TRANG NGO – What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger!

Many international students could not get jobs in the U.S. because they don’t know what they want to do and even if they do, they don’t know how to prepare for it. Trang Ngo, a Vietnamese student also had a hard time finding a job. Her hard work and preparation paid off as she a got an offer from the Advisory practice of EY (Ernst and Young) in Chicago. Check out the story of this talented, yet so humble girl!

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What doesn’t kill you make you stronger! And it is true indeed. The recruitment process is definitely not a piece of cake (for those who disagree, lucky you! Now get out!). Rather, it is a gastronomic cuisine journey, with combinations of flavors, from errs to mouthgasm. Regardless, be proud of yourself, for you did not consider the easy way out!

When Toan asked me to help out, it took me a few days to decide on what should I write, for I can write a thesis about searching jobs (I started preparing as early as in high school). I could have offered some suggestions on how to prepare, etc. but I am not an expert. Plus, other contributors (bé Đài Cao, anh Duy Ngô) have done such fabulous jobs on the topic that I would never be able to match up. So I figured I would just share my rocky journey, one that’s filled with failures, anxiety, disappointment, self-doubt and optimism. Of course, I made it in the end (otherwise, I would never been asked to write this :P).

To put things in perspective, I am a Finance & Accounting Major (only‪#‎BentleyU‬ offer this! ‪#‎falconpride‬) with a second major in Global Perspectives (so I could spend a summer in London and fall in Spain, enjoying tapas everyday) and a minor in Computer Information System (get this in your CV if you can). My career choices back then: 1st: Consulting (typical?!), 2nd: housewife (perk of being a woman), 3rd: anything else.

I have always been career-oriented. I chose Bentley for its impressive stats (back then, 96% of the graduates got a job or went on to grad school after 6 months of graduation). Yet, being the typical procrastinator, I did not look into the recruitment process till Junior Year. You know how a lot of people say sophomores usually don’t stand a chance for internship?! (therefore, I spent my summer interning in Vietnam and London instead).

My first professional experience came as a surprise, I got to work with a Big4 firm for a semester. I was excited, enjoying life, thinking a good performance would definitely get me a place in the summer internship and eventually full-time. As many could have guessed, I got rejected for the internship because I flunked the case interview. I was complacent. I definitely deserved it. Now, I can say that I’m grateful for that experience. Yet, back then, I hated myself. I would look in the mirror and refrained from cursing myself, for blowing off the opportunity. I started to look for other opportunities, but the choices were limited. Other Big4 have already concluded their recruitment (some conducted it while I was busy tasting jámon everyday in Spain). I sent out applications to all the possible postings found on the school career domain and to companies that I respect (which were limited due to visa issues).

Hard work paid off. I got an offer, to work in NYC for 8 weeks. As always, good things come to an end. In my case, it ceased after 2 days…. The offer was revoked… Their reasons: the company doesn’t recruit international student (I did not hide this fact). I was startled. I did not know what to think, who to blame, or what to do. I called my friends and parents – to deliver the news, keeping a straight face as if it was not a big deal, that I was okay. I had to remain strong, because what else could I do. I was jobless for the summer, and the feeling of failure lingered. Without an internship, my chance of getting a full-time offer was slim. I had to consider the alternatives, going back to Asia? Moving to Europe? Or seriously, just drop it all and marry myself off.

I decided to give it another attempt, this time with preparation. During the summer, I worked on my case interview skills, talking to myself on topic of my skills and abilities (thank God my roommate was away), reviewing and rewriting the resume and cover letters, reading guidebooks, watching YouTube channels, practicing cases, and meeting people who successfully survived the recruitment process, calling up people who I haven’t even met for coffee, or lunch. I was optimistic, many assured me that I would be just fine (sound familiar?!). By September, I was confident, ready to conquer this fight. I wore professional attire almost everyday, attending as many career events on campus as I could, skipping classes for company open houses, mock interviews. It came to the point that dressing in jeans & t-shirt for school seemed like a luxury. I was desperate. I applied to a variety of positions – consultant, accountant, IT, investment analyst, some in the States, some back in Asia. I went to countless networking events, starting conversations with any representatives standing alone, and just simply putting my name out there.

Trust your mom and dad when they tell you to study hard, because GPA matters. It’s not all, but it will set your resume apart (a Director at an investment firm told me so). I got into the first interview rounds for most firms. One of my interviewers was a lady I met in a workshop, we talked and I thought we made quite a connection. The interview went very well, and I was confident I would at least make it to the second round. You’re right. I did not make the cut. I felt like the world fell apart, that was one of my first interviews and in my opinion, the best one I had at the time. The reason: “[I] was not good enough, there were better candidates” (I always ask for feedback after interviews, regardless of results). I was disappointed of course; my self-doubt was bigger than ever. “I’m not good enough” – I told myself repeatedly. That sentence was toxic. My confidence was gone, and it showed. Thanks to my advisor, I realized it soon enough to get back on my feet. One thing that really helped me to find myself back after rejections was to have concrete back up plans. For once, I started considering moving back home seriously, and decided that it may indeed the better option. A good BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) gave me the “power” that I needed to release all the pressure I have put on myself. I perform better knowing I’ve already have a safety net in place. Of course, everyone is unique and I am not suggesting this method is the elixir to the interview success.

Interviews after interviews, finally some good news came. For a person with short-term memory, I still manage to recall vividly what happened on that Friday night – the Halloween of 2014, when I started crying (despite being in a bookstore) the moment I heard the words “I have good news for you” from Danielle, a recruiter whom I am so grateful for. The search (felt more like a war) was over.

I had so many people I am grateful for, who inspired me, who put up with my grumpiness and depressing self, and who helped me through all the case prep. As you embark on this journey, I wish you luck (but remember luck is a combination of preparation and opportunities), health (stick to your gym routine), continuous optimism (because we are youngggg!) and success. I’m right here if you need anything.

P/s: Recruitment is unpredictable, and I urge you to just apply. I got into the second round of one of the most competitive investment companies (800+ applicants for 13 positions) while did not get called for an interview with a small company … You just never know!

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