Applying for internships is meant to test a lot of things: experience, skills, patience and even the number of times you’ll proofread your own resume, to name a few. However, I wasn’t prepared for the constant string of rejections that led me to test my own self-worth as a future industry professional. And there was no article or seminar that I had attended that I could use to explain what to do when companies kept telling me “no” or didn’t bother responding at all.
With application due dates approaching for fall interns, I want to share what I learned in hopes of creating a positive outlook on a rather grueling experience.
- Don’t doubt for a second your abilities and value. Whenever faced with rejection, it’s human nature to take it personally because it forces us to evaluate whether or not we were good enough for something or someone. In internships, this isn’t necessarily the case. Remember that in many fields, especially public relations, there is heavy competition for some of these major companies or paid positions. Sometimes they just find a better fit in the company, not necessarily someone who could do a better job. For example, I almost got an internship with a company that works with start-ups until they found an intern that wanted to be an entrepreneur. She was the better fit, so naturally she got the job.
- Think outside the box during the application process. I received my summer internship because a potential employer — who decided to go in a different direction but still liked me well enough — did me a huge honor by putting me in contact with smaller companies and start-ups they knew who probably needed help. Agencies might be a great contact for situations like this, because they may know businesses who don’t have access to a wide pool of students looking for experience, whether paid or unpaid.
- Internships don’t have to be long-term relationships. You are allowed to settle. It’s easy to dream of having a paid internship in New York City, but that doesn’t mean you should discount an unpaid internship in your local town or city. It’s the experience that counts and how you apply it later, not necessarily where it comes from. Go in with an open mind.
- Perseverance and patience is key. If you find that the semester has started and you still don’t have an internship, just keep looking. After graduating this past spring semester, I was receiving emails through mid-June from companies that were still desperately seeking interns. Be persistent, but most importantly, be patient.
Good luck with your internship search and keep in mind — sometimes it’s not you, it’s them.
What are your tips and tricks for staying positive during the internship/job application process?
Ashley Spruill is a senior, double majoring in public relations and English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Spruill is also the president of Carolina PRSSA. Follow her @amspruill or connect with her on LinkedIn.