Flying Fish

Environmental Jabbering
by Nicole Carlozo -- February 27th, 2011

Six emotionally-draining interviews later, I’m still standing. My legs may be wobbling a little, but my confidence is steady.

“You can do this,” I thought to myself as I stood before two menacing wooden doors. Inside sat representatives from 40 or so organizations – all attempting to find the best-fit candidates for their summer internship programs. And there was no escape. It was Stanback interview day.

The Stanback Internship Program provides funded summer opportunities in the non-profit environmental field for Duke graduate and undergraduate students. While some graduate students use interview day as an opportunity to practice their interview skills, most of us hope to finalize summer plans.

Around me my peers were dressed to impress. I stared jealously at my classmates who had finished their interviews already. They were on their way to a sun-filled weekend while I, on the other hand, was just about to begin the emotionally exhausting task of talking about myself.

I glanced down and began fidgeting with my Interview “cheat sheet,” which contained a list of my target organizations, along with shortened project content:encodeds and my prepared questions. My afternoon was pretty much booked, but I took a breath and focused on my first target: the Environmental Defense Fund.

I thought back to my phone interview the previous day with the Penobscot Resource Center and tried to remember the kinds of questions I had answered. My mind drew a complete blank. While the “blank mind” phenomena is a common occurrence for me during public speaking activities, I try not to let it intrude on other segments of my life. Before the panic could set in, however, the doors opened and Career Services guru Saskia Clay-Rooks called us in for the 1:00 interview slot.

And then the chaos began. Throughout the afternoon, I moved from table to table with short breaks between employers. Ignoring the interviews progressing around me was less difficult than I imagined, and I trudged forward. Then, I found myself in a unique and challenging position.

As I sat across the table from interviewer number two, I soon realized he was monopolizing the conversation. He didn’t seem interested in hearing about me at all. I thought back to some of my sister’s advice:

“Just tell them how amazing you are!”

Hmmmmm, easier said than done.

And so I attempted to talk about myself – I interjected when I could and tried to turn the interview around – but to no avail. When he finally made a comment about Duke students in general, I realized what was happening. He assumed we were all qualified, so he wasn’t concerned with anything past my resume.

I imagined a spinning dart board with numerous resumes attached to it, and the interviewer standing on the other end of the room with a blindfold. In seconds a dart flew across the room and landed on a piece of paper – the new intern had been chosen.

The image discouraged me. What was I doing here? It seemed like a waste of my time if a random resume from a pile would ultimately be chosen. But, perhaps it wasn’t a waste because it gave me time to ease my nerves. I collected myself and prepared to wow the next employer.

I soon found myself in two engaging interview sessions with (believe it or not) actual conversations. I felt thrilled, energized, and ready to take on the world. I even picked up an impromptu final interview for a promising fisheries position.

Most importantly, I left the room smiling. Smiling?! Definitely something I never imagined happening unless, of course, it was a smile of pure relief.

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