AFAM Logo

How to make a good application?

Professional project development

  • Develop your Career Marketing Plan
  • Develop your Professional Project Pitch in English
  • Do targeted internship and company research consistent with your Professional Project (job boards, networking events, business news, industry blogs, personal networks and contacts, LinkedIn jobs, etc)

Personal network development

  • Develop a LinkedIn profile (must) and a Facebook profile
  • Connect to the AFAM Group on Facebook
  • Connect to the AFAM Group on Linkedin.
  • Attend networking events, speaker series, trade shows and conferences for your targeted industry as often as possible

Do targeted contact research and introduction:

  • Know people whom your are contacting
  • Know their companies and businesses
  • Contact people who can help you reach your Professional Project goals
  • Do not contact everyone you can possibly find in the alumni directory

Resume

Develop your resume for the American market.

Cover Letter

Prepare targeted cover letters following the recommendations from Claude Leglise’s articles (see next pages).

  • Establish why you are targeting this company
  • Explain what you know and what you can do
  • Be specific about what you want
  • Describe why the company would want you as an intern
  • Set a time for follow-up

Review and advising questions

  • Get feedback on you Marketing Career Plan
  • Review your opportunity, company, contacts research results
  • Pratice your Pitch
  • Get feedback on you targeted Resume
  • Get feedback on your targeted Cover Letters

Contact resources available near you:

  • Arts et Metiers English professors
  • Members of the Societe des Anciens Eleves who have relevant experience in the US
  • Members of the R-Inter at the Union des Eleves
  • Your personal contacts with relevant experience

Administrative

Research and gather information about Visa requirements and InterExchange (www.interexchange.org). Become familiar with the administrative aspects of your project.


The First Contact

A student internship, or a summer job, is a powerful way to build some professional experience, to discover what jobs are really like, to define career goals, to learn about corporate culture, and to add "real world" experience to a resume. Interest in internships in the United States is high among students at Arts et Métiers, and every year, the members of AFAM receive numerous requests for summer positions. Finding a position in the US is different in many ways from  finding a "stage" in a French company. This article is intended to give you a few tips about how to approach your search for a position.

First, let's look at the hiring manager's perspective. Imagine the following scenario:

It is 9:00 pm on a cold February evening. Bob is sitting down in his study and starting his laptop. Bob came home late from work but made it just in time to have dinner with his family, as he tries to do every evening. The children are now in bed; his wife is reading the newspaper in the living room; this is the perfect time for Bob to finish some office work.

Bob is the head of design engineering at BigCo, Inc., a 30 year old company manufacturing high precision parts for the computer industry. He has decided to hire an engineering intern for the summer, and placed an add on Craigslist. The response has been good and tonight he wants to go through 62 emails from potential candidates. To make his job easier, and to help him sort through the responses quickly, Bob has created three sub-folders in his inbox: "Interesting","Maybe", No". He is hoping to find 5 or 6 promising resumes of candidates he will call for a phone interview later in the week. And he wants to be done no later than 10:15 because he has an early meeting with his boss tomorrow.

So our hiring manager, Bob, is going to spend an average of 1 minute per candidate and make a first decision. Your challenge as a prospective intern is to end up in the "Interesting" folder. Your first communication is probably going to be an email, and the impression you create in the first minute has to be positive, different, and engaging enough that your reader will want to take a second look and read your resume.

While there is no standard recipe to write the perfect email, there are some fundamental ideas that should be followed.

Establish why you are targeting this company: A friend works there and recommended you explore a position; you recently read an industry blog about their new technology; you used their product in a lab; you met their distributor at a trade show; their CEO was interviewed on  television, etc. It can be anything, yet the idea is to establish how you became aware of the company, that you know what they are doing, and that you find this domain interesting. You should also explain how you've got your contact's email.

Explain what you know and what you can do: You are studying electrical engineering ("at Arts et Métiers, a Top 10 French engineering school"), majoring in structural engineering, built a small swimming pool cleaning business while in school, designing a robot for your graduation thesis, etc. Obviously your capabilities and field of study have to relate in some way to what the company does and the work you want to do.

Be specific about what you want: Be as specific as possible about the type of work you want: "Join an engineering team where I can bring my system design skills"; "Work in the purchasing department on a supply chain-related project"; "Be part of a manufacturing shift that can use my production engineering experience". Many students are vague about what they are looking for, often hoping not to exclude themselves from consideration for a position they did not know existed. This is almost certainly a one-way ticket to the "No" folder. By contrast, if the hiring manager has a position that looks like what you are describing, your email will very likely end up in the "Interesting" folder.

Describe why the company would want you as an intern: This is important because interns have disadvantages for the company. They cost money, they are a management distraction, they don't accomplish much and you never hear from them again. There are, however, at least two things many companies care about: getting a project done, and evaluating a potential future full time employee; so mention these things. For example: "Through an internship this summer, I want to be able to complete a project of value to your organization, to learn first hand about your company's culture, and to give you a chance to evaluate my capabilities as a potential full time employee after I graduate at the end of the 201x school year."

Set a time for follow-up: Now that your reader has made it this far and has not deleted your email, ask for the order. Say you will follow-up by email in a week after he has had time to review your resume. Ask to set up a short phone conversation to explain in more detail what you can do. If you wrote to someone who is not hiring, ask for a referral. Be specific about what the follow-up item is, and when it will happen.

And all of the above has to fit in one page.

Dos

  • Do research your target to learn as much as possible about them. Use the Internet, call a company salesperson, talk to professors, go to the library, attend a tradeshow, etc...
  • Do think about the company's perspective and why they would want to hire you.
  • Do highlight your competences and offer your services. Managers like solutions to problems.
  • Do know what you want and ask for it.
  • Do offer to work for a minimum of 2 months. 3 months or more is even better. Most meaningful projects take that long to complete, and your competitors (American students) generally have 3 to 6 months internships.
  • Do write an American-style resume (look for resources on the Internet), and attach it in .doc or .pdf format.

Don'ts

  • Don't write in French. Your recipient may want to forward your email to a colleague who does not read French.
  • Don’t say you want to improve your English. No company wants to pay for that, and you are expected to be able to communicate with your American colleagues.
  • Don't offer to work for free. You create the impression your work has no value, and you will have expenses (housing, food, car, airplane, entertainment). Some companies may offer to cover all your expenses instead of paying you. That is a point of negotiation for later.
  • Don’t bother attaching a "Lettre de motivation". Anything important has to be in your email to maximize the chance of reaching the "Interesting" folder.
  • Don't say the school requires that you find an internship. It makes it sound like you are forced to do this, rather than truly excited about the opportunity.
  • Don't expect Americans to understand the French school system. Put things in context.

Examples

Which of these two emails do you think has the highest probability of getting a positive response?

Candidate A

"Dear Mr. X,

I  am a second-year student in Arts et Métiers Paristech (ENSAM), a top engineering graduate school  located in France. I aim to complete an internship in an engineering company abroad from July 2009 to January 2010  in order to work on any research plan dealing with energy. I have found your e-mail address on the website gadz.org. I am taking the liberty to attach a résumé as well as a cover letter to this message.

Thank you for your time and consideration with regards to this matter.

Yours sincerely,"

 

Candidate B

"Dear Mr. X,

BigCo had a big presence at the recent Intersolar show in Frankfurt, Germany. I had a chance to visit your booth and see first hand your latest high  efficiency solar panels. The demonstration was very impressive and motivated me to investigate more thoroughly your company as a potential employer. I found your email address on gadz.org and this is why I am writing.

I am currently completing the 4th year of a five year engineering program  at Arts et Métiers Paristech, in France. I will graduate in June of 201x with the equivalent of a Masters Degree in  Electrical Engineering. In my studies, I have specialized in the design of energy production, storage and transportation systems. In my spare time, I have built several websites that use the latest Web 2.0 programming tools. Last summer I had a production engineering job at Total, a multi-national oil  company, and became intrigued with renewable energies as a career path.

It  occurred to me that BigCo may have projects where I could contribute my design knowledge and production engineering experience during a 3 months internship this summer. I understand that BigCo offers installation design services for  its clients. My goal is to participate with a team in the design of a large-scale solar installation, or the creation of an application-specific system design. Such an internship would give me a chance to contribute to a project meaningful to your organization, and would let you evaluate my capabilities and performance as a possible future full-time employee.

I  have attached a copy of my resume for your review, and will follow-up with an email in a week to set up a convenient time for a brief phone conversation.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Best Regards,

Conclusion

Finding a job, temporary or permanent, in the United States is difficult. It requires dedication and effort as well as an understanding of the thought process of companies and hiring managers. Many of the members of  AFAM have done it and enjoyed very successful careers, or career stints, in the  US. For those who are committed, the reward is worth the effort.

This document was contributed by
Claude Leglise, An74

cleglise

How to write a US-style Resume

Your resume is your personal presentation to the business world, and US businesses have different expectations from French ones. Your resume has to describe what you know and what you are capable of. It needs to highlight your knowledge, accomplishments and leadership skills. And it needs to show that you are different from the other 600 Gadz'Arts and 100,000 similar American engineering students who are competing for the same jobs. This article will give you some ideas about how to achieve this.

You are only a student, you have never worked, you know nothing . . . or maybe not.

There is a saying in the US that when looking at half a glass of water, a pessimist sees a glass half empty, and an optimist sees a glass half full. You must be an optimist and present yourself as such because US companies want to hire people who bring a positive, "can do" attitude to their work.

First of all, you are not looking for a job ("demandeur d'emploi") or begging for an internship, you are offering your services and the value of your knowledge and experience. Companies succeed when their employees invent new products and services, or improve existing ones. They want people who make things happen. You can actually bring several valuable qualities to an employer:

  • Knowledge: Acquired from courses, other jobs, clubs, hobbies, etc... Often the youngest employees are the most sophisticated with the use of new technologies because they used them in school.
  • Accomplishments: You made it to Arts et Métiers, so obviously you can reach difficult goals. In addition, you have had many other activities in your life that show your abilities to accomplish things.
  • Leadership: You have experimented with team work and leadership. You have been "Zident" of a program, or leader of a club. You are a leader in training and you have already demonstrated some ability.

You have a lot to offer, so don't be timid.

Secondly, US companies do not have the same sense of school hierarchy as in France. No jobs are open or close to you because of the school you went to. (How many Gadz'Arts are senior managers at France Telecom?) Hiring decisions, and later promotion decisions, are made on the basis of what you can do, not where you come from. If you can show you can do it, you get the job.

At the end, keep in mind that the Arts et Métiers school is unknown to the vast majority of US hiring managers. This is both good news and bad news. They know nothing, so you have a chance to provide a context and to explain things in a positive way. For example, you can say that ENSAM is "a Top 10 French engineering school". It is simple, descriptive, and true. Turn the reader's lack of knowledge into an advantage.

Telling your story

Your resume has to tell a story that explains who you are and that makes sense. It has to be interesting, and it has to be different. So the first question is: what is your story?

                         Candidate A

                               Candidate B

"I went to the lycée near my parents' house, then to Prépa. I passed the Concours des Arts, and the administration sent me to Cluny. I have completed the first 2 years of classes, and now I am looking for an internship because the school requires it."

 "I chose to go to Arts et Métiers because I wanted to become a mechanical engineer. I discovered civil engineering, and decided to focus my studies in this field. After spending last summer working on a construction site in Morocco, I have decided that I want to have a career working on large scale international civil engineering projects."

The candidate who has made decisions, chosen a path, explored and learned, is someone worth talking to. He/she will get an interview and maybe a job.

Create your own story and write it down. Edit it as often as you need until it describes you, and you like it.

Once you start writing your resume, your story will be useful to connect the pieces into a coherent presentation with points that support each other. For example:

  • Job objective: Work on large scale international civil engineering projects
  • Course work: Emphasis on advanced finite element analysis, properties of concrete in earthquake environments, soils mechanics, project management
  • Summer job: Crew chief on Casablanca-Rabat highway construction site
  • Internship: French Institute of Public Works
  • Foreign languages: Fluent in Spanish, beginner level in Arabic

As you write your resume, you will read it many times and ask yourself: what story does it tell? Is this the story I want told? Do I need to modify it? This will be hard, but it is well worth the effort.

You are still young and a student, so you are probably not certain about what career path you want to follow, or even what industry you want to work in. This is perfectly normal and understandable. However, you should develop two or three stories that are each individually strong, rather than one average story that covers everything. If you are hesitating between metallurgy and computer manufacturing, write two stories and two resumes. (Just make sure you remember to whom you send each version!).

Presenting your accomplishment

Let's now look at some practical ways to describe what you have done so far in your life, in ways that are relevant to companies. There are some simple rules:

  • Accomplishments are better than attendance
  • Numbers are better than words
  • Results are better than participation
  • Winning is better than losing

Here are some ideas about how to translate this into words.

What you were or you did:

What you might say:

 

Zident Fêtes

Led team of 20 to organize school ball. Event had 2500 attendees and $200,000 budget.

 

Stage usine de 1ère année

Member of a team tasked with maintaining aluminum smelters. Achieved 99% availability during 3-month period, a factory record.

 

Gave time to a charity

Recruited 12 runners and secured $1000 in sponsorships for Breast Cancer Awareness Week.

 

Made brakes for a MASH car

Designed and built brake system for car entered in the Shell Eco-Marathon. Car ran 1574 miles on one gallon of gas and finished 2nd in national competition.

 

Zident C'Vis

Migrated $25,000 a year student retail business to internet. Built on-line share to 45% of revenues in one year.

 

Emploi temporaire en BE

Designed nuclear fuel rod handling system for dismantling machine. Design was implemented and placed in production. 

The concept is to highlight your accomplishments and to explain their size, their importance and their impact, to give the reader a sense of why you are better than 95% of the other candidates for the job that is open.

There may also be non-professional activities that you excel in that you want to highlight. For example, you might be:

  • A concert violinist
  • A national champion in your sport
  • The winner of an award for your photography
  • An instructor in a sport, a hobby, an art, etc.
  • Fluent in a language relevant to the job you want (Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, etc.)

Anything that demonstrates your knowledge, accomplishments and leadership skills can be useful. Anything that makes you look different is useful. Remember that a typical hiring manager will spend less than 2 minutes looking at your resume before deciding to read it again in more detail, or throw it away. Be interesting!

Putting it all together

Now that you have all the pieces, the last thing to do is to prepare the resume itself. Here are a few more dos and don'ts.

Dos

  • Do write your resume in English. Have it proofread by a teacher or a native English speaker

  • Do make it fit on one page (you don't have enough experience yet to require 2 pages)

  • Do write about your English abilities

  • Do convert the data into American units as appropriate ($, miles, pounds, etc)

  • Do mention your proficiency with industry software (not Word and Excel, everybody knows those)

  • Do email it in pdf or Word format

Don'ts

  • Don't include a photo. Nobody does this. It looks very strange to an American reader.

  • Don't mention your age, sex, marital status, or religion. It is illegal in the

    United States

    to hire or refuse to hire someone on the basis of any of these criteria. Nobody will ask.

  • Don't say you have a driver's license. Everybody does.

  • Don't use abbreviations (PFE, CPGE, FITE, ENSAM. . .) and jargon your reader will not understand.

When you write the name of an organization where you worked, it might be useful to provide summary information about who they are. For example:

  • Total, the world's 5th largest oil and gas company
  • Peugeot Motocycles, Europe's 3rd largest manufacturer of small motorcycles
  • Charcuterie de la Ville, a family operated retail store

Final thoughts about describing your academic experience:

  • ENSAM = A Top 10 French engineering school
  • 2nd year student = Candidate for Masters Degree in (Mechanical) Engineering in June 2011
  • Grades: the US grading system is very different from the French one, so translating grades is a bad idea. 15/20 is excellent in Paris, but 75/100 is mediocre in the US. It is easier not to mention grades on your resume. However, rank in the class can be useful, especially if you are in the top 10%.

Examples

Here are two examples of resumes written by US students. They have been edited to preserve their privacy, but they will give you an idea of how some graduates present themselves.

[ Jane Smith, Georgia Institute of Technology ]

This document was contributed by
Claude Leglise, An74

cleglise

Member Login & Registration