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How I Landed Two Internships Without Relying on Titles, Awards, or Degrees

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Carlos Villa Lobos
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Published on June 4, 2014

I consider myself the luckiest man alive. Not because of the opportunities that have been present at such a young age, not because of the adventures that I’ve lived through or the fantastic places life has shown me, but because at the age of twenty-one I’ve been fortunate enough to have learned the most important lesson in life.

See, I often question myself if whatever it is I am doing is worth my time and effort. I’ve always reached the same conclusion: Life, as we know it, is not about the titles, the degrees, the awards, the money or anything that you can put your name on. Life, as I came to understand, is about the people.

Three distinct experiences have shaped my view on this and I’d like to share them with you, especially for those who are about to take on, or have already started their summer internships.Three years ago, I graduated high school in El Salvador and decided that I wanted an experience abroad to learn more about the world. I enrolled in Northeastern University in Boston, MA and discovered it was everything I was looking for since it offered a very diverse student body and a fantastic blend of academia and professional experience.

At the age of nineteen I found myself taking a semester off and starting a six-month employment contract at Adobe Systems in San Francisco, CA. It was life changing. I joined the Digital Marketing team and was fortunate to learn about online advertising optimization whereby I would run campaigns on Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, and Twitter . Six months flew by and I soon found myself back on campus ready to share what an amazing experience I had in Silicon Valley. But the question always struck me: what was my main take-away at Adobe? How am I different now than I was a semester ago? I honestly didn’t know where to start: Do I mention the technical skills? My long commute? My adventures while touring around the Golden State?

It took me an entire year to find the answer. For spring break this year, along with other Northeastern students who were also doing co-ops in California, I decided to go back and visit for a week. Once we got there, I thought it would great if I devoted a day to visit my team at Adobe to see how they were doing. Upon arrival, I had already been signed in by my previous manager and it felt like no time had gone by since I left a year ago.

Not only did I remember each and every one of my teammate’s names, but even that of their partners and children. I remember that one had wedding plans and that someone else’s boy had just started kindergarden. I remembered them as meaningful people to my professional development. I found out that one had left and was now working in Palo Alto, so after my visit I took a trip to have an afternoon coffee with her; a Philz mint-mojito, medium ice, medium cream, low sugar — her favorite.

This was my main take-away at Adobe: that anyone can learn about campaign management, but few manage to make significant relations with the people around them.
 I wouldn’t want to end this reflection without commenting on how this has been applicable at different stages in my life. This year I interviewed with a finance company that has operations all over the world. They have one advance position in London, UK, and it is believed to be one of the most competitive jobs available to students.

I decided to give it a shot even though I was aware of the tight competition, and that for this location, they only hire students who have worked in their company before, have had some sort of finance background, or were going on their third and final co-op. I had none these. Nada. Or as the Brits would say, Zilch. I even remember my advisor sending me an email the night before telling me to not worry if it didn’t work out. So I went into the interview with all the odds against my favor.

Despite this, I went in with a hefty smile, a tenacity to learn, a commitment to excel, and a relatable and charming personality. I went in there knowing that life isn’t about titles or degrees or awards; it’s about the people.

The following day, at around ten in the morning, I got a call from London.  A very pleasant call indeed. Needless to say, I’ll be on road again, with a renewed appetite for both life and knowledge, eager to meet other inspired “chaps” like me.

About the Author: 

Carlos Villalobos (@carlosvivaldi) is a globetrotter and student entrepreneur. He grew up in El Salvador and went to a British high school that put a lot of emphasis on international experiences. He is currently a Finance & Entrepreneurship major at Northeastern University. In general, Carlos is fascinated by technology and seeks every chance he gets to fiddle with the newest gadgets. His other interests include coffee, brunch, running, and photography.

Carlos Villa Lobos

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