Trust the Process: How to Cope When You Don’t Get Your Dream Internship

Happy Summer, my beautiful wildflowers. Summer means a lot of things to people. Summer means less homework, more sunshine, time with friends, adventures, and for some of us out there, an internship.

I have a love/hate relationship with the concept of an internship. From the moment I stepped into class at SCAD three years ago, professors and staff pushed the importance of getting an internship during our time in school. It’s the way to get the career you want, to capture that dream job. Without an internship at your dream company, you can kiss that opportunity goodbye.

So, I proceeded the next three years thinking that the summer after my junior year, I would intern at one of my dream companies, no question about it. SCAD has inflated my ego enough to believe that achieving an internship would be fairly easy. How hard could it be?

HA. Very hard, my friend. Countless applications, many interviews, and even more rejection emails later, here I am, the summer after my junior year, without an internship.

What does this mean? Does it mean I will never work at one of my dream companies? Does it mean I am destined for failure? Should I just drop out and give up on my dreams?

Okay, these questions are a little melodramatic, but have definitely crossed my mind.

Internships, regardless of what SCAD has been telling me, are not the only way to attain your dream job. They are great resources, great opportunities, and can lead to great contacts for a job later on.

But they also don’t guarantee anything. I know plenty of people who had amazing internships, but find themselves jobless after graduation.

Not getting your dream internship can be mega disappointing, and leave you feeling confused about your career path. Here’s how to cope.

  1. Evaluate your options.

Okay, so you didn’t get the internship. Life goes on, and you still need to make summer plans. You could move back in with your parents and mope all summer while you complain that there is nothing exciting to do in your hometown. Or you could choose to do something that actually excites you. Think about people you know in other cities, think about a place you could go or a job you could work that will make you excited to be there.

2. Shift your mindset.

Sometimes shifting your mindset is all it takes to change your outlook on a situation. Change what you think your “dream summer” will look like. Maybe your new dream is moving to a new city and meeting new people. Maybe it’s finishing a project you’ve wanted to do, but haven’t had time for. Whatever it is, make a new summer dream for yourself.

3. No experience is wasted experience.

This is a saying my mom has told me for so long, and it’s true. Even if you aren’t working at your dream company this summer, you can still work and gain experience. Work in a store you admire. Volunteer for a company in your industry. It might not be an internship, but it’s still experience.

4. Remember your worth.

I feel like this point comes up a lot in the lists I make, it’s just so dang relevant. No internship, or lack thereof, can define your worth. You’re not untalented, you’re not a loser, you’re not unsuccessful. Your future is still bright, even without that 10 week internship.

5. Do what you love.

Even if you are not interning somewhere, that doesn’t mean you can’t do what you love. Style photoshoots for fun. Write short stories. Paint. Work hypothetical equations on Excel. Arrange flowers. Take photographs. Whatever makes your soul happy, do it. You might even gain some awesome portfolio pieces out of your fun time. Like I said, no experience is wasted.

Well friends, those are my coping mechanisms for this summer. If you’re in the same boat as me, I want to encourage you to attempt some of the steps along side of me. Whatever you do this summer, wherever you are, make the most of it. Who knows, this might be the best summer yet.

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