Telegraph Media Group: Stella Internship - Assessment Day

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Up until this year I'd only ever had one interview. As a slightly shy 16 year old I turned up to Next in my hometown for a Sales Assistant role, sold a pair of shoes during my practical shop floor assessment and was subsequently offered the job. I secured an office job during University holiday periods at my sister's place of employment which didn't require an interview, and after graduating in July 2015, I gallivanted around the world for three months until Christmas. When I entered 2016, I knew I had to grow up, grow some balls and face my fear of the dreaded interview process. After a few interviews under my belt in London, I learnt that if I prepped well and let my passion for the industry overshadow my fear of being interviewed, I'd be perfectly fine. I'm far from having mastered the art, but I'm no longer petrified. Once you learn that people are simply trying to understand you as a person rather than trying to catch you out, it gets easier. 

Nerves are in fact a good source of motivation because it means you care and are less likely to come across as arrogant. Although I wasn't being offered the jobs I was applying for, my interview feedback was positive. I was interviewing well, my previous work was impressive but someone else had been better suited to the role. Informal chats tend to be the preferred course of industry interviews, that was until I applied for a 9 month paid internship at the Sunday Telegraph's magazine Stella. The application itself required two written answers to questions and two Youtube video answers to questions, but no CV. Sure, I blog, but I don't do YouTube for two specific reasons. I hate seeing myself on camera and I hate the sound of my own voice. I chose to study Print Journalism not Broadcast Journalism, remember. So, the application process: I sat at my desk one Wednesday morning - makeup on, hair straightened and blind up for flattering lighting. I might have even been sitting in my joggers purely because the camera cut off just below the boobs. Who knows.

I had to answer what makes me get out of bed in the morning, what my dream job is and how the internship would help me get there in a video no longer than 4 minutes. After bullet pointing what I wanted to discuss and four takes later (home phone ringing and dog barking aren't preferred video effects), I marked the YouTube vid as unlisted and completed a very obscure equal opportunities form before hitting submit. I still don't know what free school meals has to do with a job application but, whatever. The closing date passed and I assumed I'd been unsuccessful as most large companies won't notify you when you haven't been successful. On Monday 18th January I was contacted by Sam Morris inviting me to an assessment day on Friday 22nd. I'd never attended an assessment before and as I read my way through the email I got that horrible interview fear back. Stella had sent three copies of the magazine first class to my home address so I could pick a feature and create a three minute presentation to present to the interview panel.

The brief was to write an additional 300 word sidebar to compliment the feature and explain your thinking behind it, say what you liked/didn't like about the feature, 3 things you would've changed and how you would have presented the digital version differently. The overload of information was a little overwhelming and after telling myself there was no way I was backing out of such an amazing opportunity, I got stuck in. I'm fully aware that you have to step outside of your comfort zone and push your boundaries and that's exactly what I was about to do. I absolutely hate presentations, I don't particularly like speaking in front of people in presentation form and I was scared of criticizing a magazine's work. I picked a depression feature, practiced my presentation a million times in front of my mum, and rocked up at the Telegraph offices just before 9am on the Friday. I may have struggled to find the building due to construction work but I checked in, was given a visitor pass and sat myself down on the large leather sofas to observe the light morning buzz.

The offices were very plush and open plan with lots of sleek white and glass interior and I instantly started chatting to a girl called Kristy who is currently studying at Loughborough University. Gradually more applicants started filtering in and we were all sat over 2 sofas chatting away about our intern experience - I loved the fact it wasn't a catty competitive environment. We were whisked upstairs at half 9 and taken into a large room lined with chairs and a projector. My heart dropped as I thought I'd have to present in front of everyone (7 applicants for Stella and 7 applicants for the Saturday magazine) but luckily it was only for a short introductory video. Another fab thing was that we were informed that we were the 7 shortlisted applicants out of hundreds of people who had applied. Sam emphasized the fact that it was a huge achievement to have made it that far which was a little confidence boost. The other girls applying for Stella including Kristy, Rosie, Samantha, Rahdika and a couple of others were all really nice and we chatted away in the communal area.

Unfortunately I was last to present my work which was horrible as the waiting around made me even more nervous but we were given drinks vouchers to use in the cafe which was nice. My presentation went surprisingly well, despite an incredibly dry mouth by the end, and I left feeling happy. Once everyone had been we had to participate in a group task whereby we had to brainstorm a feature idea for the magazine and decide how it would be executed in print and online (observed by the interview panel). This again went well and I feel I expressed my views and ideas efficiently. There was supposed to be a knockout stage at lunch time (felt like I was on The Apprentice, seriously) but we all made it through to the afternoon interview stage as they couldn't decide on who to send home. Not being sent home at lunch was obviously a great feeling as it meant I had clearly done something right in my presentation. I wasn't too worried about the interview as I'd prepped a little, but unfortunately I personally felt my performance wasn't up to scratch. 

After getting lunch, courtesy of lunch vouchers which was lovely, it was my turn and the interview consisted of five questions, three of which I think I answered well, but the other two were slight curve balls. I just hadn't considered answers to those specific questions, which is a learning curve in itself because you learn from your mistakes. Although I answered them, I felt my answers lacked confidence and structure so I left feeling pretty disappointed with myself. Although I still wanted the position I felt that I'd halved my chances and went home feeling a little deflated. Luckily we heard back really quickly as we were all emailed that same evening, but I didn't secure the internship. Some of the girls I shared the process with gave me their numbers and we created a little Whatsapp group so we could find out who got the internship. A lovely girl called Rosie was the lucky one and although I was gutted I was really pleased for her as she seemed super talented. It's so hard not to get disheartened when you're unsuccessful but I'm trying to take a positive from each experience. 

To have even been invited to the assessment day and make it through to the interview stage was a huge deal so I know I'm capable, I just need to keep searching. I'm going with the mindset that I just haven't found the right role for me yet, but I'm so glad I took a leap of faith and went for it as I achieved a lot that day. I completely stepped out of my comfort zone and equipped myself even more for future interviews or assessments. I feel like that's the toughest an interview can get so to have experienced that within less than a month of applying for a graduate opportunity is definitely something to smile about. When I sat in my bedroom and joked about food and my dog in my application video I didn't think I had a hope in hell, so hopefully I can keep proving myself wrong. I've watched the video back since the assessment day simply because it makes me laugh, and has taught me that a little bit of passion and personality can go a long way. It might not have been my time to shine this time, but I'm hoping it will be soon with a bit of luck.


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