(Here’s a picture I took of a flaming mailbox. I couldn’t find any burning bridges in my archives, but this seemed somehow more apropos.)
I occasionally get emails from students and I respond pretty quickly with answers to their queries. I always appreciated it when established photographers did the same for me when I was coming up through the ranks and feeling my way. The other day, I received an email from a student looking for an internship. This was the email:
“Hello! My name is [Student]. I am currently attending the Art Institute of Washington.
I am interested in applying for an internship or assisting position with your company.
I have had a great deal of experience in photography in the studio, on location and photojournalism. I have worked in alternative mediums, film as well as digital. I am proficient in Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and Quickbooks, using both PC and Mac platforms.
I believe that I would an asset to your program. This internship would provide me with the ideal opportunity to assist at your organization and to expand my photography and business skills.
I hope to schedule an interview at a mutually convenient time. I look forward to speaking with you. Feel free to contact through email or phone.
Thank you for your consideration.
Student sent a form letter, failing to personalize it in any capacity. I drove to Florida during Spring Break my senior year of college, not to party on the beach, but to knock on the doors of the newspapers that I admired. I showed up with a smile and a portfolio book. The St. Petersburg Times, one of the best photo papers in the country, rewarded my efforts with a 6-month internship- and not because I was particularly talented. What Student fails to understand is that success in this particular line of work is very much about going above and beyond in every capacity. It’s never enough to show up, you have to show up early and stay late. You have to generate your own work and you have to constantly be hustling. You cannot and will not achieve anything with a form letter.
The fact that this email is so impersonal is bad to enough, but to add insult to injury, Student says, “I believe that I would an asset to your program. This internship would provide me with the ideal opportunity to assist at your organization and to expand my photography and business skills.” Student is going to be an asset to my program because it would help her photography and business skills? Don’t tell me what I can do for you. I don’t know you, I don’t care about you personally. What can you do for me? Hmmm? Can you archive? Scan receipts? Draft accurate invoices? Carry heavy bags without complaint? I’m a businesswoman, not a charity director.
Additionally, the email lacks references (a professor would be more than enough) and links to examples of work. Photography is very much all about the “show me, don’t tell me.” Student claims to “have had a great deal of experience in photography in the studio, on location and photojournalism.” Really? A “great deal”? Wow, maybe I should be Student’s intern.
This email contains so many examples of what not to do when seeking employment, as a studio intern or otherwise. Don’t be like Student. Do your research, personalize and send a hand-written note if you’re really serious. The truly resourceful and deserving should be able to figure out where to send such a note if no address is listed.