Thursday, March 25, 2010

That's OK, that's OK ...

Deal ... or no deal? Ever notice how on Deal or No Deal, when a case is opened and a high dollar amount is revealed (which, for those unfamiliar with the rules, is bad news), three things happen:

1. The model, or whoever opens the case, grimaces.

2. The audience says "Oooooh...." and then gets quiet.

3. The contestant always optimistically claps, smiles and shouts, "That's OK, that's OK!"

4. Then the audience claps and hoots at the contestant's perseverance and optimism.

I always want to reassure the contestant, "No, see, it's not OK at all. It's pretty terrible, because you just lost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's not OK, that's not OK."

The internship hunt often makes me feel like my fellow students and I are contestants on Deal or No Deal, forever getting rejected, then needing to smile, clap and say "That's OK, that's OK!" We all know it's not, though.

I had two phone "interviews" today (one was an interview, the other was a more casual query chat). I think they went fine, but unfortunately it's not my opinion that matters. One thing that holds me back in interviews is that it's hard for me to envision what having an internship at these companies would be like. So when I'm asked, say, "If you got this internship, how would you approach the tasks in the job description?" I don't have a great answer; instead, I just have lots of questions. At the newspaper, job descriptions were pretty self-evident: Photographers take photographs. Page designers design pages. Reporters report. But in the ever-complex business world, what does a "strategy and business development summer analyst" actually, literally, physically do? Thanks to school, I can begin to imagine what that person might want to think about, and what types of frameworks that person might use to solve problems. But do? I dunno, really. That's why I want the internship -- to find out.

And if I can't quite wrap my mind around precisely what the person does, can I really convince someone that I'm the best candidate to do it? "Would I be a fantastic strategy and business development summer analyst? Well, maybe. I don't know. I do well in school and am a pretty nice guy; I'm smart and have a track record of doing some things I think were neat. I work hard enough to do a good job, and I take tasks that are given to me seriously. Sounds to me like I should do fine, but, you know, who's to say? Who are the other candidates, after all? Maybe someone else would be better, or maybe all your other applicants wouldn't do nearly as good of a job. I have no idea. That's for you to figure out." That answer is not only long-winded, but not very reassuring.

But it's the truth. And isn't telling the truth what's most important in business?*


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