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I didn't get a return offer and that's okay (codercaitlin.io)
38 points by DarkContinent 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments

Expectations can be challenging, but a great deal of a leader's job is effectively communicating any gaps between expected performance and actual performance.

In my experience, more often than not, "tough love" becomes conflated with toxicity, which causes people to start avoiding crucial conversations in order to avoid the perceived toxicity. Important feedback can become stifled by our desire to maintain a congenial and friendly atmosphere. We forget that some of the toughest times come when we're suddenly blindsided by a situation that's been brewing for months or years, that we were blissfully unaware of. Our first indication of a problem is being passed over for a promotion, or not receiving a return letter.

This is an unfair situation for all involved parties. Honest feedback during the internship may have given the author a chance to adjust course, instead of being (justifiably) dismayed by a surprise result. By allowing this communication failure to occur, and not granting the courtesy of clear feedback, the leader in question damaged a relationship with a talented engineer, someone who may end up working for a competitor, or even starting a competing startup.

Expectations really need to be set very clearly as early on as possible by the manager. If the manager isn't good at doing this, then THEY are also underperforming at their job.

You have quite a bit of fortitude! If I got an email similar to what you recieved, that meeting with the VP of Devices would have been skipped.

Building skills working with WiFi drivers is also pretty tough, I know one Seattlite who has spent nearly a year to just really get to grasp Linux's wifi drivers and start to alter and fix them.

Part of how you were treated likely comes down to the "intern" effect, no one (besides your boss) wants to put effort into building a relationship or mentoring an intern, thus all the positive reviews up until right before you depart.

I estimate that one third of "no return offer" decisions I've seen have been attributable to the intern. The other two thirds are attributable to the team or company. Poor task selection, poor support, unreasonable expectations, and unrelated politics are all things I've seen result in no return offer. On the other hand, I've also seen plenty of interns receive return offers for reasons entirely unrelated to their performance.

The frequent lack of empathy for the young people whose careers are being shaped is also pretty sickening. The email which opens this post is a good example. I recently witnessed a manager weasling out of delivering the bad news to their intern in person, instead opting for an email the following week. I once saw an intern miss out on an offer because their manager didn't get a bureaucratic task done on time. That person was set to graduate the following year.

All anecdata, of course, and tech interns have it much better than interns in most other industries (who are frequently unpaid gophers). Still, it's disappointing to read stories like this one.

> "stressed how the project scope wasn’t met as effectively as he would’ve wanted"

The reasons don't seem to be clearly stated, but I could see the very active social life described in the article affecting the quantity (not quality) relative to other interns. The paraphrasing of her manager seems to lead in that direction.

If having an active social life is why she missed out, then she is better off having missed out.

If your post about why you didn't get called back and most of it is filled with social activities, local food , travel plans and the amazing people she lived with, perhaps an active social life is what she thought the job was.

Would you hire her?

You're not really allowed to post about what you worked on during the internship.

Also, you're surrounded by a bunch of other interns your age, and the whole program is structured around socializing with them. Years ago, when I interned there, pretty much every weekend there was a different company-sanctioned intern event (hike Mt. Rainier, dinner, movie, go to Woodland Park zoo, concert, etc.).

Is that what it is like working there?

She really does gloss over the actual engineering she had to do there, but we can't really say from that article.

Women tend to put much more emphasis on these social parts, and its likely even more pronounced considering that this part is probably the only thing that she feels good about.. even now after the final experience.

You've just been through what 16-17 years of education where professors and teachers have been grading you. If you get an A, you feel good about yourself, and if you get a C, D, or F you might feel like a failure.

Now that you're making a transition to the workforce, it might be tempting to look at the world through the same viewpoint you viewed college. If you didn't get a job offer say, you might feel like a big failure. You might even have replaced your college mascot sweater with corporate logo wear.

Employment should be seen as a business relationship first. If feel your ego wrapped up in your company as if it were your alma mater, maybe it's time to take a step back and ask yourself how you're going to feel when your services will no longer be needed. In the end budgeting and large corporate strategy are really not judgments about you and your abilities, but rather whether your skills map to the companies future. Microsoft simply chose to go a different direction -- and feeling disappointed is okay.

The fact is, you get to decide what is a failure and what is not. I don't see this as a failure for you, though I suspect you do. Who knows you might even be in a better company in two years, right?

My company's HR folks have repeatedly set the expectation that most interns will receive a full time offer. When a specific intern is not given a full time offer, it's perceived as a failure of the sponsoring organization.

This is insane! Individuals accepting internships go through a process not unlike a full-time hiring pipeline. Yet no one thinks a full-time hiring pipeline producing excellent employees is a solved problem! Why should interviewing people before they complete a B.S. be any different from interviewing people after they complete a B.S.?

If anything, interns should receive returning offers at lower rates. That is, on-the-job should be a je-ne-sais-quoi check on the common failures of most interviewing procedures. At least half of all interns should get shot down (else interviewing pipelines are a solved problem).

For what it’s worth, return offers are not everything! In an ironic twist of fate, the company I interned at didn’t give me a return offer, but I ended up landing a much better job at a much better company.

So don’t let it get you down. Think of it as an opportunity to explore more opportunities.

It sounds like she was surprised by not getting an offer. That's not OK and the responsibility clearly lies with her manager for the failure to communicate this earlier in her internship.

From reading her blog, it seems like she's taking this in stride, and I hope she takes what was good from her experience at Microsoft and finds a way to apply it to her next adventure.

Unfortunately a lot of managers tend to give continuous positive feedback until the big review, regardless of actual performance. I am not sure why they do this. It is a misunderstanding of the purpose of feedback in the first place.

Because giving negative feedback is hard and uncomfortable and a skill that many people never master. It doesn't help that corporate training on the subject amounts to extremely generic and basic advice one could think up on the spot. Nothing really insightful.

Perhaps it’s because the optimal ratio is believed to be five units of praise per unit of constructive criticism: https://hbr.org/2013/03/the-ideal-praise-to-criticism

I wouldn’t be surprised if this backfires with certain types of people.

The team leader clearly said they wanted someone who knew more about wifi drivers.

Being a manager is a difficult and thankless task.

It sounds like very bad management,

> “That meeting allowed me to see what he thought of my work during the internship and how he interpreted it all. There were discrepancies between what I thought and what he thought, which sometimes was frustrating, but it showed me how valuable effective communication can be.”

This type of expectation discrepancy should have been surfaced sooner and in smaller, iterative and isolated pieces that could allow the intern to take action to rectify it while any given item was still small.

It’s the manager’s job to prevent it from adding up to a big surprise that it wasn’t considered good enough. But the intern is being made to pay for it.

No one is being made to pay for it. The intern wasn't good enough. The fact that she didn't get the message when they told her she won't be rejoining her team isn't someone else's responsibility. Probably the best learning experience.. your company will let you down when you least expect it.

It doesn’t seem like the intern wasn’t good enough. Where are you getting that?

The manager's letter to the intern sounds a bit blunt for my liking. It is difficult to evaluate an intern's work when they are a member of a team with ongoing requirements.

Whether the intern in question produces good work or not, I would simply prefer to say that "we do not have the ability to extend an offer at this time for this role, and we thank you for your efforts this summer"

as opposed to "the work delivered did not meet expectations, and for that reason we are not extending an offer. this isn't the result we wanted."

> Whether the intern in question produces good work or not, I would simply prefer to say that "we do not have the ability to extend an offer at this time for this role, and we thank you for your efforts this summer"

This would be incredibly infuriating and is absolutely the most frustrating part of the interview and internship experience today.

I know you think you are lessening the blow but this kind of response is vague and doesn’t help anyone. What matters most after a rejection is understanding where you fell short. You will never improve if you do not know where you went wrong; as such, a response like that doesn’t help the career of the intern and doesn’t do justice to the effort the intern put in over the past N months, or the effort the interviewer put in to prepare for the interview.

Even the letter she got was vague. An acceptable response would list specific points of potential improvement and offer to hold a meeting to elaborate on them.

I understand where you are coming from, and I have been on the receiving end of very vague rejections as well (or being straight up ghosted of course).

However, I don't think it's helpful to say "your work wasn't good". My natural inclination after hearing that is to say "ok, can you provide an example?"

If they even have an example, you then jump into an analysis. They say you did x wrong, and you attempt to explain how x was influenced by y, or that actually you did x correctly just slowly and using a different methodology but ultimately the same result is achieved.

I don't think I've ever met a corporate middle manager who has said "you know what, you're totally right. I'm going to cancel the firing process right now!"

Right, it isn't a debate. The decision has been made.

Not giving a reason also allows the person to form their own story about what happened, which I think can help some people protect their egos a bit.

I believe her manager's comments came after she received the news, and she was requesting a deeper explanation. At that point sugar coating is less necessary, if they are asking for genuine feedback you should give it to them.

The way she handles it is positive, sounds like she's got a bright future.

Thank you for sharing your story! It takes courage to open up about a disappointing internship outcome. You’re lighting the path for young engineers to come.

Good luck! You’ll be surprised where you are in a few years

opportunity contains some amount of timing; if you keep pushing you will trend up and to the right

I don't know what it's like to work at Microsoft, and it's true that everything with internships is necessarily on an accelerated time scale, but it's not good that the lack of an offer was a surprise for her.

She's right though, it will be ok. She went to Cornell and seems to cultivate some kind of online presence around being a coder, plus she's approaching all this with a great attitude, externally at least. I'm sure she'll land on her feet.

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