So this afternoon I found out I did not make it to the next round of interviews for the Software Engineering internship at the amazing Khan Academy. I had my heart on this internship – I have been a long-time supporter of Khan Academy and similar organizations for free and open education. I never applied earlier there because I didn’t think I was qualified or “exciting” enough. But this term, I felt more confident to because I had spent time exploring my interests and figuring out what type of developer I wanted to be.
I thought my interview went well. An hour in total, my interview comprised of talking about my side projects, working on programming questions, and asking the interviewer questions. By the way, the interview was all on Skype. I got through 2 interview questions and worked out the correct solutions that ran in linear time. I walked through my thinking process with the interviewer, who was a super-friendly developer, on a code sharing site. All in all, the interview seemed to have gone well and I was looking forward to the second round (out of five).
But alas, I got the dreaded “thank you for applying, there were so many talented applicants but we did not select you to move forward” email. This took me back to my last study term when I didn’t move past the first round of interviews for Google, a place dreamed of working at since the 5th grade. For that interview, I didn’t do as well as the Khan Academy one.
With the added pressure from that experience, this time around rejection hurt a lot more. I’m a very detail-oriented person, so I like to over-analyze situations in order to get the fullest understanding and convince myself things will be alright. So naturally, I questioned myself as to whether I answered the questions quick enough, spent too much or too little time talking through my process, saying “like” too much, etc. The more these thoughts went through my mind, the more the situation became too personal. Tears were shed, yo.
I started to question my intelligence, and how maybe my grades somehow defined it. I compared myself to people I knew who interned at Khan Academy and Google, and came to the vacuous conclusion that I would never be cut out for those places because I wasn’t some genius or prodigy. I can only hope that these loaded terms weren’t part of the screening process.
The only criticism I have is: Why can’t we get feedback on our interviews and why does it have to “confidential”? I understand that there are “legal” ramifications. There should be formal process to obtain feedback then! These companies encourage us to apply again, and let’s face it, that cookie-cutter message is sent to everyone. There is no individualism, nothing you can personally relate to and use for self-improvement. For me, it’s hard to feel encouraged when there’s no sense of closure. It’s like going through a bad breakup! All you are left to do is question yourself and wonder how inadequate you are. The education system is doing this to me already! If the “real world” is like this, then what’s the point of being there? Maybe my perspective is too “millennial”? Do I just want someone’s hand to hold when things go awry?
It takes being the “bigger person” to use the experience as a positive learning lesson. It’s so hard though! Two pieces of fried chicken wrapped in bacon later, I’m still trying to make sense of everything. All you can really do is use the experience to be a better person, and hope for the best. If you’re lucky (I’m realizing that this internship game relies a lot on luck), then things will work out. If not, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just an internship. You are still awesome, quit eating your feelings. They missed out.