What Drives YOU?

I recently wrote my second ever blog for the University of Michigan Communication Studies Department Student Intern Blog (wow is that a mouthful!). Currently, it is in its editing stage by the Comm Department but to provide a little “sneak peak,” I wrote about not only updates on my current internship for the Winter 2012 semester, but also tips on how students like myself can get their dream internship for the summer. I felt really compelled to write about this topic because I have been there (twice now…and survived!); the fury of applying, writing new cover letters, editing my resumes (yes, plural), preparing for interviews, and then starting over by researching where to apply next is extremely stressful and daunting. But when that email or phone call with an offer is finally given to you – it makes everything absolutely worth it.

Tips 8 and 9 on the Top Ten Tips list I wrote included “Be yourself in the interview” and “Make your own brand.” I now wish I could have put those tips in big, bold, capital red letters in my blog post. In what few years of experience I do have of really “making my own brand,” I realize now exactly how important those two tips are in not only standing out as an applicant but really being chosen for an offer. Making your own brand of who you are takes a lot of time, confidence, success, and failure to formulate and understand. Who cares if you were the President of X Sorority and Y Club? If you don’t have a narrative behind why you did what you did and what really drives you as a person and potential employee, the interviewer and company really do not have the time to figure that out for you.

Like most other college students, I, too, am trying to build my brand and what makes me unique. If I were to answer that question, I would say what drives me is my family’s past. This may be a cliche answer to some but the few who do know why I try as hard I do in every club, organization, society, and task I am given do understand. My brand is to go to school for everyone else who never could in my family. My parents and oldest sister, Quan, escaped Vietnam in 1978 after its fall to communism. They left on a 50 foot fishing boat crammed with other refugees and sailed for nine days, running out of food on the third day. They also survived two savage storms before they hit the shores of Malaysia to live in a refugee camp for three years. My parents and sister came to the United States with $50 dollars in their pocket, a baby girl, barely a high school degree, and essentially no knowledge of the English language. They worked unglamorous jobs in the past and saved every dime they could to ensure a bright future in the 1980s onward. Eventually, my parents even sponsored the rest of their family members (15+ siblings and both of my grandmothers) to North America, all of whom are now very successful. If they can succeed and send all four of their children to Northwestern, the University of Michigan, and Michigan State University, and later for Quan, a Masters degree at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, I know I can do something to continue their legacy and show them that their sacrifices will be rewarded with tenfold success.

When I give the “skinny” (can you tell I love Starbucks?) version of this story to employers, I do not say it because I want pity or anyone to feel bad for me – I want to show them how hungry I am for the opportunity and what makes me who I am; a confident, established, and extremely driven young woman with a whole world in her hands to explore. My determination that stems from my family background shows in everything on my resume.

My family is the American Dream and that is what drives me. So you tell me… What drives you? What ties your story together with your goals? Once you have that figured out, run with it.

P.S. Be genuine, humble, and honest in your interview. Your word is very valuable in your career.

P.P.S. I checked out the new “jcp” look in the store…I am not that impressed yet; in fact, I am confused by what their three color categories of deals are (when do they happen? on what?). However, jcp defending Ellen DeGeneres after she was attacked by conservative groups for being the new jcp spokesperson was an excellent PR move…If I ever have time (…), I want to write about that!

– LM