By Kelly Gibson, Communications Committee
When you are a little kid, lying awake in your bed imaging your grown-up dreams and your grown-up plans, a few stereotypical things come to mind. You see flourishing images of tailored suits, cups of coffee being thrown around left and right, bluetooth headpieces pasted to people’s ears as they run around with a professional stride, and large, wide rooms for meetings.
That is exactly the scenario I walked into – an almost cliche view of the professional world – when I entered my first real interview. I applied to work as a spring 2014 public relations and news intern for Penn State Outreach, and I received an invitation to interview. In the past, having worked several part-time jobs, I always assumed getting an interview meant the you pretty much had an “in”, and that the hard part of getting selected amidst a pool of applicants was over.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Dressed very much unlike my usual self in a dress, a borrowed blazer and heels, I entered the waiting room to find exactly what I imagined the business of public relations to look like, complete with suits, headsets, laptops and running around galore. I was absolutely scared to death. With a brief handshake and a catch of breath, I found myself sitting in the most intimidating conference room I’ve ever imagined, surrounded by three people all sitting on opposite sides of the room.
When they began asking questions, I had to swing my head back and forth in between responses like a tennis match. The questions I was asked were nothing I expected, either. When you’re going into interviews, you have your resume and experience memorized, but that’s not exactly what these interviewers had in mind.
I was asked about why I wanted public relations, why that company, and why they should even consider me, as if my elaborate cover letter and resume were presumptively thrown out the window upon my arrival.
The interview lasted a solid half-hour. They asked me everything from where I am from, to my career aspirations, to what makes me fitting to make it in the business. At the day’s end, I was told I would hear back in one week, regardless if I received the position or not, as they were only taking one person.
Even if I’m not their selected spring intern, this experience has taught me several valuable lessons.
This is the real world. College sometimes can appear to be this bubble-like safe haven where we all can float freely and separate ourselves periodically from career responsibilities if need be. The fact is that interviews beyond these buildings and campus dorms really are all-or-nothing, and bad impressions can go a long way.
I’ll be shaking when I get that phone call, and I’m going to ask the employer for some honest feedback on my interview. In the end, it’s all about building experience, even it it scares you half to death.