I was writing a motivation letter for an internship and showed it to a friend who responded “You're actually not saying what you want.” He was in the opinion that I should say what I want to do- except that I have three slight issues with this:

  1. I'm not experienced and would be happy to see any part of their work. I could (literally) go wiring avionics, inspecting fan blades or riveting skin panels and would be satisfied.
  2. To compound #1, I'm a bit late into this, so I am not in the position to be picky.
  3. Several of the companies are cold-calls with no 'official' positions listed.

I've tried to 'fix it' and currently I have written something roughly equivalent to:

The notion of combing the developing widget industry with the commercial aspect of XYZ and a wide array of payloads is very exciting and appealing. In particular, I could imagine working on research and development of the challenges this area involves.

How specific do I need to be? How unspecific is too board?

Background: Central/ Western Europe, Intern, Engineering.


Instead of focusing on a specific job you want, I'd focus on what you want out of the internship as a whole. Employers prefer to hire interns who know exactly why they'd like that job: are you planning to do that job full-time after you graduate, either for that company or a rival? Are you looking to work at a more senior role in that sort of company, and see this internship as an opportunity to "work your way up"? Is there a particular skill you want to pick up, and then use in a completely different sort of company? (For many interns, just being able to demonstrate that you can be productive in a 9-5 job is a big reason for doing an internship!)

Putting this sort of motivating factor in your application shows that you're not just doing the internship to build your CV or pick up experience, but also that you have a clear idea of what you want to get out of the experience, and what your next step on the career ladder is going to be -- which makes it easier for your prospective employer to determine what work they can give you that will be useful to you in meeting your own goals, as well of useful to them.

  • 1
    right. Not "what you want to do" but "what you want" from the internship - experience? connections? an understanding of what the field is like? a chance to see this work really being done? Often students with experience in the field do far better in their courses afterwards, because they understand why they are being taught things. What (besides fulfilling some graduation requirement) do you want from the time you will spend there? – Kate Gregory Sep 15 '15 at 22:43

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