By Kelly Martin, Toppel Peer Advisor

This summer I was an intern at a non-profit organization—the New England Aquarium—and while they couldn’t give me a paycheck for my work, the experience I gained there is more valuable to me than any amount of money ever could be. However, to make up for the fact that they couldn’t compensate us in the form of money, the intern coordinators provided us with a few professional development lunches throughout the summer. A lot of what we learned were things that I had already learned from working at Toppel (we know our stuff!), but some of the things I learned were more specific to the non-profit sector.

I recently connected on LinkedIn with the NEAq Intern Alumni Network and a few of the intern coordinators, and this article from the Harvard Business Review was posted the other day:

The article as a whole provides a lot of good advice on writing a cover letter, so it’s definitely worth the read if you’re starting to write one for a job or internship application. But what sticks out the most to me are the two case studies provided at the end of the article. Both address how important it is to go the extra mile and show your enthusiasm and passion for the company.

To me, this is the epitome of what I learned from the New England Aquarium. In the non-profit world, people aren’t doing what they do for the paycheck they receive, but because they are extremely passionate about their work. So anyone who they’re going to consider hiring to join their team has to share that passion as well. Beyond your past experiences and qualifications, having a strong knowledge of the field and the work that the organization has done, as well as a genuine desire to contribute to that work, will put you ahead of the pack of applicants.

Personally, I usually have a hard time conveying my passion genuinely in writing; there’s a fine line between sounding genuine and sounding fake. But I think this article also provides good insight on how to express that passion in a cover letter. By doing your research and putting thought into the position, you can show that you really care about the organization and what you can contribute to it. As case study #1 says,“she’d done her research and ‘listed some things she would do or already had done that would help us address those needs.’” And you can’t go wrong giving specific examples of how you’ve followed the organization’s work—in case study #2 the applicant listed various exhibitions and events of the organization she was applying to that she had attended. In both cases, the applicants had gone the extra mile to express their genuine interest in the position, and clearly expressed their passion for the organization as a whole. And in both cases, the applicants eventually got the job they wanted.