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The Internship: Part One

July 7, 2011

After months and months of going to job fairs, interviewing, and getting turned down, I finally landed a summer internship. Getting an internship in a recession has probably been one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. Even though the economy is picking up and companies are starting to hire again, the amount of competition a fresh undergraduate faces when trying to get a job is daunting. A recession truly is an employer’s market. They can pick and choose their vision of the perfect candidate. So what this means is that many undergraduates meet or greatly exceed the minimum qualifications for internships and entry-level jobs, but they end up getting lost in the crowd because employers don’t remember them or they “aren’t the right fit” for the company, even though many of these kids are willing to work hard and learn.

Last fall was really the first time I’d ever gone to a job fair before, so for a while I had no idea what to say to recruiters to make a good impression. The whole process felt very uneasy and awkward. It just so happened at the job fair in question was the Minnesota Accounting and Auditing Student Conference, so it was twice as awkward as a regular job fair since the recruiters were accountants and not HR people (aside from McGladrey, the biggest firm there).

Things got better over time, but I was still discouraged because my efforts didn’t seem to be working. After going to about 3 more job fairs, I was gaining more confidence and getting interviews. There were a couple interviews I really sucked at big time, mainly due to becoming overrun with nerves. Many felt like they went well; usually the interviewers seemed to like me. But it was the same situation every time. About a week after the interview finished, I would get that familiar rejection email in my inbox. It seems like every company uses the same general template, always saying that they found someone who was more qualified for the position. It’s a politically correct, vague, and bullshit way of denying people jobs. But I guess it’s better than getting no reply at all, which has happened to me and countless others.

In the spring, right before Easter break, an employer called me out of the blue. It was a large company in the Twin Cities that I had talked to at a job fair way back in February. I was almost certain that my resume had been shredded the day I handed it over to the recruiter. But to my surprise, I was invited to come down for an interview and just about shit my pants. It was the most random interview process I’ve ever been through. The weirdest thing of all was that I was basically interviewed one time. I went to the corporate headquarters and had three one-on-one interviews with people from the company’s Financial Reporting department. Each conversation lasted 20 minutes, so I only interviewed for the grand total of one hour with this company. It was the best round of interviews I ever had. My personality was a perfect fit for what they were looking for. They actually appreciated the fact that my extracurricular activities and previous jobs don’t relate to accounting at all. Most interviewers would have probably considered my work history random and unpredictable, while these guys considered me well-rounded.

I called back 5 days later to ask about the status of my application, and was promptly offered a job. What a ride. I want this story to give undergrads hope during while trying to get hired. Going to a non-target school and having no “relevant” experience can put you at a major disadvantage even if you get decent grades and participate in your community. My school was very small and not accredited by the AACSB, so it was rare for companies to recruit on campus. What matters is that no matter how many times you get denied a job offer or blow an interview, DO NOT GIVE UP!

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