Opinion | Want an internship? Write a handwritten letter.

It’s simple, and it may seem old-fashioned, but taking the time to put a letter in the mail could be the extra touch you need to stand out.

There is nothing more frustrating than standing in line at a career fair knowing that your nervously delivered elevator pitch will do little to separate you from the equally qualified competition around you. 

For students without much experience, networking is an exhausting and frustrating process. Whether it be attending career fairs or virtual recruiting events, doing so with naivete results in disappointment. I’ve left the career fair more than once with many business cards, but no results. As former CW columnist Nathan Polk put it, “the collegiate model of networking is an inefficient, ineffective, inappropriate game that most students lose.” 

When I eventually found internship opportunities, they came through relationships, not transactional conversations. This experience may feel more like gnostic wisdom than the practical advice it is. 

While having a qualifying GPA and a typo-free resume are essential, they don’t distinguish you. The most effective way to get the job is to build a relational bridge with those who are offering it.  

One great way to do this is to write a handwritten thank-you note or a letter of interest to the hiring manager for the position you want.

Using the postal system is imperative. In a world where everyone’s email inbox is flooded on a daily basis, a recruiter who you spoke to for 45 seconds isn’t likely to respond. After all, they probably have hundreds of messages from students who did the same thing.  

Writing a thoughtful, handwritten letter is not an antiquated form of communication, but a strategic tool for building real relationships in your professional career journey. It’s a secret weapon for receiving a much-envied call back. 

“We don’t print emails and display them on our desks, refrigerators, and mantles the way we do with letters and notes from friends,” said John Coleman of the Harvard Business Review “The physical notes are more memorable.” 

He’s right. And why would a business setting be any different?

Healthy personal relationships are built from authenticity and mutual respect, and ones that are professional by nature require the same elements. A letter gives you the opportunity to present a well-crafted message of interest that communicates sincerity – a rare quality amidst the self-advancing noise inherent to networking.

 Stop cold-calling recruiters on LinkedIn. Stop going to career fairs unprepared. Stop wasting your time. Instead, approach professional relationships with intention and gratitude. It’s more effective than desperation, I promise.  

Zachary Stewart is a senior studying operations management. After graduating in May of 2021, he will attend The University of Alabama School of Law.