This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Maitri Shah. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

50 Rejections Later, I Jotted The 11 Things I Learnt About Internship Hunting

I’m really excited to say that I am going to be interning at Workday this summer as a Software Engineer Intern! After months of applying, interviewing, emailing, networking, the countless hours of work had finally paid off. I had received more than 50 emails along the lines of “We regret to inform you that…”, “This year, we received a record number of applications and unfortunately cannot consider…”, or “We thoroughly enjoyed reading your application, but….”.

It was really frustrating to invest so much thought, time, and energy towards finding an internship. It was a Catch 22: I was trying to find experience to grow my skills, but companies already expected me to have a ton of experience under my belt.

Even though the process was gruelling, the effort was worth it, and I actually learned a lot more than I thought I would.

Lesson 1: Start Early

Last summer, I started looking for an internship in March, which was way too late (I was a freshman, what would I know). I didn’t end up getting any offers for summer 2017. I learned my lesson the hard way, but you don’t have to! Start as soon as you can, that way you’ll have plenty of time to apply, prepare for interviews, and you don’t risk missing out on some really cool opportunities! Starting early will also ease your stress levels especially when school picks up. August would be a good time to start getting in the groove of things, in fact, a lot of companies start releasing internship applications before that, so keep your eyes peeled.

If anything, make a spreadsheet of the companies you want to apply to and make note of the deadlines. Be aware of companies that have rolling applications, and apply early to those (there’s a higher chance that your application will move forward if you apply earlier).

Lesson 2: Find A Mentor

When August rolled around, I had no idea where to start my search. I reached out to a friend, who I knew had a history of working at really amazing and prestigious companies. We both knew of each other, but we weren’t close friends. I decided to take a leap of faith and reach out — there was nothing to lose. She said she’d love to help (!). I met her at a coffee shop, and she helped me apply to some of my first jobs and gave me tips on how to find opportunities and stay organised. She also helped me practice for some of my interviews! She and I clicked really well, and after, we hung out regularly to chat or study. She’s now one of my best friends at school, and I know that I wouldn’t have this friendship if I hadn’t mustered up the courage to reach out for help.

Finding a supportive mentor who I could talk to about my progress was really encouraging and stress relieving as well. You don’t need to suffer alone! People have been there done that, and they are willing to help. Reach out to people and don’t be afraid.

Lesson 3: Practice, Practice, Practice

For technical interviews, it’s important to keep practising the types of questions that interviewers might ask. Do a couple of problems a day, practice with your friends on a whiteboard, and make sure to nail your elevator pitch. For behaviour interviews, practice with friends, see how you talk in front of the mirror, record yourself. To get a grip on technical questions, I highly recommend Cracking the Coding Interview, Leetcode, Hackerrank, Topcoder, and Geeks for Geeks. Use your resources because they are there for a reason!

Getting interviews can be hard, and the last thing you want to do is blow an opportunity and have regrets about not practising enough.

Lesson 4: Your Network Is Your Net Worth

Finding an internship will be hard if you make it hard. Applying online doesn’t always have to be the go-to method. Go to career fairs, tech talks, and networking events to meet recruiters and have conversations with them face to face. Although this is extra work, it can go a really long way. Try to message recruiters on LinkedIn (you can get LinkedIn premium for a month), or reach out to friends who have worked at companies you’re interested in working at. They probably have emails that you can reach out to. Emailing recruiters will set you apart from the hundreds (even thousands) of applications that companies get. It’s a more personal, less robotic, way of showing who you are. You’re showing that you have interest and are taking initiative, and that’s great. The hiring process will go incredibly faster as well (it’s like you get to cut in line or get a fast pass for free!).

Lesson 5: Hone Your Resume

This one might be a no-brainer, but your resume is often the first thing that a recruiter will see when they look at your application. Make sure your resume is up to date, clean, and has zero typos and errors. Highlight your relevant coursework, skills, GPA, projects, and previous work experience. Tailor your resume to the job you are applying to and cut out what’s unnecessary or irrelevant.

Lesson 6: Don’t Settle For Less

There may be times when you receive an offer (yay! how exciting), but it isn’t exactly what you were looking for. In some ways, it can be a good thing, but in other ways, the job might not align with your goals (at all). After around three months of recruiting, I received a job offer, but I realised that it was for a position that was really not interesting to me. Some people told me that “any experience is good experience” (which is true to some extent), but others told me that I should just drop an offer if I didn’t like it. Remember that recruiting is a two-way street: the company is not only evaluating you, but you are also evaluating the company. Don’t forget that.

It’s really hard to determine where to draw the line, but from my personal experience, I realised that the offer I received really didn’t align with how I wanted to spend my summer. Some of the questions I asked myself (in no particular order of importance) to make a decision were:

1) In what ways will I grow if I take this opportunity?
2) Is it too late in the game to drop this opportunity and keep searching?
3) Will I be happy working at company x doing job y?
4) What is the internship experience like?
5) How will my skillset grow?
6) Does the company’s mission align with my own personal values?
7) How much does the company value its employees?
8) Will I be 100% satisfied if I take this job?
9) What is my heart saying?
10) Am I passionate about what this company does?

It’s hard to drop offers. It’s so easy to feel inclined to take an offer for the sake of being done with recruiting. But remember that your happiness matters. After I dropped my first offer, I was scared that I wouldn’t receive another one, and I’d regret dropping the original offer. But that fear pushed me harder, and I’m really glad that I didn’t consider the first offer because the one that I have now really does align a lot better with my future goals.

Lesson 7: Keep Building Your Skills

This one’s important. Companies want to see what you do outside of the classroom that makes you an expert in your field. Research? Extracurriculars? A part-time internship? Participating in those activities stands out. The first semester, I felt like I lacked work experience, so I reached out to some local startups and saw if they had work that I could do. I landed a part-time spring internship at Kiwi Campus, one of the biggest startups in Berkeley, and this new addition to my resume really stood out. Just remember to stay involved, and keep working hard. I promise that it pays off.

Lesson 8: Consider All Your Options

The point of having an internship is for you to evaluate whether or not you like doing a specific kind of work. Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that are a bit outside of your realm. The worst case scenario is that you dislike the work. Sometimes, knowing what you don’t like could be more beneficial than knowing what you do like. When it comes to applying to full-time jobs, you’re going to need to understand what work you like to do, because changing jobs often gets harder as you get older. If you try different types of work and realise that you like it, that’s great! You could start taking college/online courses related to that area of study. Consider keeping all your options open, and you’ll be doing yourself a favour in the long run!

Lesson 9: Don’t Chase ₹ Or The Titles

If your only interest is the money or the rank of the company you work at, you really should consider re-evaluating your priorities. There are some amazing companies and jobs out there that are so undervalued. Just focus on being the best you can be at what you do, and the money and the titles will follow along. Don’t base your choices solely on how much you are getting paid or the title of the company you’re working at. Trust me, it won’t help you in the long haul.

Lesson 10: Have Faith In Yourself

If you’re reading this, it shows that you are committed to working hard and making your life what you want it to be. Be confident and proud of how far you’ve come! Don’t feel down after getting rejections or having bad interview experiences (I’ve had plenty). Virtually everyone around you is going through the same process. Just remember that everything works out in the end. You got this!

Lesson 11: Celebrate!

After you have officially signed with a company, give yourself a pat on the back! You did it! But didn’t you receive help? Always remember to thank people who helped you practice interviews, refine your resume, gave you positive words of encouragement. The people who care about you want you to do well, the least you can do is share your success with them. I suggest sending over a personal message to people and to the people who were there every step of the way (those people are hard to find), take them out to coffee or dinner! Another way to give back is to pay it forward  - make other people’s job hunting experience easier, whether it be offering a recruiter email or interview practice session, a little bit of kindness goes a really long way. Stay humble, and never stop grinding.

This article was first published on the author’s Medium account, here.

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Image used for representation only.
Image source: Priyanka Parashar/Mint via Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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