My life´s been a little crazy as a result of this internship. To put it mildly.
Quick backstory, for those of you who don´t know: I worked in sales at a cell phone shop for 5.5 years in New Orleans. We´ll call it “VW,” hypothetically. During the last year of that time I tried desperately and desperately to get a management position. I applied for something like 20 spots in my district, went on as many interviews, and got rejected 20 times. Not to be braggy, but for someone who´s always been successful at whatever she puts her mind to, this was a horrible time for me. I was newlywed and depressed. My husband is awesome but my job was sucking the life out of me. And then, out of the sky, a 6 month marketing internship opened up in Houston, to work as a Senior Marketing Analyst. I pulled out all the stops, called in all my favors, and worked my tail off to get it. Out of a gazillion applicants, I got the job, and started this January. But it´s a temporary assignment with no guarantees of a promotion afterward. So I´m staying with my brother in law, sister in law, and two beautiful nephews in Houston while my husband is back home in NOLA, in school full time. We see each other roughly every other week. Okay. Yeah. My life´s been a little crazy as a result of this internship.
Now: I´m 4.5 months into this 6 month gig, and I´m starting to
stress think about what I´m going to do next. While this internship absolutely prepares me for a better position, there are no guarantees at the end of the program. I still have to apply for whatever positions I find open within VW, when the time comes. I could look for jobs back home in NOLA (there´s nothing), here in Houston, or anywhere nationwide.
If I don´t find something, I can go back to retail. My job is “held” for me there. So there´s that. At least I´m not jobless. Some people find placements right after the internships, some people go back to their old jobs for a few months before they find something. Some go back to their old jobs and don´t keep looking.
As you might understand, I´ve been stressed about it all. I thought my stress was primarily financial and so about a month ago, I decided to contact Shannon of Financially Blonde. She´s often written about how passionate she is about helping people with their finances—I thought she´d be great to talk to, and boy was I right! But, not for the reasons I thought. I wanted her to give me cold, hard, numbers. I wanted her to say, “you need $XX in savings for a potential move. If they send you here, you need this much, if they send you there, you need that much. Let´s look at your finances and make a plan.”
I got none of that. I explained to her my situation, and she said, “you need a job.” To which my gut reaction was, “yeah, I know, but let´s talk about money.” But she made me realize, no, we can´t plan further, really, without a job. And then she talked me into looking for a job outside of VW. And my head went: poof. What do you mean, leave VW? They´ve has been so gracious and generous in training me with this internship. I don’t want to start new somewhere else and be entry-level all over again. That´s 6 years of my life down the drain! She told me no… She convinced me I wouldn’t be entry level, my resume sounds great, and that if VW isn’t going to guarantee me a new job, there sure as heck isn’t any harm in looking elsewhere. I really think she should get a job as a motivational speaker and forget this whole finance thing, because when I left the meeting, I felt GREAT. She really helped me believe in myself. I had a plan. I felt like I was running up the steps with the Rocky theme blaring behind me. I was going to say “screw VW, and their inability to promise me a job!” and I was going to spruce up my LinkedIn and find myself a new job here in Houston.
So spruce it up I did, I went round and round in circles, finally gathered up my courage, and I started applying. Part of my hesitation is that I´m not exactly sure what kind of job to be looking for. I put that uncertainty aside. I signed up for the one month free of LinkedIn premium, and changed my status to “job seeking.” Then I got the hang of it, added connections, and I applied and applied.
I… haven´t heard back yet… from any of them.
But! You know what? I´m not heartbroken. I kind of feel like maybe I shouldn´t be leaving VW. I know the work and the ins and outs of the company here. I’m known for my excellent work, here. I kind of feel like this is where I’m meant to be, for now.
Months ago, someone suggested I start doing informational interviews within VW. If it hadn´t been for Shannon´s kick in the butt, I probably would have put this off forever. But with my confidence soaring and my shiny, updated resume in hand, I started emailing people, here within VW, about setting up informational interviews. What´s the point of an informational interview? To learn about the business. To try and figure out specifically what kind of job I want. To rule out jobs I don´t want. To narrow my focus, so that I can know what the heck I´m looking for, when I actually start looking. And to meet people.
I started with people who had been through this internship program before me. Then I broadened my circle to people I´ve been in meetings with who seem especially bright. Then all of those people recommended me to other people they thought I might be a good fit with, and on and on my circle expanded.
Now let me stop right here and tell you, I am not the networking type. This kind of stuff does not come naturally to me. I am not a very social person, I don´t make friends everywhere I go, I have to be diligent about taking detailed notes to remember things about people I meet, I don´t have cutesy stories lined up to break the ice. But gosh darnit, Shannon had lit a fire under my butt and I was going to do my best. I started loving these informational interviews, and the people I was talking to seem to like it, too.
WHAT ARE MY INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS LIKE?
Basically, I block off 30 minutes for them to talk about themselves. I start by telling them who I am, a little bit about my background, and the kind of work I´ve done. I tell them they come highly recommended by so-and-so, that I´m looking to pick their brains and learn about as many facets of the business as possible. Then I ask them to tell me about their paths within the company, what a typical day is like for them, and what bits of wisdom they´d share to someone hoping to be a successful candidate for this type of position in the future. This usually eats up 30 minutes, no problem, but if there´s extra time, I ask them about industry trends, challenges they face, and the structure of their team, all the time asking smart, but logical questions to show I´m keeping up. Then, to wrap it up, I thank them for their time, and ask for further recommendations on who to talk to next.
These have been so much more pleasurable that I ever could have expected. They´re stress-free for the person you´re talking to, you get to learn, be appreciative, put your name out there, and make a friendly connection.
And so, I kept expanding my circle out and out, doing these informational interviews, until I found my dream job. It exists, ladies and gents. I found this lady who does multicultural marketing for the South Area all by herself. We hit it off great and our meeting actually ran almost 50 minutes, we were just chatting away. She told me about her work and immediately the lightbulb went off in my head, “this is what I want to do. This. Exactly this.” Unfortuantely, she´s a “team of 1” and would love more people to work with, but it´s not in the budget. But she mentioned wistfully, “so-and-so is the new VP of Marketing, so maybe this year we´ll see some changes.”
Well don´t you know I reached the peak of my courage, and I just up and emailed this VP. That´s VP as in Vice President. Of this like 50,000+ employee-company. Told him who I am, how awesome I am, and that I´m interested in multicultural marketing. Can we set up an informational interview at his convenience? I figured the worst he could do to me was not have time for me. And guess what?
He didn´t reply to me, BUT he forwarded my info to some other guy, a Marketing Director at Headquarters. This guy said he wanted to set up time with me, so I thought, “awesome, another informational interview!” I get on the phone ready to ask him the standard questions, but instead BAM! He starts interviewing ME! I was completely unprepared. Unprepared as in, I wasn´t expecting this, but really, I know what I´m talking about and what I think, so I guess it went okay. When I realized what was happening, I couldn´t hear the words coming out of my mouth over the sound of my heart pounding in my ears.
Then, as he wraps up his interview, he says the reason the VP sent him my info was because he´s setting up a brand new multicultural marketing team within the next 4-6 weeks, and that he´s looking for people “like me.” Ahhhhh! It took everything I had to not run up and down the halls cheering! We thanked each other and promised to keep in touch.
Now, I was really excited. I still am. BUT. I don´t want to get overconfident or prematurely believe something that hasn´t happened yet. He may not pick me for his team. But he may keep me in mind for something else. Or recommend me to someone else. Or whatever! Who knows!
I also don´t want to get prematurely excited, because even if he does offer me a job, I know I´m going to need a $20k increase in my current pay, minimum, to make it worth my while.
So anyway, I think this is all thanks to Shannon. If it weren´t for her, I´d probably still be holed up in my little cubicle, plugging away at my work, being nervous and scared about the future and my finances, hoping a promotion would just happen to me. Now, I may or may not get a promotion at the end of these six months, but at least I know I´ve been doing all the right things to put myself on a good path.
Are you the networking type? Doesn´t it make you nervous? Have you ever had an interview you weren´t expecting? Have you ever done informational interviews? Have you found them to be helpful?