What I Learned From Getting 12 Internship Rejections

After a few years of working paid retail jobs over the summer coupled with some unpaid internship experiences that weren’t my favorite, I decided that the best thing to prepare myself for graduation come senior year of college would be getting a paid internship this time around.

Since I knew exactly what type of internship I was looking for in January, I started researching and applying for positions that would not start until May. I ended up applying to 12 different roles, and I got rejected from all of them. However, I don’t call this process a total wash; here are some of the most important things I learned that you can take with you during your job or internship search.

1. Start the Job Search Early

What makes the internship application process a lot harder is when you’ve waited until the last minute. By hitting the ground running during the spring semester, I got to talk to classmates who’d held internships at places I wanted to work, discussed my options with professors and took advantage of other campus resources.

2. Don’t Be Picky

Maybe 12 was excessive, but I knew that I really wanted a good internship at the end of the day, one where I could learn a lot and walk out with great experiences and contacts. Thus, I made the realization I was totally willing and able to work an unpaid internship if it was in my desired field. Although nobody wants to do work for no pay, sometimes an unpaid internship will give you payoff in ways you wouldn’t expect.

So, I applied to 12 positions…and it led to 12 rejections, but before we get into what I learned specifically from those rejection emails, let’s move onto another important lesson I learned: Selling yourself.

3. You Sell Yourself Better Than Anybody Else

The time that I spent without an internship allowed me to realize how valuable my personality and skillset are to me personally. I think that when I was applying, I described myself confidently in my applications but did not buy into it myself. That was my number one mistake: If you don’t think you’re great, nobody else is going to think it for you. Have pride in your craft and your interests; find ways to let them shine and reach people beyond those who might receive your internship applications. You’d be surprised as to who will reach out to you when you let your passion shine through. I’ve worked at YouTube NYC Headquarters, met famous authors and now the voice of Siri even follows me on Twitter!

How did I get there? It sounds cliche, but once I realized that doing all the things I was “supposed to do” still didn’t enable me to get the results I wanted, I had to become inventive. I thought I had done enough to secure an internship, but there were other tools I was missing that hadn’t even dawned on me to use.

I got on business networking websites. I began attending networking events. I created social media specifically for business networking purposes. I had a photoshoot and got headshots and learned how to build a professional website with widgets and interactive links. I started sliding into DMs on Instagram and Twitter and tweeted at people I wanted to work with and for. I made an email account specifically for business and created my own unique brand.

All of these little steps added up over time; I just didn’t know this before I applied to those 12 fateful internships.

4. Every Career “No” Can Become a “Yes”

Before I applied to so many internships, I talked to everyone I knew…or at least I thought I did. I prepared months in advance and even had professors, advisors, family and friends look over resumes and cover letters. I applied to multiple positions at the same companies and had some “target” positions as well as “dream jobs.” I made sure I covered every base I could. Even so, come April, my email inbox was filled with rejections. When I e-mailed asking why my applications were not accepted or how I could improve, I was either met with no answer or an elusive response about “more qualified applicants.”

If there’s anything my internship rejections have taught me, it’s that you are going to hear the word “no” a lot. You have two choices: Become comfortable with it, or let it tear you down. I’m not saying to let it roll off your shoulders as if it doesn’t matter, but I am saying to let those rejections make your shoulders broad and strong. Find out ways to improve yourself, and make who you are marketable in its uniqueness.

You’re not always going to find work in the traditional way of submitting forms online, but you will be stuck to that method if you never give yourself the chance to reach the world in other ways. Whether it’s videos, photography or a blog, make a situation for yourself so that when things don’t work out, or you experience the worst case scenario and every place you apply to tells you no, you have other means of creating success.

To tell you the truth, some of the best career experiences I have had thus far have been from what I’ve created for myself. Give yourself, not the privilege, but the right to make your career life what you want it to be, no matter how many times you hear the word “no.”

How to Create the Best Handwritten Thank You Note Ever

By now, most of us have probably caught onto the fact that one of the best ways to show a past, current or future employer that you care is by sending a follow-up note. Notes can be sent after an interview, following a work event or just to let somebody know that you’re thinking of them. A “thank you” is always appreciated, but there is one surefire way to have your words of thanks stand out from all the rest: Write the best thank you card ever!

Even though e-mails are a nice and easy follow up, sending a card shows your competency in writing and organizational skills that employers want to see still hold up in a digital age. Writing a card is not as hard to do as it might seem. Once you put a little effort into the letter writing process, you’ll find it to be fun! Here are five steps to sending out the best and most memorable thank you card.

1. Know How to Properly Format, Address and Send a Letter

You might not think about it often, but when was the last time you hand wrote and mailed a letter? You’d be surprised how many people have never mailed out a note before in their lives! Contents of the envelop aside, the first thing the recipient of your thank you card is going to see when it gets to their mailbox is the packaging it comes in. You can never make a second first impression, but sending a clean, neat envelop is as close as you can get to one! Make sure that you have your name and your address (a return address is always helpful and important) in the upper left-hand corner, and “Company Name, ATTN: Recipient’s Name, Recipient’s Official Title, Company Address” legibly written in the center of the envelop. A stamp in the upper right- hand corner is a must, but make sure the stamp isn’t crooked, ripped or out of season. A snowflake stamp just won’t cut it in the middle of May!

Besides adding your signature at the end, there are lots of great ways to make your thank you letter stand out even beyond contents and format. I highly recommend investing in some notecard stationery sets. Try to find a pattern or style of card that is professional, but also unique. It can either be something that screams you or reflects back to the recipient. Bonus points if you can find a card that relates back to your conversation with the person getting the card!

The ability to send a properly formatted letter once the envelope has been opened shows that you’ve got the whole package. You know what a letter should look like and what it should say. Paying attention to little details such as spacing, a smooth seal, no ink smudges and straight label placement implies that if you are just as meticulous with the “little things,” you can handle larger, pressing and more time sensitive topics when communicating as a trusted representative of your company.

2. Be Timely

What makes any thank you note a good one is being timely. I wouldn’t wait more than the next day to send out a follow-up. People are always busy and have a lot going on; the longer you wait to say thanks, the greater the chances are that they might not remember your name or confuse you with someone else.

Being punctual means that both on paper and in person, you are creating a lasting impression in the mind of a future or former boss by letting their most recent memory of you be a kind thank you. A surefire way to secure that good impression is also to follow up your more traditional note with a thank you email as well, so the recipient knows right away that you are thinking of them, instead of letting time pass by without contacting them as the letter goes through the mail.

3. Be Thoughtful

Inside of your letter, be thoughtful and genuinely express exactly what it is you would like to give thanks to. Instead of just saying something standard and unoriginal like ‘thank you for the great opportunity,” try to think back to the event or conversation you are writing in regards to and pinpoint one to three things that you enjoyed or were impressed by.

Did you learn something new? Mention that. Were you inspired by a speaker or presentation? Tell them why and how. Was there a piece of advice that resonated with you from that day? Quote it in your letter.

Those who go this extra mile in good faith are those more likely to be recognized for their passion and ability to acknowledge that they want to be part of a team effort or success. Gratitude is always greatly appreciated at any stage of the game, and the fact that you went through the trouble of doing things like taking notes, finding their address and official title and even just sending out a clean envelope means you are being thoughtful.

And if you need more help on content, we’ve got a step-by-step guide to being grateful in a thank-you note on our WayUp Guide.

4. Take Notes and Plan Topics Ahead of Time

One way to get around having writers block for thank you notes is to take notes as soon as an event or interview is over, whether it’s on your phone or in a notebook; jot down your overall impressions of the day and anything that really stood out to you. Try to paraphrase important ideas or note key concepts that were brought up in an interview or networking event. When it comes time to write your letter you can just pull out your notes for reference, write a small draft and then put it down in a card.

5. Have Good Penmanship

Your penmanship will also make you easily identifiable in another way other than your face or voice. Write neatly, without spelling errors, and write well, so that in the future, if your work ends up on someone’s desk, he or she already knows you who are by the handwriting and quality of your work.

6. Putting It All Together

When all has been said and done, you ideally want your handwritten thank you note to look something like this:

Hi [person’s name],

I just wanted to take a moment to send you a note to thank you for the positive experience I got to share with you at yesterday’s [insert activity here]. I spent the ride back home following our meeting reflecting on [what stood out to you most], and I think it’s really going to change [5-10 words on what you learned]! I really appreciate your guidance, and  I look forward to the next opportunity we might have to work together.

Thank you again for [what did you most get out of this interaction]. Looking forward to talking again soon!

With appreciation,

[Your name]

Where there are blanks, you will want to make sure you have referred to your note taking and chosen the best moments to showcase in your note. Don’t just choose random points just because they sound “good”- just like with any academic writing, you want to make sure the points relate and flow along in a logical progression.

It doesn’t have to be a long letter, but it does have to be one that shows you are thinking about how your interactions with the recipient will positively impact your career life. If this person seems like someone you would like to work with again and keep contact with, make sure that you allude to the possibility of future collaborations, so that the reader knows you are still interested in them.

Whether networking is done via WayUp and online or through a friend of a friend, separating yourself out from the rest as someone who gives that extra unprovoked effort is a great way to make a lasting impression that goes beyond your online networking accounts. If you wanna have the best reputation, one way to solidify it is by sending the best thank you letter!