Few things could have gone more wrong for my Very Important Internship Interview last year- I got the directions wrong and circled the building three times, getting there well past the allotted ten-to-fifteen-minutes early. Once I managed to arrive and park in the parking lot, I tripped on my pants getting out of the car. (This is basically a cautionary tale on wearing wide-leg pants with heels when you drive a low-riding car and are challenged by basic acts of coordination.) It was a small miracle that the woman standing outside smoking, watching me simultaneously collect myself off of the pavement and check to see if I’d sprained my ankle for the fourth time wasn’t my actual interviewer.
I then entered the wrong door to the building and became trapped in a stairwell that required a key card. This lead to roughly five minutes of awkward, mostly-silent phone time with my interview liaison while she tried to lead me to their office:
“I seem to be trapped in some stairs.”
“You should come down those stairs, go out the door and come into a different door.”
“Okay.” There is now only the sound of my shoes on a hard floor. Clip-clop. Clip-clop. Clip-clop. I swear I am not a horse.
“I hear you are wearing heels.”
“. . .Yes.”
We were obviously maintaining a fascinating conversation as I worked my way down four flights of stairs and through the proper door.
Eventually, I got there. The fact that it was a panel interview, of what at that time consisted of nearly the entire marketing team, could not daunt me at that point. The interview went well, I was hired and went on to spend nearly a year with one of the most fantastic companies I will ever have the opportunity to work for; I say that with confidence having worked very few other corporate jobs.
This comes to the Thing I Must Often Remind Myself, especially in the working world of many who do- don’t take yourself too seriously. I didn’t even realize the caliber of the company I was interviewing for at the time. Many people might consider this detrimental to the process, that I didn’t do enough research before my interview and/or stalk the CEO, CMO, COO and CXO online as much as possible. I think this can be a boon- you can’t come across as anything but natural if you’re just showing up, being yourself and taking things in stride rather than laying down calculated compliments. I should hope that what a company is looking for in an intern is someone straightforward and talented- not someone to regard them all worshipfully. They’ve got to earn that worship with corporate beer*. (*This is a joke.)
Everything about building a career can be overwhelming and nerve-wracking. It’s easy to fall into the thinking of “IF I MESS UP THIS INTERVIEW THEY WILL NOT HIRE ME AND I WILL SPIRAL INTO A DEPRESSION OF PIZZA BOXES SO CONSUMING THAT NO ONE WILL EVER HIRE ME AND I’LL LIVE IN A FAMILY MEMBER’S BASEMENT UNTIL I GO TO MY 20TH HIGH SCHOOL REUNION AND WEEP FOR THE FAILURE OF MY YOUTH.”
I. . .don’t be That Person. Please. Your friends (i.e. free therapists) can’t handle it. If you’re here, chances are you’re successful or working to be. So certainly celebrate all that you’re good for- but if panic sets in and everything seems as if it’s crashing down around you in a perfect storm of failure? Most likely nobody else is treating it as seriously as you are. Take the lesson, take the story- you could still even take the job. Otherwise? Just take the next one.Sarah A. Parker (better known as Sparker both professionally and not-so-professionally) has served as both an Official Company Intern of a Real and Actual Company and an extremely non-traditional intern for a local Austin artist- Austin, Texas being where she makes her home. She is an eternal graduate student, dedicated lover of the written word and collector of fauxconuts- some of which are actually real. You can find her on Twitter at @SparkerWorks where she attempts to maintain some modicum of professionality, which is not actually a word.