Saying "no" to a Company You Interned for…Twice

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My name is Jenna O and I grew up in Haslett, MI. I am currently a senior at Michigan State University studying marketing, while dual enrolling in the masters of science in market research program. I knew I wanted to learn more about market research after my intro class junior year. I love the connection market research has to business, data, and the human mind. It’s like being a detective which I find exhilarating. The past two summers I chose to intern at a phenomenal company and I learned more than I ever thought I would; so why am I not going back? That’s a questions I struggled with for a long time.

My sophomore year I was introduced to Discover Financial Services from a friend at Michigan State.  At first I thought: “there is no way you’ll find me marketing for a credit card.” But the more I learned, the more I realized my perception was not accurate. Discover offered an amazing internship program to marketing majors at the sophomore and junior level. It was a full summer program, paid, housing included, plus many other perks. Yes, the benefits made the program worth it in itself but what first struck me were the people. The culture at Discover is one you cannot find anywhere else. Everyone is kind, fun, smart, and they were welcoming to all the interns. Not only were the people remarkable, the daily work helped me understand marketing more than any college course I had taken. My mind was exploding with all this innovative information - I was so excited to wake up and go to work the next day to learn something new. I honestly couldn’t find one thing wrong with Discover, or with the internship program as a whole and I could definitely see myself working their full-time. But, like all good things it must come to an end and it was time to go back to East Lansing, MI for another year of school. 

Junior year started up and the career fair was approaching. I was excited to find a new opportunity now that I had an internship under my belt and felt more ready than ever to tackle the career fair and talk to different companies. But as I was searching, not one company gave me the same feeling I had while interning with Discover. Fortunately, I get a call from Discover’s recruiting team. They offered me another internship for the upcoming summer and I instantly felt excited again. No more “faking it till I make it” with other recruiters because I felt like myself at Discover and knew I would learn so much. So without hesitation I returned for another summer internship following junior year and I was prepared to take it on. 

Second time around I was excited to relive the experience again but with a smarter head on my shoulders. As the summer progressed, I was waiting for that feeling I had last year where it all clicked.  It never happened. That feeling of excitement to get out of bed and walk into work, and feeling of belonging didn’t come through for me.  I ultimately decided to return to Discover because it was an incredible experience and I knew I would still learn a lot about the field I was interested in, but what I didn’t know was all the internal struggles I would face. I still had the same amazing opportunities but it didn’t come with the same vibes I felt before. I started to realize I could not for the life of me figure out what I am passionate about.  I didn’t know what I was good at or what I liked, and I couldn’t seem to find what that was. This idea of what my passion was really started to bug me and it was like I was almost on a search for it. The summer ended, and I was offered the full-time position at Discover following graduation. I had a couple of weeks to think about my ultimate decision to return or not to return to the company I interned at twice. 

I strongly believe in the saying, “if you find your passion in life, success will come easy.” And that was the exact opposite of what I was feeling. I felt stuck, and limited. I wasn’t passionate about the financial industry. I didn’t know what I was passionate about, but what I did learn about myself is that I don’t think I will find what I’m passionate about yet. Right now I am passionate about finding something that is going to challenge me and make me feel good when I accomplish it. I think if I went back to Discover full time I wouldn’t challenge myself because I was already comfortable there. I knew a lot of people, I was always an intern and I don’t know if I would have gotten out of that mindset of being an intern at that company. 

So did I find my passion yet? No, all I knew was that it was not going to be at Discover. And that is when the panic set in. I knew I had to turn down the full-time offer but how? How do you say no to a team of people that have been rooting you on for two years? How do you say no to a company that has invested so much time and loyalty in you? I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I was going to let all those people down. Lastly, if I say “no,” I would be without a full-time job after graduation. I felt like I had to say “yes” just so I could feel safe. But that word “safe,” is exactly what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to feel safe, or comfortable, or not tested. But despite all that I was feeling I knew, for me, it was the right thing to do. I called my recruiter and first thanked her for all the amazing things she has brought to me in the past two years. Then I, very honestly, told her I don’t know what I am looking for but I don’t think it is with Discover. She couldn’t have been more understanding about it. In fact, she was marvelous about it and supported my decision one hundred percent. Like I said you can’t find people like you do at Discover, they are almost close to family. The world was lifted from my shoulders and I felt a million times better - except for the no full-time job thing.

Though I still don’t have a full-time offer, or even a lead to one, I still have my masters program to look forward to. The way I felt about Discover the first summer is the same exact way I feel about the masters program I am starting and I couldn’t be more excited and scared to dive into it. I believe this is the right fit for me and it will help me grow as a young professional and maybe I’ll stumble into what my passion is down the road. 

It is extremely important to be honest with yourself. Don’t just do something because it is the easy way out and you know what you are going up against. Challenge yourself because there is always something new to learn, to see, to try, and to do and if you don’t take risks, you will always be stuck in what is comfortable. 

When it comes to making hard decisions like mine you can’t worry about what others might feel or think in the moment, because if they truly matter to you they will want what is best for you, and only you know what is best for you. It might seem scary but go out of your comfort zone and own it, this is how the world works, and this will be the first of many hard decisions you are going to have to make.  Might as well practice now while we are young, right? Trust in yourself and be willing to take risks.

Discover was a phenomenal experience and taught me a lot about the industry and myself. I have nothing but great things to say about it as a company and as an internship program - I highly recommend both. But at the end of the day this wasn’t the right company for me and I decided to take a risk and go with something new. I have no idea what my future holds in terms of a first full-time job offer but I am confident I will find what I am looking for. Yes, I am happy with my decision and it was one of the hardest decisions I had to make as a young professional. Yes, I am still worried about the future, but ultimately, yes, I do think I will find what I am passionate about if I keep listening to myself, stay curious, and always try and challenge myself. Because at the end of the day, I just want to be a better me than the day before.