How to fail gracefully and land your dream internship!

In June 2017, months before I started classes at Tepper, I attended a women’s MBA conference through the Forté Foundation. At the conference, I bonded with my future classmates, listened to lectures from powerful women, and met a variety of companies, including DaVita. I had seen the name DaVita around Massachusetts and knew that it was a large dialysis company that, among other things, provides essential care to individuals suffering from end stage renal disease.

Having worked in health policy for four years, I was used to going to work each day and feeling like my contributions were helping to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for residents in my state. Thus, as I began my search, it was extremely important for me to find an internship with a strong mission with which I could connect. At the Forté Conference, I learned that DaVita’s patient-centered mission reverberates throughout the company. I was thrilled to be invited to interview for a Redwoods position over the summer.

I made it to final round interviews in September, just one week after starting classes at Tepper. I had prepared for weeks, but my case interview was an absolute disaster. Instead of panicking, I actually laughed with the interviewer about not knowing the definition for a variable cost. Coming from the public sector, I realized that there was still so much I needed to learn to pivot to the private sector. Fortunately, DaVita offered me the opportunity to interview again during the regular recruitment cycle in January.

Between September and January, I worked diligently to learn as much as possible. My botched interview made me even more eager to understand the complexity of the world of business. Thus, in addition to the ten core courses I completed in Minis 1 and 2, I also went to as many events, lectures, and training sessions as possible to learn about different aspects of business. By participating in these, I gained a better understanding of key concepts, which allowed me to hone my recruitment strategy and recognize what I wanted from my summer internship.

In January, I returned to Denver for my DaVita interview with significantly more confidence in my knowledge and abilities. I received an offer to join the Redwoods Summer Associate Program two days later. When weighing my internship offers, my decision was simple. I knew that I wanted to conduct mission driven work surrounded by passionate and kind individuals who sought to challenge me throughout the summer. DaVita was the perfect choice for me.

I share this story to demonstrate that recruiting, like life, is not always linear. There are a lot of bumps throughout the process. For me, success was due to three things:

  1. Time Management – This is essential since you must balance course work, recruiting prep, and leadership roles throughout first year.
  2. Classmates – These are the people who help you prep behavioral questions or practice cases for interviews into the late hours of the night. They are also the people with whom you’ll celebrate success.
  3. Perseverance – This is probably the most important. Recruiting is not easy and for me (and many others) it lasted nearly nine months. Throughout this time, you must keep focused and remember that not every interview will go well. When they do not go as planned, keep your wits and fail with grace – who knows, you may still end up with your dream offer!
Kelly Mercer | MBA 2019
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