Student Stories

Succeeding From Failing

This is a guest post by Timothy Lee  for InternMatch’s Student Stories. If you’re interested in getting involved with Student Stories, learn more here.


No matter how big or small, we’ve all experienced a time when we fail. It could be not getting a job, failing a midterm, or getting dumped, but we’ve all been there. I like to remind myself with a quote from Zig Ziglar, “Failure is an event, not a person”.

The beauty of failing is that it’s short-lived if you choose to. No one really cares as much of the actual failure but rather how you grew, learn and became better from the event. Here’s a 100% true story that happened to me this last week for a little inspiration.

I applied for a program at my school and I unfortunately was rejected from the first round. When you’re not even called back for an interview, it usually means you’re not even qualified. Refusing to accept the fact that I didn’t get the interview, I decided to email the directors of the program to meet with them in person, to learn what parts of my application did not meet their standards.

I met up with the two directors in their office, arriving 45 minutes early. Honestly, I walked in there with no expectations… but as the discussion went on, it suddenly felt more and more like an interview. I recognized this familiar feel in the room. Immediately, I went into interview mode and started answering all their questions with the best stories I’ve had — highlighting my tenacity and persistence to hardships… exactly what I was doing at that very moment with this program.

The directors recognized that same attitude and characteristic from my stories and connected the dots with what I was doing with them. They were happy to say that I was very qualified and would like me to move on with their program. I went from rejected, to flabbergasted, to hopeful, to success… all because I couldn’t believe that I was the failure. I could have been angry or sad but I chose to reach out because I knew failing didn’t define me, it was simply another hurdle to overcome. Out of the 200 kids that applied for this program, 100 were rejected, and only 1 chose to reach out and talk to the directors.

I’m not saying simply emailing the dean of Harvard to argue your rejection letter will get you in or calling human resources to try to set up another interview will land you the job — in fact I was so surprised with what happened to me I started calling and texting my friends after I got out.

The takeaway is this: don’t linger on the moments you failed, instead, learn, grow and become better from them. Take every opportunity to get better, not just failures but moments of success as well. And sometimes, the coin lands your way and you get lucky with these rare moments when the thought of failing just seems impossible.

Author Bio:

Timothy Lee is a rising senior at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. He is studying political economy while receiving a certificate of sales from Foster the School of Business. In addition to school, Timothy currently interns at Kimberly-Clark and is a member of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. In his spare time, enjoys discovering new restaurants, baseball, and mentoring others.

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