When Microsoft Laughed at Me

When Microsoft Laughed at Me

A Microsoft recruiter recently reached out to me. That’s when I recalled this story.

This happened a long time ago. I was 18 and a freshman in college. And it was time for the engineering career fair.

I had heard a lot about career fairs, but had never been to one. It was where companies came and gave you lots of jobs! You’d go in, talk to a company and start working for them in summer. Simple as that… or so I thought. Sometimes I laugh at my younger self for being so naive. My thoughts were so simple – you do X and you get Y. But I also miss being naive… nowadays we over-complicate things so much. But I digress.

I came prepared for the career fair. I had packed my suit on the way to campus. I had several copies of my resume to make sure no company was left out. And I even had a leather portfolio! Oh man, those companies were going to fight each other to get me!

I walk in and the person at the gate compliments my tie. It was one I had bought for my cousin’s wedding last month. My confidence is more boosted now. I look at the map of the room, trying to recognize companies. I had never heard of most of them. But I knew one. Microsoft.

I was excited to see Microsoft there. I could see myself working for them. So I beelined to their desk and there was a huge line. Wow, Microsoft is hiring so many people! As I got closer to the front, I heard how other students were pitching their experiences. So I also started practicing my pitch in my mind. I had just taken introductory CS class where I did an honors project in Matlab. Oh, they were going to love it!

Now comes my turn. I walk up confidently, shake hands and give them my resume. I had only one experience listed there – my high school job at Target. But I wasn’t worried, because I had already practiced my pitch five minutes ago.

I begin to tell him about my Matlab project. It was about particle simulation inside a container. And you could tell I was pretty excited! But as I am 20 seconds into it, I notice the recruiter smile. Then he giggled. Hmm, maybe I could have pitched it better? So I took a different approach at explaining it. Now the senior behind me was giggling also. Looked like the two had some inside joke going on.

As you can already tell, I didn’t get the job.

I was a little disappointed that Microsoft didn’t fall over backwards to offer me an internship. Who knew getting a job at the fair wasn’t so easy after all. My rosy view of that place had cracked. But what did I do? I still went around the room and talked with several more companies. After all, I had a stack of resumes which would be useless the next day. Not a single company offered me an interview that day. But it wasn’t a complete failure and I will tell you why.

In the next few years, I went on to work with some of the top companies. I worked in over 7 different industries and broke into Management Consulting. Then I entered the startup world and helped take a company IPO.

I now run my own business and help others grow their careers in the tech industry.

That interaction with Microsoft has taught me a valuable lesson. What people give you is not because they are being benevolent. But it is because they see something in you. It is because they think you will benefit them in some way. There are of course exceptions, but they are few and far between. So in order to rise, you have to elevate yourself to a level where you can benefit others. That’s the simplest way to success. And you may get laughed at on the way. That’s OK. It’s all part of your story.

So, what’s your story?

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