F*** Me! A Tech Start-Up Disaster

Originally written May 1, 2020

It all started in December, as the search for a summer internship began to ramp up. I made my first visit to the Career Development Center, sent out resumes left and right, and perused multiple job-hunting websites. It was Handshake that I found another ad that piqued my interest. Not a summer internship, but a part-time position as a marketing associate for this tech start-up for a financial app. It ticked off everything I could think of for being an amazing and unique opportunity:

  • marketing experience
  • graphic design experience
  • small-sized company for greater responsibilities
  • paid position
  • part-time hours and remote work flexibilities

I applied and received an email very quickly for an interview. I was excited and nervous: this was my first time making it past the initial application stage, and I felt good about the immediate response for an interview.

In the days leading up to it, I did everything I could think of to prepare. I explored the entire company website, gave the app a download, stalked their Instagram account, and even watched Youtube videos of product reviews. If I would be able to impress them in person, I felt that the position would be completely obtainable for someone of my current professional experience (or lack thereof).

On the day of the interview, I immediately noticed a mistake that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my career: start-up companies are casual dressers. It was a little awkward shaking hands with my recruiter who was in a flannel shirt and sneakers, while I had walked in with a blazer and heels. Luckily I had on a casual sweater and jeans, but I felt incredibly overdressed. The interview itself went smoothly enough, they enjoyed my designs, my marketing ideas, and my observations of the company. It ended with a rather long discussion as well but left on a positive note.

And it was indeed a positive note because a few days later I received an email offering me the position! I accepted the day of. This was in the midst of finals season, and after the stress of schoolwork, it felt like things were falling into place. My thought process went as follows: Now that I have this new part-time job, I’ll have to quit my current retail position to transfer to the start-up. The second term of university and the new decade will be a new me, with a huge new step in my career! Now that I’m part of this small team part-time, I can loosen the reigns on the summer internship hunt because I’ll be set for the summer as well!

Since my retail position had me scheduled for the entirety of December (holiday season was undoubtedly busy), I had told them in the interview that my earliest availability would be in January. However, I wanted to get started sooner and emailed about a start date of December 20th, to which the company lead agreed. With my start date settled, I moved onto the next task: quitting my retail position at H&M.

And this is where it all falls apart.

After giving my manager my notice, I was hit with something unexpected a day later:

I’ve recently found someone who can work on a full-time basis, so unfortunately, for the time being, I will not need you to work part-time. I will definitely keep you in mind for the future, should you be interested. I’m really sorry for the inconvenience.

My heart may have stopped for a few beats. I was in so much shock, how did I go from being set for well into the summer, to entering 2020 with no job at all? In my disbelief, all I could manage to reply was:

Thank you for letting me know. Let’s keep in touch for the future.

Looking back at how I handled everything, there is much that I can take away from and do differently next time. I should have asked about an explicit contract, or at least a written agreement, that outlined all the details of my employment. I could have stood up for myself at least a little bit, or even ask for contacts or potential projects I could join in the meantime to find myself a new opportunity. But alas, those were the final words I had for this situation.

I was devastated and embarrassed. Devastated because the rescinding of the offer left me feeling even more lost about my future and my capabilities to find something that fit me. Embarrassed, due to how many friends had already congratulated me for my offer, and the update I would have to give. I remember sitting at my desk a few days later, not knowing what to do, and just texting my older brother to ask for his advice. I then wrote a little note to myself: You may have hit a snag in the road, but you just have to keep going…” And that’s what I did.

Since my letter of resignation for H&M was already handed in, and everyone knew I was leaving, I decided to go forward with closing the retail chapter of my life. And given my prolonged ankle injury, I was also looking forward to letting myself effectively heal. For the first time since I started university, I gave myself a break from part-time work and focused harder on school. After all, the second year was the most academically difficult one for Schulich students, and the amount of study time that was freed up truly was a relief. I looked for more opportunities, and am now lucky enough to lead the team of passionate students as the Insider Media Group. And throughout the term, the search for the summer internship continued. I’m happy to report that as of now, I’m waiting for a Surface laptop to ship to my home as I count down the days for RBC’s Summer Student Program to begin.

Moral of the story, opportunities come and go. Sometimes they seem so close and tangible before they slip away. It’s okay to feel lost at times when unexpected events turn your plans upside down, but the only way is forward. Learn from your mistakes and regrets, and search for that next possibility, because it’s out there!

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