I remember sitting there in awe. Joe talked about how they went to San Francisco and the school was paying for it. They visited companies like Google and Apple. The group was Honors Cohort, a selective honors program in the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University. I was only a freshman, so I could not apply until a sophomore. Joe was a member of the program and made the experience sound unreal. From that day on, Joe had me sold on applying for the program. So I got as involved as I could from day one… working on campus, leading blood drives, joining a sports club and fraternity… other things. Yet I did not think any of those would prepare me for the real world like Honors Cohort could.
Flash forward to sophomore year. I had two things on my mind: applying to Honors Cohort and finding a summer internship. With summer fast approaching, I updated my resume, threw on my newly-bought suit, and headed to the career fair. While I spoke with numerous companies, most of them shared I was too young for an internship as an underclassmen. However, one company, known as Vertiv, gave me a shot; we planned an interview for the future. At the same time, I submitted my application for Honors Cohort, which included essays, interviews, and other short answer questions. I could not wait to find out if I made it.
I will never forget the week before spring break, my sophomore year. Certainly it was exciting knowing I was headed to south Florida for break, but regardless, it was a big week for me. That Wednesday, I was supposed to interview with Vertiv for their marketing internship. Additionally, the results of my Honors Cohort application would come out, two days after the interview. I was a bundle of anxious, nervous, and excited. With Wednesday approaching, I reserved a quiet room on campus for the upcoming phone interview. The nerves I quickly left, however, when I read an email from my contact at Vertiv, saying they cancelled their marketing internship. I felt betrayed, since I did not even have the chance to prove I was a reasonable candidate… still promised an interview. It not an ideal situation.
Although I was upset about Vertiv, I was not entirely distraught. I just had to keep applying. That next day, I applied t maybe 25 internships on Ohio State’s job board. I was simply motivated to find something for the summer. I was not even sure what companies I applied to. Motivation, however, was secondary to the excitement I had about Honors Cohort. I was not one to check my email, but as soon as I woke up that Friday, at the bright hour of 7:00 am, I was spamming my refresh button and I finally found it: an email from the Honors Cohort Director. Only it was not what I wanted to hear; it was exactly what I wanted to shut out. I did not make the program. I was denied.
Getting denied from Honors Cohort and Vertiv was not a positive way to begin spring break. I started asking my friends and classmates about Honors Cohort and their upcoming summers. Turns out, most of them had internships. Whether it was with JPMorgan, L Brands, or another company, most people knew what they were doing for that summer. Also, my former roommate let me know he was selected for Honors Cohort. He pointed out how his friend, who he considered to be an average student at best, also was chosen. It really felt as if I was on the outside looking in when it came to this honors program and summer internships. To be honest, I did not really know what to do, so I did the only thing I could think of…
When I was growing up, I did not take criticism well. I am not exactly sure what kid does take criticism well, but I definitely was not one of them. As I grew up, through resolving conflicts with my brothers and playing sports, I realized that to get better, to grow as an individual, you have to realize what you are not good at. Later on that Friday, the same day I had been rejected and lost significant motivation, I emailed the Honors Cohort Director back. My email read as follows: “I thank you for considering me for Honors Cohort. If you feel I could have bettered myself during this process, in any aspect, please let me know. I believe any constructive criticism can help me in my future endeavors as a student here at Ohio State and beyond.” I simply assumed if I was not succeeding, I needed to do something about it.
The director actually did not get back to me until after Spring Break, but he was honest and direct. I was not good at interviewing, he told me. I did not communicate well in the interviews for my application and I did not compare favorably to the interviews of other candidates. I would not say I enjoyed hearing this, but it did give me a place to start. I called my friend, one of those who had his internship secured for summer. I told him I needed help interviewing. Fortunately, he obliged, and helped me improve my interviewing skills.
When I think back to sending that email to the director of Honors Cohort, it may have been the smartest move of my college career thus far. It targeted my focus. It allowed me to look at my failures as reason to improve, not to be sad or demoralized. While it was not easy to admit I was bad at interviewing, I had to. I needed to improve and was fortunate to have a friend who would help. A few weeks after I sent that email, I remember doing homework; finals were only a few weeks away. Out of seemingly nowhere, my phone rang. To my surprise, it was a representative from The Coca-Cola Company. The representative said he saw my application and wanted to ask me a few questions. I most definitely did not remember applying to their company at that moment, but I was not going to mention that. After the call, we set up a second interview.
Interestingly, the day after I was denied by Vertiv, when I applied to multiple jobs, I applied to The Coca-Cola Company. If everything would have worked out with Vertiv, I never would have even applied to Coca-Cola. After numerous interviews, Coca-Cola offered me an internship in their sports marketing division. I enthusiastically accepted it. I thought back to being denied from Honors Cohort. That program was a dream. I thought it would set me up for
success! And truthfully, it did. Honors Cohort made me realize what I was not good at and prompted me to fix it. I would have undoubtedly failed once more in the Coca-Cola interviews if my interviewing skills were not improved. To this day, I am so glad I sent that email.
I was recently reminded of this experience because of another company I have been interviewing for summer: PlayStation. One part of the interview process was to create a potential marketing partnership for the company. After crafting my idea, I called my former boss at The Coca-Cola Company. He helped me iron out the Powerpoint I would send to PlayStation. One thing he emphatically stressed was including the cost of the partnership; he said I needed to include the potential cost for the project. So I obliged and sent it to PlayStation.
Sitting in my bed the other day, I scrolled through my Instagram feed and found my old roommate, the one who was selected for Honors Cohort. Looked like they just took their annual trip to San Francisco. It certainly seemed like it was a great time. Sometime after, I got a call from PlayStation. They really enjoyed my presentation but said one thing stood out: I was the only applicant to include a potential cost for the project. I was offered the internship a few days later.
It is hard to believe all that has transpired in the past few years. First, I was denied from Vertiv. That made me apply to The Coca-Cola Company. Next, I was denied from Honors Cohort, which helped me vastly improve my interviewing skills and secure a position with The Coca-Cola Company. Because of the relationships I created at The Coca-Cola Company, I was able to get an internship at PlayStation. Oh, and did I mention where the PlayStation internship is located? San Mateo, a city 20 miles south of San Francisco. I truly could not be more thankful for the failures and struggles I had early on, as they have led me to where I am today.
Looking back on that story I wrote, it was one I could not be more proud of. I went from being rejected numerous times to an internship experience that would benefit me for a lifetime. It all played out perfectly… that is, until it did not. As it turns out, my life would take another turn. The internship would not last a lifetime, nor even a day. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my internship was cancelled. It was gut-wrenching. I thought I had it all planned out. I had overcome adversity; why was I not rewarded? Truth be told, it was not the best reward I could get.
I have always thought that satisfaction can be tied back to expectations. A great example is the game of golf. Now I am nowhere near proficient at this sport, but I have played numerous times. When I started, I expected bad shots. I had never played; why would I be good? When I hit a good shot (every 1 in 100 times), I was astounded. Compare that to now, where I hit a good shot more often, I get significantly more frustrated when a bad shot comes off my club. Why? Because I expect to play better.
I urge you not to make consistent life metaphors out of golf, because the frustration will only build, but I think it makes a solid metaphor here. The cancellation of the PlayStation internship hurt most because of my expectations. I expected to be spending my summer in sunny California, marketing video games which I had played since I had been a kid. Instead I was stuck at home with nothing to do, or as it seemed.
I mentioned earlier that the spring break of 2019 was an impactful moment for me. Coincidentally, A year later, the United States was introduced to the coronavirus. I sat at the
dinner table with my family sometime around then, not knowing what to do that summer. I almost felt as if I was in the sequel of some movie. Stay with me here, but in the first movie, I faced a number of conflicts, whether that be Honors Cohort or Vertiv, and like any good entertainment, the story concluded with a happy ending. I faced a bigger conflict in movie #2 and I had to make my own happy ending. Well, not my own, but my brother’s. If you do not know the kid, Josh is an eccentric 19 year-old with a flavor for entertaining the masses. I took that and pledged to make Josh famous on social media.
Making a person famous is certainly a unique task. Nonetheless, after a year and a half on the social media platform TikTok, Josh has right around 1000 posts, over 240,000 followers, and right around 7,500,000 likes (I write similar stats in my cover letter if you are looking for marketing help). While I direct, edit, and produce his videos, Josh is the star of the show. Whether it is dancing, comedy, or just something random, the kid has a knack for entertainment. I’d say the sequel to the original plot is going quite well.
One of my more humbling moments is that I was wrong in all that I wrote above. I thought I could get into the Honors Cohort. I could not. I thought I could get a job with Vertiv, but I was wrong again. I thought my internship getting cancelled was just a second wave of conflict. Truth is, there is no sequel, trilogy, or (if you’re a Star Wars fan), 9-part series on life’s problems. We have to face them everyday and how we respond significantly influences the impact of the conflicts we face. I probably could have used that advice before I got to college, but here I am nevertheless.
I have always liked writing. As a kid, I used to try to come up with poems, songs, or anything else I thought would be fun to write. That’s probably why I took the chance to write this piece. This is my second time doing such and I hope I get the chance to do so next year. If so, I’ll check back in. Not to share how my new job is going nor the exciting, new career opportunity I have, but ask me about my younger brother, and I certainly have some words. Love talking about that kid.