By: Mitchelle Muchenje
Disclaimer: This is not a “how-to” manual because everyone’s journey is different and the unexpected twists and turns make it exciting. This is a glimpse into my internship experience as a Business and Computing Science student.
So without a clear outline of how I will share my experience in a relatable yet constructive and inspiring manner, I will start by l telling you where the dream started. For the Advanced level in high school, I studied Accounting, Business, and Mathematics so honestly, my trajectory was very predictable. I would study towards a degree in Accounting, do Articles at a big 4 firm and finally qualify as a Chartered Accountant, as easy as ABC. Well like I said, the magic happens in the twists and turns that take our plans completely off-course. The twit and turns led me to study towards a Business and Computing Science degree. Often when my thoughts drifted off especially in some Programming courses I would ask myself how I ended up there.
I will not delve into the historical record of my university experiences but fast-forward to my third year, the year I landed my dream internship.
I began to panic in my second year when I gave thought to what trajectory my career would take given that I was in the technology space and not accounting as planned. (Yes you can judge me, I went through first-year without making that decision). My panic proved to be healthy and inspired creative thinking because it led me to questions like what technology careers would I enjoy and be great at; what topics did I care about; and mostly which companies were experts in the fields I was passionate about? It was at the start of my second year that I knew I wanted to pursue a career that would expose me to emerging technologies in different industries. Whereas most students start thinking about an internship at the start of the third year, starting early gave me a chance to experience the satisfaction, disappointments, and triumphs that come with any application process without feeling limited by time.
Writing a list, any list even a grocery list can be a daunting task. I call it that because just by chance something really important might not make it to the list. It’s quite unfortunate that you only realize that you did not buy the shoe polish or the dishwashing liquid when you are back home and you need to use it. So this is the back and forth I had to go on inside my head when I had to come up with a list of ten potential companies for my internship (don’t ask me why ten, I also don’t know but 10 sounded reasonable). I was afraid that maybe a really good internship opportunity would miss me just because I had not put it on my list. The solution? Well, I decided to have my fixed list of ten and a running list of whichever company sounded good that I would apply to off the bat, that way I missed none. My main target was the list of ten, ranked in order of priority.
These were companies I had thoroughly researched and was interview-ready for at any moment but above all, these were brands that stood for things I love. The information sources I used in the compilation of this list were mostly from the companies’ online presence, official websites, and profiles of employees (Thank you Linkedin!) Nope, I was not stalking people but rather researching the career growth they had achieved while working for my potential future employer. Organizational culture is part of the information I was looking for when I combed through a company’s site. I don’t think I stressed that part enough for you, I mean organization culture sat at the top of the criteria that would make a company a good fit for me, well it sat just above the “intern” salary. I was interested in socially responsible companies, had caused that they cared about and whose social responsibility activities were impactful. This was me. This could be you too, all I am saying is you should have criteria that inform who is going to make it to your list and who is not.
In light of managing expectations, I would like to repeat what I said before that everybody’s experience is different. My journey might have been a lot easier than yours or harder or even no longer applicable today. However, I am still sharing my experience in the hope of letting another applicant know that you are not alone, your goals are possible and yes people can intern for their dream firm. So obviously the big four firm that I ended up interning for was on my list of ten. I sent my curriculum vitae and cover letter at least three times in the 6 months leading to my internship year. Why three? Well, even though I had received the automatic response that we have put your CV on file from the first email, I just wanted to make sure. It worked because I soon received a request to fill out my information on a form and provide some detailed responses to a few questions.
This was all online and, believe it or not, I was nervous and sweating all over my keyboard. I sent my response to a different personal email first to make sure my file was not corrupt and would be delivered in the correct format. (When working online, do all the necessary checks that will not put you at a disadvantage) So after clicking send on that email, I expected a call for an interview in the following week, well it seems that was a little too keen because a response only came a month later. The response was an email to attend a psychometric test at a given venue on a given date. Psych- what? I had heard of these before but never sat for one, yet I was strangely calm and at peace. I just expected a few simple Math and English questions. On the date of the test, my very supportive parents picked me up from school to drop me off at the venue.
They offered to buy me food on the way but I just had had lunch at school, I was good. I waved my parents goodbye and dived into conversation with classmates who had also come for the test. To my shock, the test we were about to sit for was four hours long. I began to feel dizzy, sweaty, and hungry all at once. I called my parents back to at least bring me a drink and come back for moral support because I was going into battle. The psychometric test was difficult, there I said it. I will not even sugar-coat that, and no matter how many sample questions you go through online, you cannot be prepared for it. After my four hours, I walked out feeling unsure. This was beyond me but God knew how much I wanted this, I am sure He did.
After psychometrics an email with an interview date and time then followed, I was ecstatic. When I reflect, what I wore for my interview or how my hair was tied didn’t matter. I think it’s the content that landed me the job, I was well-researched but also answered the questions in a personal way, not just like a person reading-off responses from an interview preparation guide. I walked out feeling elated and wearing that I just nailed it look. But, two months of silence followed the interviews, and thoughts like ‘everything happens for a reason started to consume every free time I had.
The most deflating experience was my once supportive mom saying that I was dreaming too much and holding on to one firm and wasting application time to other potentials when it was clear that I hadn’t made it. I remember that conversation very well, we were standing beneath the avocado tree in our backyard and her words had injured a part of me because they were likely to be true. I also remember that conversation so well because it was disturbed by a call from the talent manager of the big four firm where I would spend my internship year. I guess I just preempted that she was calling to ask me to sign a contract as a Technology Risk intern.