If I’ve learned anything in college about what it takes to build a successful career in the media industry, it’s that you have to intern like crazy and that you’ll probably fall into a phase of waiting tables. (I’ve learned way more than just these two things, don’t worry, but these seem to be constant themes in the stories of my friends and mentors). After interning non-stop since the summer after my freshman year, I thought I may be impervious to that latter phase — you know, the one where you’re working three different jobs just to pay the bills and keep the creative dream alive. But then that blissfully ignorant bubble was burst again and again this semester as I was rejected from every single one of the 23 summer internships to which I’ve applied since January. I’m exhausted and disheartened, and now I’m finally ready to reflect on being resilient in the face of this reality check.
When I moved to D.C. three years ago, I had just finished my third and final summer as a full-time landscaper at my local zoo. It was the perfect summer job for my high school self, and I considered those years my “waiting tables” phase. I wrote about arts and culture as an unpaid intern for a local alternative magazine while the job at the zoo helped me save for college. After just a year in D.C., I landed my first paid writing gig at a local magazine and I haven’t stopped interning since then. A few bigger opportunities came along in the following years, giving me the chance to build my portfolio of clips and narrow my idea of what I actually want to do with my degree. This spring, feeling pretty confident about my chances of earning another newsroom position, I signed a lease on an apartment before I had secured a job. Now, going home and taking the summer off is out of the question.
Rejection sucks. As much as it feels like the universe is laughing in the face of the abundant confidence I had this spring, I’m learning a lot about what it takes to keep working incredibly hard even when the effort feels fruitless. This summer, I’ll enter part two of my own “waiting tables” phase and I’m actually excited about the potential this summer holds. I’m sending freelance pitches to media companies all over D.C., nannying part time, and moving into a new role as a contributor here at Pretty & Fun. It’s not the summer I imagined, but I’m still doing what I love. So, whether you, too, are job hunting, or you’re just facing a lot of “no’s” in some other area of your life, here are a few tips for being resilient despite it all.
1) Revamp your resume
Enlist the pros and have some trusted resources take a look at your resume. There may be something about it that’s holding you back for whatever reason. If you’re a college student who has done a ton of internships, it can be especially tough to determine what experiences you should highlight, so expert eyes can really help highlight your strengths. Try to reach out to mentors or colleagues within your own industry, too.
2) Adjust to plan B… or C or D or E
I signed a lease without having earned a job, and now I have rent to pay. While this may not have been my finest moment, it has also made me super motivated to find employment. This was most definitely not plan A, but it’s the plan now and I’m adapting. Come to terms with whatever your not-plan-A looks like.
3) But don’t give up on plan A
There’s a reason Plan A was at the top of your list. Figure out what you can do to make it happen in some form or at some point in time. For me, this means sending out my resume and a couple story pitches to a whole bunch of media companies around D.C. Even if I can’t be in the newsroom, I still want to be writing.
4) Get some feedback
One of my favorite questions to ask at the end of an interview is, “What makes an intern successful in your department?” After my interviewer responds, I take a second to expand on how my skills and interests do (or sometimes do not) fit that description. Questions like this help you figure out what someone is looking for, so you can tailor your responses differently next time around.
5) Find something that makes you happy
Rejection is not the end of the world. There are still so many great things in store. This summer, I am so looking forward to slowing down, checking off some more items on my D.C. bucket list, and doing a little bit of traveling. I’m motivated to keep working hard, but also more than ready to have fun.
How do you remain resilient when things don’t go according to plan?