Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
For the past six months, I’ve been tirelessly applying for internships that match my criteria and qualifications. The interview process for college students not only add stress but also affect our personal outlook when we get a rejection letter back from the talent acquisition teams. Rejection cuts even deeper when you initially feel confident about the outcome of an interview, but it ends up crushing your hopes. That’s exactly what happened to me when I got the chance to interview with Fortune 500 companies for an internship, going through a two-part process and feeling hopeful of being accepted into the summer program. Unfortunately, the outcome wasn’t in my favor and it led me to question: “Why am I not good enough?”
This year I’ve been wanting to get more hands-on experience in consulting, especially since my major focuses in consulting and analytics. I came across a prestigious organization in my business school that works with groups on campus that need its services. After being denied from a few internships that I’ve applied to last semester, my expectations were at an all-time low and I felt as if the odds were against me. I didn’t want to look forward to another instance where people don’t recognize my potential. Despite my hesitation and self-doubt, I completed the application along with my cover letter and resume. To my surprise, I received an email to schedule an interview with the organization, as I’ve been chosen to proceed onto the next steps. That Sunday evening, I put on my black blazer with my nude heels and headed out the door.
My mind kept replaying the previous times I’ve prepared for an interview. I used to have a positive outlook, putting forward my best efforts. But this time, I was reminded of the fact that despite how genuine I’ve always been, I still didn’t get an offer from companies that I desperately wanted to work for. I recognized the exhaustion within me and how defeated I’ve been feeling lately. Despite my doubts, I kept my chin up and decided to give my best once again. As I entered the designated room, a leader of the group greeted me. He explained the two-part process and because I was early, he proceeded to ask introductory questions to get to know me and the other gentleman better. This helped calm my nerves and loosen up.
Sometimes, when you least expect it, what you say can leave a lasting impression on the people surrounding you. Through our exchanges, I mentioned my affinity for poetry and literature. It wasn’t in the attempt to impress anyone, but just a mention of something I’m passionate about that fell into the context of our conversation.
“I don’t think I’ve met a business student who has mentioned they love poetry before,” said the leader. He continued to ask more questions and I explained how writing is my hobby. “I’ve always been fascinated by the emotions that are evoked when I read a piece of writing that resonates deeply.” Our discussion was cut short because it was my turn to face my fears. I took a deep breath, put on my gunner smile, and shook the interviewers’ hands.
After a grueling 40 minutes, when I came out I was still remembered as the girl who loves poetry. No matter how poorly I thought my interview went, there was a sense of encouragement I carried with me from my small exchange with others during the waiting period. They advised me to begin publishing my writing pieces. They saw something special in me that I wasn’t ready to share with the world yet.
While heading home, I realized that interviews aren’t always a game of acceptance or rejections, but it can teach us so much more about ourselves. For me, this was a learning experience that allowed me to envision myself as a writer. I felt more confident in how I present myself in front of strangers. I no longer felt that I had to be apologetic about my passions and hobbies. I embraced myself and all the skills that I have to offer.
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