A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
It all started with me being suddenly ambitious (and anxious) thinking about an internship I have to do as a part of my master’s program. Being a non-EU citizen, I felt like I had to go the extra mile when it comes to job hunting. I browsed through LinkedIn to see open positions that seemed to be related to my study without taking into account my interest or passion whatsoever. I thought I shouldn’t restrict myself too much, getting an internship is tough, let alone having my preferences fulfilled. So I applied.
I got several e-mails offering a phone interview – the second step of selection after submitting my documents (and online tests for some companies). I passed them all and continued to the on-site interviews, all were outside Leiden. My overly-ambitious (and anxious)-self went on ~ 8 on-site interviews.
There were those “I shouldn’t have said that” moments, times when I was being all wet due to heavy rain, or not feeling well. There were also times I (thought) I nailed the interviews, saw sparks in the interviewers’ eyes when I gave good answers, and went home full of hope. Days later I started to receive e-mails about my interview results, only to get myself disappointed over and over. I was at the point where I knew what I was going to see every time I received an e-mail: a copy-paste of the previous rejection e-mails.
From a polite rejection to an e-mail saying “You’re not selected because other students were more convincing”, I’m getting used to it. Well, that sounds like I underestimate the days where I blamed myself, feeling incapable of doing what I should’ve been capable doing in the industry. However, the story didn’t end there.
I decided to e-mail another 20 companies, but this time those I was interested in. There were no job openings stated on their websites or any other platforms. I just e-mailed the contact person and included my CV, cover letter, as well as working samples in it. Out of those 20, half replied my email, and out of those half replying, only half of them had an open intern position. I was invited for interviews, and all of them appreciated my initiative. One company asked me to bring one thing that represented me as a person (I was like, “okay…”). So I brought a book called “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. No, I didn’t give them a lecture about the whole book.
“The reason why I brought this book was because of the author. Daniel Kahnmean was a Nobel Prize winner in Economics. But guess what, he had zero academic background in Economics. He is a Psychologist, and I am a soon-to-be Psychologist. I hold on to my belief that I don’t have to be in the exact same path other people go through, in order to achieve the same goals like theirs. If Kahneman took Economics, he probably wouldn’t have won the Noble Prize in Economics. It’s his authenticity and passion in Psychology that resulted in the biggest contribution, complementing what Economists had missed. Indeed he also learned a lot about Economics throughout his research and thus was known as a behavioral economist. But my point is, I cherish being different, taking Psychology rather than Business/Economics to dwell into a career path where most applicants hold the latter background. I’m not afraid to do things according to my passion and then complement it with other fields societies deem relevant – and I think it shouldn’t be the other way around.”
That’s it. I made myself realize that passion shouldn’t be put aside when applying for a job. It is hard to get a job nowadays, but it’s passion that delivers the message to interviewers. Looking back, I applied for internships which tasks I did not even think clearly about, just because those seemed related to my study and only to feel secured to get one. I’ve learned to embrace my authentic self and to know what I want, and that when A doesn’t work, there are still B-Z.
Within the past two days, I woke up to three “Congratulations.”
Another (probably) useful tip: go send bunch of e-mails to companies instead of applying when there’s an open position only.