I was offered a Sales and Marketing internship position from Pearson, a globally known education company, a few days ago for this upcoming summer 2018. I’ll be working with the local Sales team in Lynchburg, VA for a few weeks, then I will spend the few weeks after that at one of their home offices in Columbus, OH to equip myself with Marketing and Customer Service knowledge before finally, finding myself spending a week in San Diego, CA to attend their annual National Sales Meeting. As amazing as it sounds, the journey of getting this position was not at all easy. I want to dedicate this blog to share my experience as an international student trying to get an internship in the United States.
Just like other international students, I acknowledge the importance of find internships for the summer. In fact, having an internship will increase the chance of networking so the chances that we may get a job offer after graduation is higher. International students are given one year under OPT Work Authorization to work full-time for a company. If we fail to find a job 60 days after graduation, we either have to continue to higher education (graduate schools), or go back to our home country. Because of this, the pressure to get a job is much higher compared to other students.
Being fully aware of this, I started the journey of looking for internships for the summer 2018 as early as October 2017. To be honest, it was the most tiring yet rewarding process ever. I learned and grew so much through the process, mainly thanks to the failure I’ve been through.
Finding an internship requires certain strategies and it obviously requires intense tenacity and persistency. I first applied through job postings on LinkedIn. I made an Excel spreadsheet, documented the positions I applied for, and put down the names of the hiring person (if provided). I also started sending e-mails with recruiters I’ve made in the past in a career fair when I was still a sophomore to check opening positions. One month passed by, I got no response from any company.
Besides LinkedIn, I also went to the website of the companies that I have strong interest for and checked out the postings there. Then, I found an internship opportunity from a company that I extremely love to be a part of. I brought my résumé to the school’s career center to be polished even more. I wrote a compelling cover letter, for I’ve grown up using the company’s products, so it left a huge impact on my childhood. After careful preparation, I applied for the position online. To my astonishment, only 3 minutes after I hit the “submit” button, I received a system email rejecting me, saying I did not meet the qualifications for the position. I later figured out the company does not want to hire students who later needs sponsorship to work in the United States. This was extremely sad, for my application was not even looked at and I prepared so hard to apply for the position.
#1 lesson learned: Carefully double check your qualifications for any positions before you start any job application, so you do not waste your time and the company’s time.
Life went on. I continued my journey of applying to jobs online and through company’s websites. I went to the school’s career fair and made some great connections. Sadly, most of the internship opportunities will not be posted until around March, so other than making great connections and ensuring frequent follow-ups with them, I had no news about a job offer.
In the meantime, I have been working for Pearson for more than a year as their Campus Ambassador on campus whose job is to mainly promote Pearson products and services on campus. I host tabling events, conduct in-class presentations, participate in focus group for product piloting campaigns and so many other cool activities. My managers once informed us of a possible internship opportunity in Sales/Marketing for the summer and wanted us to be on the look out for that. I enjoy my job at Pearson, so the company is definitely one of my desired companies to have an internship with. I waited for a few weeks until the internships were posted, but I found no sales or marketing internship available.
However, I still wanted to work for Pearson so I decided to choose one position to apply for: Product Management intern in one of their home offices in Boston, MA. Winter break was approaching and I was thinking of ways to help me make more connections at Pearson to increase my chance of acceptance, for I solely work virtually with all of my teammates. Then, I managed to find a ride all the way from Lynchburg, VA to Boston, MA and I got to stay at the house of a friend from middle school for two weeks when in Boston. This could not be a “more” perfect plan! I really thought at the time this was the position for me and everything was supporting me to get the position. After calculating all the logistics, I reached out to my manager, letting her know I could be in Boston for a few weeks. I went on to ask if I could visit the Boston office and meet some people there to get to know the office and the company better. She managed to help me set up a meeting with 5 people from different teams within the office, but they had no authority within the decision-making of the internship. I was extremely happy because this was such a great relationship-building opportunity! So, everything went as planned. I got to the office, got through security check, started meeting people one by one from 9 AM until 3 PM. We shared with each other many things, and I was always aware to present myself the best to leave a good impression on them. We all enjoyed the meeting and decided to keep in touch no matter what. About a week or résumé two after that, I was offered an interview from the Product Management team.
I thought this was my time to shine and get the offer. It was a virtual panel interview. The interview went really well; I managed to answer questions thoughtfully, integrating my knowledge of the company through my work experience. I also mentioned my visit to the Boston office. After the interview, I followed up with them and I also had several people I met in Boston sent some recommendation letters to the team. I waited patiently to hear back from the offer. One week later, I got an email rejecting me, for the team thought I had a much stronger Marketing background and that I should steer towards Marketing positions more. This brought me to a complete devastating state, for I tried so hard for this position. I spent a week recollecting my mind, evaluating my actions. I realized as much as I wanted the internship, I agreed with the hiring team that I was not meant to work under product management, for the solutions I gave for their questions/problems they raised during the interview was heavily influenced from a marketing perspective. So, there goes my #2 lesson learned:
#2 lesson learned: We are not cut out for every position. Even if we tried desperately hard, if we do not have the skills that the job requires, we cannot get a position.
After the rejection from Pearson, I was left quite hopeless, for this company was one of my safe move, and now, I saw myself having to move on from the failure. I began my internship seeking process, again. I kept being rejected, whether through a system email right after I submitted my application. One time, a company locked me out of their system after I submitted the answer to the question, “Will you now/ or in the future need sponsorship to work in the United States?” Frustrated and disappointed, I thought of finding internships outside the United States.
A while before that, I applied for an internship in my home country Vietnam but the decision would not be made until around March so I could do nothing except for keep looking for other opportunities during the wait. Then, I found an organization that helped students seek internships in Asian countries. With a minor in Chinese and the love for foreign languages, especially Asian languages, I feel myself attached to the country Singapore. I can imagine myself working and living in Singapore in the future at some point. The process went well; the people set up an interview with me and collected my information. I put Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand as my choices for destinations, yet I only wanted Singapore the most. A week after that, they reached out to me saying I was only accepted for the program in South Korea and Thailand, for I did not meet the requirements to be accepted to the program in Singapore. I later found out I should go to a school that ranks among top 200 schools in the world to be considered for Singapore. Again, this was frustrating, for I have to decide between South Korea and Thailand when I so long for an internship in Singapore. I guess life is just never easy. I asked people around for advice, and my mother told me I should go to neither of the country for certain reasons. She always gave me wise advice, so I took it and rejected both. Now, I was left jobless, again. I knew not what to do.
Then, the time came. One day, I found out Pearson finally had an opportunity for internship in Sales and Marketing. I immediately applied for it and got the job interview about a week after that. I told myself I’d better bring my a-game this time; go big or go home. This is what I’m in school for and gaining experience for, so I should do well. I prepared for the interview, listing out the skills I thought would be helpful for the positions. I linked the experience I had with how those equipped me with the essential skills for the job. The interview went well, for I had a chance to be myself, showcasing my strengths and skills. One week after that, I got the acceptance email from the Sales team and I could not be happier. All the hard work finally paid off. One thing that I cherished the most about the interview was how respectful the people were about my international background. This means a lot to me as an international student, especially after the countless incidences that I got rejected because of my international background.
#3 lesson learned to get Sales Marketing Internship: Never give up. Keep looking and it will be given to you. Success only comes to people who do not give up.
Finding internship is never easy, but I found this an extremely helpful learning experience. I learn to value my international background and that people do value the skills and differences that international students bring to America. I understand life could seem unfair at times, but instead of complaining about my nationality, I find it much more positive and useful to continue working ahead, dealing with whatever hardship comes my way, and learn from the experience. I found myself learn and grow so much after all the failures. Thanks to the failure, I treasure the success I have even more. I hope you will have more hope reading my story, and I wish you the best of luck in finding an internship. Hang in there!
Mai Chi Nguyen | LinkedIN