Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why don't you love me?

With the excitement of interviewing for summer internships come the inevitable rejections, and I received my first yesterday, from Mars. To review, this is a candy company to which I applied for a summer marketing internship; I visited them on a trek and was flattered to have been asked to interview. I thought the interview went OK. My honest feeling about it was that I would have certainly been honored to have been offered the internship, because it's very selective (five people a year), and it would have added a major CPG company to my resume. It would have been great experience, and, as marketing jobs go, probably quite fun. All that said, I wasn't exactly convinced it was the perfect "fit." Some aspects of marketing interest me more than others; I'm still not sure if it's my calling. I'm sort of letting these interviews decide that for me. If it's what I should be doing, then a match will be self-evident to both me and the company.

They tell us quite a bit that "match" is what's really important, and that we're interviewing the companies as much as they're interviewing us. That's definitely true, although at the same time it's obvious that we as candidates are trying to put on the best impression we can; so when you get to an interview stage and then get rejected, it takes a lot of faith in fate to just say "Well, it wasn't a good match." Human nature would have me wonder what I did wrong; what did I do or say, or not do or say, that signaled to Mars that I was not appropriate for their program? And if I knew what that something was, would I agree and be OK with it? For example, if that something was "He didn't seem particularly passionate about candy," then I would agree with that and be fine with it, because it's true. If that something was "He didn't seem intelligent enough to handle the tasks we would have given him" or "He didn't show any evidence of leadership skills," then that, on the other hand, tells me that there's a discrepancy between how I'm coming off in interviews and how I think I am.

I'm still not exactly sure what I want to do. My interview with Apple went well, I thought; the internship has nothing to do with marketing -- it's about executive training and HR. I wish HR didn't have a reputation of being sort of small time. I think that's unfortunate, because a firm's staff and the way they are organized, managed, trained and incentivized are, I think, more important to a firm's success than anything that gets done by, say, a marketing department (depending on the nature of the business, I suppose). I'm quite interested in HR, and in corporate training, and also in operations -- I suppose I'm most interested in the intersection of those fields. "How can the staff best be organized and trained so that people are most productive and happy?" A very interesting question ... more interesting to me, frankly, than "How can we get more Hispanic women age 18-24 to buy this product?"

I'm not necessarily writing off marketing, though. I still think I could learn an awful lot of useful things in a good CPG marketing internship, which is why I'm still excited about talking to Unilever this Friday. It's a great company with a million brands, worthy missions, gay-friendliness and so forth. But I think the best approach to avoiding the pain of rejection is to have that faith that the right match will only be evident if both the company and I are honest about who we are, and who we're not. I'm sure the right thing will come along. Taking a more macro view, the options open to me are a thousand times greater here and now than they were a year ago, so I'm just very thankful to be here, truly. I would never have gotten Mars to even look my way for a marketing internship before getting into this program.

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