Never Tell Me The Odds

By Action_lawyer_comics • April 2, 2017

I just got myself into a really good internship and wanted to both share my happiness here and illustrate how the odds often aren’t nearly as bad as they seem.

I had already been through higher education once. I got a worthless 4-year degree, started working in restaurants, got tired of foodservice, tried a few things but the jobs I found were all pretty low-paying. I started to think of getting qualifications so I could get a better job. I looked at a few options, getting an apprenticeship, going to trade school, etc, when my wife emailed me an opportunity that sounded perfect. I’m keeping the details anonymous, but it was a paid internship plus they would pay for the first year of a two-year degree so I could get a well-paying job in an underserved field. The internship was already half again what I was making at my current job, and it was similar to the job I already have and enjoy.

Here's the part that worried me. They mention that they are specifically looking for candidates from underrepresented backgrounds and people who haven’t had as many opportunities for success. The only qualifications are a high school diploma or GED. And while my current job pays horribly, I do have a degree and my wife makes good money. I’m also white and in my mid thirties. So on paper, I felt like I wasn’t what they were looking for at all. And they would only take 40 people into Phase 2, which was a 12-week emotional intelligence class. After that, they only had 20 slots for the actual internship and scholarship. But while on paper, I wasn’t the ideal candidate, I knew that I was a great candidate for the final job, since I was already in the workforce for ten years, had a professional mindset, and already had a background in a similar field. So I applied, even though I knew it was a log shot.

There were over 400 people who applied for these 20 spots. By the time of the first aptitude test, we were down to less than 300. Not because a hundred plus people didn’t pass, but because they didn’t even show up for the test. Maybe those people had good reasons, maybe they just lost hope, or they got better jobs, or they didn’t check their email. But for whatever reason, my odds just got a whole lot better, and all I had to do was show up.

After that, the organizations involved made some decisions, and I made the cut to Phase 2. I got the call kinda late, so I think there were a few others who were placed higher than me, but they also declined or failed to respond, so I got bumped up again because other people dropped out.

Once in Phase 2, all we had to do was go to a class once a week. No homework, no tests (well one test but we’ll get to that later), all we had to do was show up and participate every once in a while. Still, we went from 40 to 30 just from people dropping out of class. I want to make one thing clear. I don’t think that I’m better than those who didn’t stick it through. Making time to come to a class once a week for no pay can be a big barrier for a lot of people. I was friends with my classmates and I was sad to see some of them not advance. But at the same time, I was there to get the job, and if by sticking it through when others didn’t is what set me apart, then so be it.

We did have to take a college placement exam to make sure we could enroll in community college, and some people didn’t pass. However, the organization that hosted this program was eager to see everyone succeed, so we were given two chances to pass. In between, we were given access to tutors to help get our scores up. But a lot of people who didn’t pass the first time simply did not show up for the second test. Who knows whether they would have passed or not. But I know two people who were very nervous about the test but still showed up. Both of them passed and are now in the program.

In the end, the organizers didn’t have any tough decisions to make, because only 19 people showed up for the test and passed. So out of a starting pool of over 400 candidates, we ended up with 19 winners and one scholarship that may go unclaimed. And even though I wasn’t the ideal candidate because of reasons beyond my control, I got the position through the things that I can control, by showing up and trying my best. I applied for the scholarship less than six months ago and I'm already making more money in the internship than from my "regular" job. Once I get my degree, I'll have doubled my old earnings and have tons of chances for growth and promotion I wouldn't have otherwise.

It’s easy to lose hope when the odds seem so bad. And it can be scary to work on something without being 100% certain you will succeed. But the odds often aren’t as bad as they seem at first. And the willingness to show up and participate is a highly underestimated tool. So if you see your dream opportunity out there, reach for it. The odds might not be as bad as you think.

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