6 Surprising Benefits of Not Getting an Internship You Want

Nov 10, 2014 - Joe Matar
Nothing’s fun about researching, looking for and applying for an internship. With the pressure to gain experience and build an impressive resume in time for senior year, it’s a grueling process that’s only gotten more competitive. You’ve put a lot of effort into attending career fairs, networking with recruiters and submitting your applications on time. You really, really want something besides “Babysitter” or “Hostess” on your resume. Now imagine how much it sucks to go through all that work only to be turned down for an internship. Alas, there are benefits to applying for an internship (and not getting it).

1. You get to practice

Don’t underestimate how valuable practice time is. Any professional will tell you that no matter how much experience you have and how many jobs you’ve landed, interviewing never becomes easy or fun. Uncertainty and nerves will still take a toll on your confidence. Applying for internships gives you real world experience of job seeking and interviewing -- a skill that’ll never go out of date.

2. You can ask for feedback

Please ask for feedback. Recruiters will rarely, if ever, provide constructive criticism if you don’t ask for it. Some recruiters may be wary, even when asked, of providing feedback to full-time applicants. But as a college student on the internship hunt, employers may be more willing to offer insight into what you can do to improve. Whether it’s an interview skill or course you should take, this feedback is invaluable. And you won’t get it if you don’t ask.

3. You can build a relationship with the recruiter

Just because you didn’t get the internship doesn’t mean that connection is off the table. (Click here to tweet this bit of hope.) In fact, you may be able to build a relationship as strong as the one with the interns they did hire. Stay in touch with your recruiter during the summer; tell her about what you’re up to, what courses you plan to take and remind her of your continued interest (despite being turned down before). This shows real perseverance and humility on your part, and the recruiter keep you in the front of her mind.

4. Your name and resume stands out to recruiters when they screen resumes for full-time positions

While you may not have gotten the internship, the recruiter will remember your name and the conversation you had. They know you’re interested in the company and already have a good baseline knowledge of the requirements from going through the interview process. If the reason you didn’t get the internship was lack of experience, the recruiter realizes you might have gotten experience since then and may be more willing to take a chance on you than a stranger she’s never talked with before. If you asked for feedback on your interview, she knows you’ve taken the advice to heart and improved where you could. Either way, she’ll remember something was special about you and may re-engage for a full-time position.

5. You learn about “fit”

As you learn what it feels like to be rejected from internships and jobs you really wanted, you become more attuned to what’s called “fit.” When you watch desired opportunities pass you by, you realize it’s less important you weren’t a right fit for them and more important that they weren’t the right fit for you. You want to do work you enjoy, with people you like, in an office culture you can embrace, right? Sometimes, not getting that internship can be a blessing in disguise. The hiring managers may have decided you wouldn’t fit into their team and culture… which could save you weeks of struggle and depression.

6. You get creative

If you get the point where nothing works in your favor, it forces you to become resourceful and creative. Have you explored opportunities outside your comfort zone? A marketing major could consider a sales internship. An engineering major could try his hand at finance. Or maybe you try something completely new and work with a startup, do volunteer work or take summer continuing education courses to learn a new skill. These experiences will make you more well-rounded and demonstrate your ability to adapt to new tasks. You may not be part of a formal internship program, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gather new experiences, work in a team or take ownership over an project. Rejection is never anyone’s goal when looking for an internship, but follow these tips to turn it into a positive and constructive experience for yourself. Amber Hanson-Rumbaugh (@AJeanHanson) is a Corporate Recruiter at RKG, a Merkle Company, a leading digital marketing and search agency in Charlottesville, VA. She’s responsible for sourcing, interviewing and hiring candidates and manages employment branding via social media, on-campus events and internship development. (View expressed are author’s and don’t reflect the views of RKG, a Merkle Company.)