I enjoy listening to speakers. The origins of this probably start from the school I attended from 7th through 12th grade. The administration was constantly bringing in compelling and fascinating speakers like Jane Goodall, Bill Nye, and Christopher Hitchens, amazingly, among many others. When I got to college I continued to find many opportunities to listen to people speak about their life work and passions . Eventually, having transferred into the business school, some of the talks I started going to began to focus on careers. The business school also tries to help students find helpful opportunities, so they work with recruiters to present information sessions on internship openings. I believe that having already learned to enjoy listening to people talk about their work prepared me to attend these information sessions.
In my sophomore year we had two recruiters from the Consumer Market Knowledge (CMK) division of Proctor and Gable come to talk to us. The two of them worked together perfectly; they were comfortable, had a great dynamic, and were confident. Consumer market knowledge, for those who do not know, is the division which’s job it is to be “leaders of consumer understanding.” In essence, they aim to understand the consumers so that the company can create better products and overall experience. I was captivated by one particular line the main presenter said; “it is our job to seek out the thought behind the thought.” After the presentation I talked to him about this. Our conversation was brief as the following day was the career fair which they would be attending. Once there, I sought them out and continued to talk to him about the Consumer Market Knowledge workshop they offered over the summer. It was a four day program with a rigorous application processes, but, if completed satisfactorily, would lead to a shoe-in for a full internship the following summer.
The application process began. At first it was the typical exchange of emails, cover letters, etc. Then I had to submit an application through their corporate website, as is common when dealing with large companies. That was step one, but, assuming you made it through each of the previous ones, there were four more steps. The next of which was a baseline ‘are you smart enough and a well enough fit for P&G’ written test. This consisted of a math section that reminded me of the SAT, a written comprehension section focused on business communication, and a personality aspect asking questions such as “which of the following people would you like on a team.” I passed it. The next step was a logic/pattern test. The questions all consisted of showing you a grid of shapes with one missing. It was your job to select the correct missing shape from a bank of possible answers. In one easy example, the shapes descending along the rows of each column gained one side per row (triangle = 3, rectangle = 4…). Passed it. The fourth step was an interview. Typically I shine in interviews, but this was on a conference call. I realized that I am much better in person. Though I felt I struggled through the interview, I did move on to the final step of the application process; another interview. This time I prepared even more rigorously, now knowing exactly what types of questions they liked. But, once again, not my best.
I knew it would be some time until they got back to me. Throughout the whole process I was excited to share every detail with my parents, and naturally they were excited for me as well. Time went on, and I began my main summer job working as a camp counselor for 4-year-olds. Time continued to pass… And continued… My parents’ hope seemed to be holding out not as strongly as mine was. Although I did not feel that I had done my best in the interviews, I felt I had made a great impression with the main recruiter, and he had kept in close contact with me throughout the process giving me tips along the way.
By no means did my parents give up hope, they always support me, but, I did also have one other large life plan in the works. In the fall I was going to study abroad in Sydney. The thing about studying abroad half way around the world, is it requires you to get half way around the world. Since I am not superman (or at least would not reveal that secret identity here…) I needed a plane ticket. The thing about plane tickets is no one ever knows how the prices will change, save for the undeniable fact that they become ridiculously expensive close to the day of the flight. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except my classes started the day after the CMK workshop would finish. The entire time I was aware that attending it would mean missing the first day or two of classes, but I was fine with that assuming I did actually participating in it. So here I was, waiting and waiting. My parents were slowly pressuring me to purchase a the ticket. Eventually, I seceded and made the purchase, a non refundable ticket, off course, because it costs about 85x more to get the refundable ones.
Four days later I was at work, looking after kids playing outside on the playground. My phone rang. It was the woman from P&G human resources who was in charge of hiring the CMK workshop participants. I had gotten it! But instantly I had fifty thoughts whizzing through my head. Unfortunately, the combination of all of these thoughts in addition to watching the 4-year-olds made my response sound ungrateful and unexcited. Though this couldn’t have been further from the truth, my disappointment in having purchased the tickets a mere four days before came across in the tone of my response. The woman from HR misunderstood this. After I told her I was unable to attend, she said something to the effect of “it doesn’t seem like you were that interested in the position.” I tried to reassure her that was not the case, but the damage was already done. Later I called the recruiter who had helped me out, and for all I knew had gotten me the spot, but he never replied.
When next winter rolled around the same program was released on their website. In addition to the CMK workshop was a full CMK internship as well as a broader marketing internship. I applied for all three of these, but of course got none.
My experience, not only from the outcome but also the journey, did make me realize a few things. Firstly, that perhaps working at such a large company might not be the best fit for me. Secondly, learn to focus on the task at hand even when you have a billion thoughts in your head, because you never know when you will have to perform with a curve ball speeding your way.