“Me in 2020: No job, 200 rejections, temporary living arrangements. Me in 2023: I am now on Harvard campus as a Master’s student while working at my dream company, LinkedIn.”
Basant Shenouda - Customer Success at Linkedin (Ireland)
Eight years ago, I made the scary decision to immigrate to Europe as an Egyptian for my undergrad. I moved to Germany when I was 18—no family, no network, no resources. I didn’t know anything except that I was here to prove myself as an Egyptian woman. However, being Egyptian and different was very tough. The way I spoke German, my culture, my name—everything about me was made fun of and misunderstood. My passport and nationality are the reasons I was rejected from most jobs. I was almost even deported because I couldn’t find a job on my limited-time visa.
I felt like I was so different, and I wanted to ‘fit in’ with my colleagues and workplace. I have been an immigrant my whole life and am typically the only person from my background in the room. I am more introverted and quiet; I was always told this was bad. I can actually be very anxious and nervous. I hated all these things about myself and actively tried to be like others. I didn’t speak about my culture, mental health, or other things I cared about.
Three years ago, I wrote, I do not think I will ever achieve any of my dreams in my journal after many terrible circumstances. I remember how disappointed I was in myself three years ago when I graduated from university. The one thing that kept me going was this: “If I make it into tech, I can help more people who look like me join.” Supporting my people became my biggest motivation ever. I decided I needed to crack the system and create a process for success.
- Start with a very specific goal. I know this seems obvious, but in moments of doubt, many people try 50 things at once. It’s important to focus. For example, I only focused on tech sales roles and became an expert on the resume structure and interviewing process.
- Use my negative circumstances to my advantage! Most people shy away from discussing their hard times, but it can propel you towards your goals when used correctly. It showcases your growth mindset. I wrote my Harvard admission essay on my rejections and how they changed my life positively. My LinkedIn content on my tough journey with what I was learning also caught the attention of my LinkedIn recruiter!
- It’s not money that makes the world go round, it’s RELATIONSHIPS. Any admissions process or job application is amplified if you know someone. As an immigrant, I didn’t have a network at the beginning. I focused on being a GIVER. I built business relationships like I would build a friendship. Not by asking for help but by making it a two-way street. Reach out to people on LinkedIn with common interests and offer help.
- If it’s not working, something NEEDS to change. Ask for feedback on your resume, interview process, and interviewing skills. Send your resume to family and friends if you can. Constantly refine your process. I would send my resume to professionals I looked up to on LinkedIn, and they provided the best knowledge from their experience!
- Again, the obvious but critical word is RESEARCH. Many people will reach out to me about what roles are open on LinkedIn. Become an expert on what programs and opportunities are out there. You then know what is needed and what your gaps are! Did you know Harvard and Colombia have online master’s programs?
- Believe in myself! No one will really advocate for you more than YOU. In moments of doubt, you have to stay on your own side and believe in your potential!
2020: I have no job; I received 200 rejections with temporary living arrangements.
2023: I am now on Harvard campus as a Master’s student while working at my dream company, LinkedIn.
It is so surreal that I am now heading to Cambridge for my Master’s degree. It’s really surreal to be on Harvard’s campus now as a student. As an immigrant from a small town in Egypt, I never thought this would be possible. 18-year-old Basant would have never thought this was possible for me, but it really shows that if you take things one step at a time, you can do anything!
While studying at Harvard, I still face a lot of challenges. “Basant, you’re the stupidest person at Harvard,” I found myself meanly saying while studying for my midterms. It’s been challenging to study while working full-time at LinkedIn, but the most challenging part hasn’t been time management. It’s been about overcoming my self-doubt. The truth is, I really fear failure and rejection. I have never let go of these past fears while studying and looking for a job. But I am slowly learning. I am not my old failures and rejections; I am my current hard work and passion. You can do anything when you believe in yourself even a little, including getting a B+ on a midterm for finance (my worst subject!).
And here I am, 8 years later. Life can change from the darkest place to the biggest dream come true when you just believe in yourself. I am so happy to work for a company like LinkedIn that is so flexible with my education. The only Egyptian woman in the Dublin LinkedIn office after getting rejected once already. I will always be proud of where I come from and who I am, even when everything around me tells me not to be!
تحيا مصر - Long Live Egypt