Like I said in my previous article on three ways to make the most of your internship, getting an internship is hard work.
When you consider the sometimes long and challenging processes of finding, applying, interviewing, and securing internships, jobs, leadership programs, and other professional experiences – it can feel like it’s all not worthwhile.
Those feelings are real; they come from moments of vulnerability, sometimes both joyous and disappointing. In that effort comes growth and learning, regardless of the outcome.
For this article, I am joined by two of our college students and marketing interns at Making Waves Foundation, Elaine Fernandez and Juritzy Mata.
Based on our experiences as a college coach and as two current college students, here are our three tips on how to move forward when you don’t get the internship you were hoping to get, are still searching for the right opportunity for you, or are feeling overwhelmed by the process of gaining resume building experiences and skills.
1. Remember: rejection is redirection
Elaine Fernandez: Being rejected from an internship or a job is not a nice feeling. To many of us, it can be a blow to our self-esteem, and it can put our life into perspective, as we begin questioning where and how we went wrong. Coming from someone who has been rejected more times than I can count on my hand, rejection is always redirection.
Redirection might mean coming back to an opportunity, but at a different time. From personal experience, I applied to an internship about six months ago. I did not even get offered an interview. I took this rejection as an opportunity to redirect myself for the time being and apply again another time. I applied a month ago to that exact internship and, not only did I get offered the interview, but I also got the sought after “yes.” Looking back at it now, if I would have gotten that internship when I applied the first time, I would not have had the time or the knowledge to carry it out like I do now.
Again, rejection is redirection, so do not feel that your “no” is the end of your road because I promise you it is just the beginning. Take that rejection as a time to not only redirect yourself on a different path, but also to direct more attention into you and give yourself time to heal from it.
Make sure to engage in acts of self-care by taking a small break and spending time with your support systems to make sure your rejection redirects you in a positive way.
2. Take the time to find the right fit for you
Juritzy Mata: It is important to remember that during the interview process, the decision to accept a position is not a one-way street. While it may feel like the hiring manager is in control of the interview, you also take part in the decision-making process.
The interview is not only an opportunity for the company to get to know you, but also a chance for you to determine if the company is a right fit for you.
In the interview, you should assess whether the company aligns with your skills, beliefs, and preferred work environment. Seek out information by asking relevant questions about the position. Don’t be afraid to decline an offer.
You might determine that the timing just was not right for you and the position, but do not put yourself down! If one interview does not go well, there will always be a next one. You might also determine that you were missing some qualifications. If so, you can take the time to better your skillset and reapply!
3. Reflect, reorient your focus, and plan your next steps
Danielle Hall: Simply being in the market for professional opportunities is work. But those hours of effort have an impact.
So, take a break. What does it look like to pause in this area of your life? Should you apply to one role a month instead of 10? On the other hand, you could take an entire season off searching and reground yourself in your current position. Whatever the break looks like, it may be helpful to take a step away from the process and focus on yourself.
Reorienting your focus can remind you of the big picture and why you’re in the process in the first place. It is helpful to reflect, look back on, and better understand what happened and why.
For example, here are some reflection questions:
- When did you feel most confident during the application and interview process?
- Were there moments of doubt or hesitation?
- How did you prepare?
- For the job you were most excited about, what stood out about the role?
- What qualities did the organization have that made you want to work there?
- Can that job description or those attributes be found somewhere else?
Reflection allows us to pinpoint what we want, what works, and what behaviors need attention to make the necessary changes.
As you plan for what’s next, can you share your professional hopes or the experience with your Making Waves college coach, a friend, or a mentor? Getting insight from someone else can give a fresh perspective on your strengths and areas of development. Rely on those you trust and know you well to contribute feedback and direction. They can also provide some encouragement and affirmation. You are working hard. You are trying. Who can help remind you of this fact?
So, you didn’t get the internship. Now, it’s time to remember that a “no” does not mean never. And whether it’s reapplying to roles from the past, reassessing the alignment between you and the company you’re interested in, or pausing the process to connect with someone dependable for guidance, there will always be a path forward.
Your professional journey does not have to end here. It won’t.
Wave-Maker at UC Davis
Former Marketing Intern,
Wave-Maker at Cal Poly Pomona
ABOUT MAKING WAVES Education FOUNDATION
At Making Waves, we are committed to educational equity. Making Waves Education Foundation is a Bay Area nonprofit that supports Making Waves Academy – a public charter school with more than 1,100 5th through 12th grade students – and leads college and career programming with more than 500 college students.
Knowing the opportunities that come with a college degree, we partner with historically underrepresented and underserved students to help make college affordable and graduation attainable. Centering the journeys of our students, our personalized approach includes college and career coaching, scholarships, and financial planning.
Our alumni network includes more than 600 college graduates, who earn their degrees and land jobs at more than twice the rate of their first-generation, low-income peers, with 85% graduating debt-free.