A slice of intern life, with a heaping side of humility

Last week I had my first difficult interview since starting my internship here in Portland. It didn’t turn sour until the very end, and I think I salvaged things enough that this person will talk to me again. But in hindsight, I would have done a few things differently.

Raleigh fears the beach. I fear awkward interviews.

My spirit animal externalizing the inner anxiety I felt that day.

When I requested the interview, I mentioned the paper I work for and they seemed familiar with the publication and its audience. I entered the interview with two objectives. First, get specific information about the story I’m writing. Second, get enough background information to understand the big picture issues that inform the context of the story and allow me to be precise in my analysis.

I should have started the interview by stating both objectives. I should not have assumed they understood the angle of my story based on familiarity with the publication.

Instead, I engaged in brief small talk about where they were from. When it led to their work in Portland, I seized the opportunity to segue into the interview. I felt slick and we talked for an hour over coffee at the Blue Collar Bakery. Cute place. Delicious gluten-free peanut butter cookies. Terrible venue for a tape-recorded interview. I think they grind the beans fresh every time someone orders espresso.

So the interview ends, I put my recorder away and they ask, “what exactly is your story about?” I can faintly smell the pile I’m about to step in but I provide a brief synopsis. “I really wish you would have told me that in the beginning, because that’s a completely different conversation.”

Scat. I feel foolish. They launch into a quick rundown of the issues while I blush and listen intently. “Too bad you’re not recording now.” No kidding. We exchange a terse farewell and I scribble everything I can remember onto scratch paper while the Max Red Line carries me to my next interview.

– Jasmine Rockow

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8 Responses to A slice of intern life, with a heaping side of humility

  1. cmfbianco says:

    I’m sorry to hear about this rough experience, Jasmine, but this happens to all of us at some point. I think your outlook on the situation is good; you learned something for next time, and you will probably never have this happen again! I think this is a lesson for all of us to be more clear with our objectives in our work. Thanks for the great post; I really enjoy your writing style.

    • Jasmine N. Rockow says:

      Thank you Cecilia. I agree, having clear objectives — and stating them — is vital to successful communication. We are in the communication industry, so no excuses!

  2. pdxsx says:

    Sounds like a very teachable moment, Jasmine. And one that would have been unlikely to occur in a classroom. I really applaud your ability to take some value from the situation and continue to kick-ass. Someday, I suspect, this will be a very valuable anecdote for your own intern. 🙂

    • Jasmine N. Rockow says:

      It certainly was a teachable moment! It may sound strange but I embrace moments like these because they are fun to write about. And the interview ended up providing plenty of fodder for my story, which will be published by the end of the week 🙂

  3. Adaira Floyd says:

    This is great for us to read, Jasmine. What resonates with me is the importance of communication. I can often, too, assume people understand what I’m talking about or doing – when in reality, that is not always the case. In our field, being able to communicate and explain our position/goals/etc is crucial. Putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes can open our eyes about what we need to address and how to get others in the loop.

    I agree with Josh, good job being able to learn from the challenging situation!

  4. I’m sorry about this experience but it’s great to hear that you bounced back and took helpful information to use in your future interviews. I wish I could say this has never happened to me, but it most certainly has. And I’m sure it’s happened to most people that have had to conduct interviews. Thanks for sharing, I will be conducting interviews next week and this post has given me advice on how to prepare.

  5. Hannah Olson says:

    Great post, Jasmine! I can really hear your voice through your writing which is really engaging. I think that this type of experience will resonate with all of us, despite our varying majors. In PR, clear communication is essential to avoid providing misleading information to either the public or to a client. Thanks for sharing this experience and I’m sure you handled it well!

  6. Emily Kirk says:

    Been there, girl! It’s always awkward when the interviewee calls you out for something you thought you may have been clear about. I’ve had to completely scrap stories in the past because I didn’t make myself clear. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but a needed one at that. That’s what internships and classes are for though, right? Learning the ways of your craft and making your mistakes early on. It’s all a beautiful learning process 🙂 Good job!

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