During your college or university years, you’ve received good grades and thrown yourself into extracurricular activities and clubs.
Maybe you’ve moved out of your parents’ house and have been living independently, and quite successfully (if you do say so yourself). You’re getting your life together, and you’re keen to apply your skills and abilities to a real job.
You’re an adult now, with plenty to offer a company.
However, those companies have spoken (or, worse, stayed silent) and the message was clear: they’re not interested.
Now you find yourself looking back on your application or the interview, asking questions like, “Why don’t they like me?” and “Was it something I said?” or “Did that blue pantsuit look dumb afterall?”
But as frustrating as it is when job prospects don’t pan out, you should be asking yourself a different set of questions, such as “How can I learn from this experience?” “What can I do to improve next time” or even simply, “Now what?”
So you didn’t get the internship; that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the experience. You’ve still got options, and, fortunately for you, we’ve got a handy guide to walk you through your next steps.
Being rejected is tough business. It’s totally understandable if you want to speed-dial your BFF or your brother and rant away. Have a pet? Let them know too. Just don’t adopt this approach when interacting with the company in question. In fact, you should strive for the opposite. There are a lot of benefits to being gracious in the face of rejection.
For one, you may have lost the opportunity (for now), but you can keep your dignity. By continuing to be just as pleasant as you were during the interviewing process, you remind the company of your professionalism and maturity. If a position does open up at the company, they are more likely to remember the candidate who thanked them for the opportunity to interview, despite rejection.
Get feedback (if possible) and review your application
If you followed the tip above, you’ll find an appropriate means of requesting and obtaining valuable feedback that may help you improve your interviewing skills or find employment down the road.
Of course, it is important to be polite, as you are asking for a favour (even if the favour is them pointing out your potential flaws and weaknesses). Additionally, you should stress how grateful you were for the opportunity to interview.
In your note, remind them that you will be continuing to look for work and ask if there was anything they noticed during the interview process that could be improved upon. Take any criticism with maturity. Remember, they’re trying to help you, so it’s best not to act defensively.
Were there job skills required that you were lacking?
Maybe in the feedback you received, they mentioned that another candidate had skills that you did not. Perhaps you realized that many of the job descriptions you researched requested similar qualifications and proficiencies that you lacked. For example, are they seeking someone with an understanding of Adobe Photoshop or inDesign? Maybe that Government job required both French and English proficiency.
Now is the time to start honing these skills.
You can find many free educational courses offered online. Sites like edX, Coursera, and ALISON are great places to start; they feature classes from top universities like Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, and many more. Additionally, many of these courses are self-paced, meaning you can learn these in-demand skills while continuing to search for work.
Contact your school’s career centre for new leads
If you are still in school or a recent graduate, consider hitting up your campus career centre. The school and faculty are there to help you succeed, and professional career advisors may be able to point you in the right direction and help locate similar internships. Additionally, many colleges and universities have online job boards that post student-specific roles (and of course, there’s always the job board on TalentEgg!).
It may also be worth approaching professors in your program if you think they may have some useful industry contacts. Many departments will even post relevant internship opportunities to bulletin boards in hallways, so it could be worth a trip back to campus.
Lastly, while you’re back at campus familiarizing yourself with the career centre and program departments, you may want to consider non-internship opportunities as well.
Summer Jobs (off campus)
It may be too late to apply for the typical May-August summer internship, but you still may be able to find part-time or freelance opportunities. Even jobs in retail, customer service, or hospitality can provide you with valuable transferrable skills.
Summer Jobs (on campus)
Often campuses will offer unique positions available to current or recently graduated students. If gaining industry experience is important to you, inquire about research positions. Some professors will take on undergraduate and graduate students to assist with projects. This could be a perfect opportunity to get to know your prof and the industry simultaneously.
Take a class and earn a credit
Most students find that taking one or two summer courses is generally less stressful than completing them all during the regular school year, and you’ll have more time to study. Additionally, taking a class during the break keeps your brain working all summer long and lightens your workload for the next semester.
With less courses needed for the next academic year, a fall or spring internship may be possible!
Volunteering and community service
Employers love seeing community service on a resume as it demonstrates character and compassion in potential candidates. Volunteering may come in many different forms, giving you a wide variety of options in how you spend your time. You could volunteer to help tutor high school students in math, or work with refugees new to Canada. Maybe a non-profit needs help with social media marketing or branding. The options are limitless!
Moreover, working with your community or those who need your help should also give you perspective on your own life. Plus, you’ll be helping others and making a difference! Win-win.
Invest in a creative project
Maybe you’re someone who marches to the beat of your own drum. Now’s the time to tap into that creative talent or entrepreneurial spirit. Are you a musician? Form that band. Do you like making jewelry? Build an Etsy page. Interested in making short films? Start casting. Use this precious free time to learn to blog/paint/knit/cook/sail/code/whatever!
Don’t give up!
Most importantly, don’t feel discouraged by this turn of events. The job market is more competitive than ever, so be proud of your efforts to seek meaningful employment. Continue to work hard and learn from this experience. You could even use this time to get organized for the next round of internship applications. For example, you could learn how to combine a spreadsheet (thanks to your new friends edX and Coursera!) that contains details of potential prospects, including company name, contact info, position available, etc.
Keep pounding that pavement and you’ll get to where you want to be!