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4 Ways to Cope with Internship Rejections

We’ve all been there. You’re just casually checking your email – and then you see it. You’ve been dying to hear back about your internship application, and you open it knowing that this is the one­…until you realize it’s a rejection.

Rejections are one of the unfortunate parts of internship application season. To put it bluntly, they suck. After spending hours perfecting your cover letter and resume and prepping for interviews, handling the rejection is tough. But, if you do it correctly, that rejection can actually help you find success in the future. So follow these tips the next time you’re told, “unfortunately, we found a better fit.”

1. Allow yourself to be upset

Bottling up your feelings and trying to ignore them is never good. Go ahead and get a little sad, maybe dig into a pint of ice cream, and then be done with it. Remember that every no is leading you to a yes. Gianna Rocco, a junior at the University of Tampa, says that all the rejections she received were awful, but they ended up paving the way to an even better internship. “Rejection from internships lead me to an offer an acceptance with one of my dream internships, but it took a lot of rejections to get me here,” she says. In the end remember that it’s just an internship, and there will be plenty of other opportunities.

2. Follow up

This step is incredibly daunting. Asking the hiring manager for the reasons why he or she didn’t hire you is terrifying and awful but important. But if you don’t reach out for feedback you won’t know why you were rejected. How can you improve if you don’t know what the issue is? Maybe they really did find someone more qualified, but on the other hand it could also be the way you interviewed, or the format of your resume or the way you wrote your cover letter. The possibilities can drive you crazy.

The hiring manager will never tell you anything nasty, but the critique you receive will help you know what to change the next time you apply for an internship. Marie Knoll, a junior at the University of South Carolina, says that rejection follow-ups are important. “Sometimes I also ask if they know about any other available options,” Marie says. “For one internship, the recruiter actually gave me the email for a different company with a similar position.” Reaching out not only shows that you’re willing to put yourself in a little bit of an awkward situation, it also expresses your drive. The worst thing that can happen is you get no response. This can sometimes happen at some larger companies who recruit through human resources, but even so, there is no harm in trying to reach out. Who knows, in the best-case scenario, maybe they’ll be impressed with your determination and will pass on your resume to a different department.

Related: How to Get a Magazine Internship

3. Stay in touch

Just because you didn’t get an internship with a company doesn’t mean you need to sever ties completely. The rejection might have nothing to do with your skill level, the company might just want someone who has more experience. You’ve heard it before, and we’ll say it again, NETWORK. Networking is key to making connections and opening up opportunities. So connect with recruiters on LinkedIn, and send them emails thanking them for their time. That effort to stay in touch might end up getting you an actual job in the future.

4. Don’t give up

Getting a rejection affects you on a personal level, but you can’t let it prevent you from continuing on. Instead of feeling defeated, apply to another internship. If you can take that defeat and use it as an opportunity to push forward, you’ll become more resilient in the future. Take the time to revise your resume and cover letter, and even work on your interviewing skills. Sarah Westbrook, a junior at the University of Vienna, says, “Talk to family and do mock interviews with them. I did one with my dad and it helped prepare me a lot since they know you well and will give you honest feedback on what you’re saying.” Everyone deals with rejection, but it’s up to you to turn it into a learning opportunity and make the best of it.

The amount of time it takes just to apply for internships could probably count as another three credits towards your major, so we know that every rejection is like a knife to your ego. But if you use them to improve your skills and prepare for your next opportunity, don’t worry—you’ll get that acceptance email.

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Reilly Tuccinard

South Carolina

Reilly Tuccinard is a University of South Carolina graduate with a love of writing, reading and learning. After spending two years as the Beauty Editor for Her Campus Media and the Editor-in-Chief of HC South Carolina, she is focusing on a career in creative strategy. Friends will tell you she's a a self-proclaimed Grey's Anatomy addict, she can't just watch a movie once and she is a firm believer in anything and everything chocolate.