to study my organization. Otherwise, you WILL end up as a bricklayer, Wal-Mart greeter, McDonald's burger flipper or some other dead-end job. One thing you will NOT get is a summer internship at a top PR firm or corporation.

11 thoughts on “How NOT to secure a summer internship

  1. You guys should have received his permission to reproduce his works. This letter is plagiarized. I would not respect an organization that plagiarizes.
    Its probably the die hard liberal in me but I would like to give kids like this a chance. Internships are unpaid and he is willing to work for free. Cut the kid some slack. He is a full time student who appears to be balancing schoolwork, football and also preparing for the future.
    This corporate attitude that employees are just replaceable parts is, to say the least, distressing to me. Internships should create beneficial relationships for both the organization and the communities they serve. Sounds like your hiring manager really digs the smell of his own farts.
    Oh, and the football puns are awesome.

  2. No argument. I also see many millennials taking the path of least resistance. They’ll ship out a sloppy e-mail and just assume someone out there will hire them. This particular guy may be into heavy lifting to improve his football skills, but working hard to communicate in a professional manner isn’t part of his playbook.

  3. Sad, but true, Julie. The vast majority of the trophy kid generation has no real sense of professionalism. That said, we do have a few here at Peppercom that would make you proud.

  4. Hey RepMan! Unfortunately, I am not shocked by that so-called “pitch” you received from “McClueless.” I may sound like an old fart, but kids today know little or nothing about crafting an effective business pitch.
    They were brought up on email, texting, and LOL. They think cold-contacting the CEO of a major PR firm is no different than texting their BFF regarding weekend plans.
    The informal and familiar tone is disrespectful, but I’m sure the sender has no idea how offensive he sounds. With an approach like this, PR is the LAST career path he should pursue.

  5. I’d really love to have seen his thought process before sending that email. “Oh, I think I’ll email some people who sound important at a few PR firms….and then maybe go to the gym.” People like this make the millennial generation look bad!

  6. Au contraire, Lunchboy. We purposely changed names to protect the innocent (however guilty he may be). The greater business world will have no idea this grammatical predator is still very much alive and well.

  7. Oh brother. You really sacked this guy’s hopes of landing a gig. Not even a warning, Rep…just a 15 yard penalty for gross misconduct and [the] loss of ever working at Peppercom.
    (I couldn’t help myself).