Everyone had said to me in the first semester, “The first semester’s always rough; it’ll get better by the second”. But trust me; the first half of the second semester was no better. There were new challenges to face and deal with. Along with new subjects and new classmates – wait – new classmates? Yes. Now that we were able to choose what subjects we wanted for the semester, the cohorts and study teams were mixed and suddenly I was surrounded by new faces, once again. I thought I knew a lot of people but no, there were more. Meeting new people has become a part of my life and what’s interesting is how smoothly it happened, it’s almost natural now! So, along with learning new subjects and meeting new classmates, I started applying to different companies for a summer internship.
It was a tedious process to say the least. Networking, resume updates, cover letters, first draft, revisions, second draft, revisions, final draft, interview preparations. There is a lot of effort that goes into it. But I have learned a lot from the process. This “exercise” made me a lot clearer in my thought process, boosted my confidence level, and made me ask difficult questions to myself – why do I want to work at one company versus other; would I like to do this job after 5 years, why and why not; what skills do I leverage; what is it that I need to work on; what is the company looking for in a candidate; would I be a good fit for the company; would the company be a good fit for me in terms of culture and career? The databases and my peers helped a lot but, not having worked for a corporate firm before and at the point of switching careers, I still didn’t know what to expect. I was prepared, confident and ready, yet had so many questions.
My first interview was a phone interview. That comes with its own set of challenges. Since you can’t see the other person, you really need to work hard on cues that suggest when to speak, when to start, when to stop. It’s tricky, but some pointers from communication coach really helped me ace it. Juggling between classes, assignments, and a series of first round interviews, there were never enough hours in the day. Add to all of this another series of second round interviews for which I had to travel at times. My days got even shorter. I now realized what 25 hours in a day would mean for me. One particular time after attending my regular classes from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., I drove myself to the airport to catch a 2:00 p.m. flight, appeared for three back to back interviews within the same firm, took a cab back to airport, flew back to Austin, and came home to attend classes the next day. All of this really helps you to prioritize and work efficiently with limited time. During this phase when you have a moment to reflect and take it all in, you realize you are just waiting for one call that says, “Hello Chirali, we have some good news for you. We would like to offer you a position in our firm for the summer. Would you like to join us?” It’s not the effort, the preparation, the physical or mental exertion that gets on to you; it’s the waiting and not knowing that totally drains you. But the key is to be patient and try until you succeed. Cliché I know, but still holds true.
And then it came – the much awaited call, and not just one but multiple. At this point, with the ball in your court, you choose how and what to play. And I did too! Ah, relief! The recruiting process is over, at least for now, so finally, I am relaxed and waiting to experience a normal semester focused on studies and fun. The key takeaways from this experience – connect with people, be patient, and help others as much as you can. I wouldn’t be where I am without the help of all the people who worked with me, guided me, motivated and encouraged me. I am so glad about the choices I made starting from the one of coming to McCombs. I look forward to my internship and hope to give back to others in the same way my new friends did for me.