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“Unfortunately,” “We have everyone we need,” and “I’m sorry to inform you,” are all phrases that you might recognize from the start of a rejection email. We’ve all been there – sometimes the job we want doesn’t want us back. However, rejection isn’t always a bad thing. It makes us stronger and more resilient and teaches us how to approach the opportunities we want in a different way. 

The first internship I ever applied for was in high school; I wanted to do lab research at a local hospital or university. To say that I was rejected is probably an understatement – the first two people I reached out to via email simply did not respond. The next handful apologized and said their labs were full, or that they were looking for people with more experience. It wasn’t until the last few responses – right when I was almost given up on hope – that I received an email from a lab that was looking for an intern that summer. 

I was unbelievably happy. Out of the fifteen people I reached out to, only one had said “yes.” However, what if I hadn’t continued to reach out to people? What if I had stopped after the first rejection? The opportunity would’ve never benefitted me if not for my resiliency and mass-email writing skills. 

First, I want to stress that you don’t have to be very experienced for every opportunity you apply for. I had never conducted lab research before; yet there I was, a few weeks later, standing in a lab coat and learning about cell polarity. Everyone has to gain experience somehow, so just because you’ve never worked in a specific industry before doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified! In fact, the most important qualities you could showcase, regardless of your level of experience, are determination, kindness, and a desire to contribute. 

One of the most important lessons I learned from this experience was to keep trying, which can be hard when rejections start to affect your self-esteem. However, one of the ways I found my internship was actually through a rejection email. The professor I had emailed suggested I try reaching out to a different hospital, and that I might have better luck there — and he was right. If not for this small expansion of my high school network, I wouldn’t have found the opportunity. 

One way to expand your network is to email as many people as possible—a process called “cold emailing.” This usually involves reaching out to someone you’ve never spoken to via email – a lot like “sliding into the DMs,” only this time via email! 

You might start out by introducing yourself – where you’re from, where you go to school, and what you’re studying – before focusing on why you decided to email. Lastly, you could wrap up your email by clearly explaining how the recipient can help you in your job/internship search and inviting them to connect with you.

Although rejection is disheartening at first, it happens to everyone at some point or another. The key takeaway is to never let rejection define you, your abilities, or your personality! Just because one person or company doesn’t want to hire you, doesn’t mean you won’t find a better position somewhere else. You shouldn’t want to work somewhere that doesn’t want you, and you can always take your determination and talent elsewhere. 

Navigating jobs and internships can be tricky and confusing, especially in college, but never downplaying your qualifications is crucial to getting the position you want. Additionally, the resiliency it takes to keep pushing through the job search will only make you stronger, and it’ll make that final “yes” or acceptance that much better. 

Emily is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. She is passionate about medicine, writing, and women's empowerment. In her free time, she can be found playing tennis or exploring Philadelphia with friends!
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