On Ramen and Internships


By David Ja ‘15

David Ja '15

David Ja '15

Chang hung up the phone and stared into the busy dining room of Craft, a New York restaurant. He had just received an offer to work for a tiny noodle shop in Japan. Making ramen was Chang’s dream but Chang had been looking for an established restaurant with the right credentials to learn the art of noodles. Should he take the plunge with the unknown shop? What alternatives should he consider?

During the internship search “season,” many of us find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of making trade-offs we did not plan. We came to Booth with our ideal vision of success and crafted the perfect 3-point plan to get there. Our confidence was reinforced by inspiring stories from successful alumni confirming that every opportunity was ours for the taking.  

Then came recruiting. While many were extremely successful in securing that coveted internship, far too many, it seemed, were left confused about career choices. Without that #1 offer, many of us may have felt like the Seahawks, after Butler’s brilliant interception, wondering what could have been.

If you fall into this camp, however, now is not the time for confusion, but for in-depth re-evaluation of your short-term career objectives:

First, as taught in Investments, the value of asset is dependent on its future cash flow, not past cash flow or what cash flow could have been. Focus on the available opportunities that would be compatible despite being a step removed from our objectives. A re-analysis of available opportunities can lead to discovery of new unexplored positions that may be a better fit for our long-term career.

Second, if recruiting has highlighted any shortfall in either interview performance, job skillset or experience, this is valuable information to make recruiting preparation adjustments, organize a targeted search and narrow down existing opportunities that best help us develop and fill critical gaps. It is best to know the shortfalls before the next interview or the internship, avoiding negative experiences.

Third, internship positions can be an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities to firms recruiting for full-time positions. Most industries are sufficiently connected that your outperformance can lead to potentially better position full-time and better network than your “ideal internship.” Thus, focus on considering an internship related to not only your long-term goals, but also where you may shine.

Finally, it is best to think of setbacks as opportunities to write better stories. The founders of KKR were told in mid-1970s by senior managers of Bear Stearns that they did not think private equity could be a serious business. Thirty years later, some of the same managers, asked if KKR would rescue Bear from bankruptcy (KKR did not). Detours, in many instances, can make for more interesting success.

David Chang ultimately chose the less than ideal position, which led to a better noodle shop. Two years later, he opened Momofuku in New York and turned it into a culinary empire. Time named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2010. Not bad for a detour.