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In the vein of being completely honest, failure hurts. Especially for college students in the midst of applying to internships, each “no” can feel like a personal jab at what we’ve accomplished so far. I applied to 30 internships before I even got my first rejection, and used this as a motivator to continue searching and finding the perfect internship for me.
Each email I got telling me I didn’t get the position obviously hurt—it took a lot of effort to remind myself that it had nothing to do with who I was as a person. Channeling that energy into another application, especially after a fresh rejection, takes time and practice. But after a while, it became almost cathartic to take all of the energy and emotions from that “this was the most competitive application cycle yet…” and throw it into another application. It was by this logic that I landed an internship I actually wanted for the summer, one that paid well, put me in New York City for the summer, let me work with students, and focused on work I wanted to be doing.
And, as kitchy as it is to say, I wouldn’t have landed this internship without first getting rejected from the internships I originally wanted. As much as I would have loved to work with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in San Francisco, or Edelman Communications in New York, being open and adaptable to changes brought me to an internship I will actually love doing. Rather than seeing rejections as roadblocks or boulders in my path, I choose to see them as ways to refine my path and lead me to where I really should be.
That being said, you do have to work to make these rejections become successes. The saying “when one door shuts, another one opens” is entirely true—if you are dedicated to finding those doors. The best thing a student can do is keep track of all these doors opening and closing; for some, that looks like a failure resume, for others it might be a spreadsheet of everything you’ve applied to. It gives us a chance to reflect on areas we’ve fallen short—whether it was a bombed interview, or a presentation gone wrong—and reflect on the experience so that we have a chance to improve and move past it.
And seeing your applications, whether it’s on a spreadsheet, or sticky notes on a wall, gives us a better view of the big picture. Applying to most any internship isn’t easy; the work that has to go into it is commendable in and of itself. If you’re applying to more than one internship, whether it’s five or 50, that’s an accomplishment worth noting! Aside from the hours that go into these applications, the emotional stress of applying and waiting to hear back is courageous.
So, yes, rejection stings. We see it as an unfortunate evil in the world of applications, whether it’s finding an internship, a scholarship, or a full-blown career. However, if we change the way we think about these rejections, and instead see them as stepping stones to an internship we are a good fit for, we can lessen the blow. These eight tips from our coaches at the Hub can be just the thing to help you avoid the pitfalls of getting rejected. At the end of the day, we should be confident and proud of our accomplishments, and one employer not seeing us as the right candidate does nothing to change that.