Sharing my experiences and searching for advice

As early as September of last year, I began applying for summer internships that were an excellent fit for me. Still being a junior in college, this summer would have been a perfect time for me to at least get my foot in the door somewhere. However, I don’t have that opportunity this summer and am wondering where I went wrong.

I had the opportunity to phone screen with many companies and face-to-face with only two. The companies ranged from start-ups to banks to large tech companies. It did feel amazing to even get resume through to even be considered and I have learned so much and stepped out of my comfort zone and grown from the whole job hunt experience. So, it is very discouraging to see others who managed to wind up with positions. I’m defiantly not bitter with any employer or person about this, though. I might have underestimated the competitiveness of getting hired or maybe I just let my nerves get to me during interviews.

I mainly chose to write this thread to ask these questions: 1) How do I grow/learn from this amount of rejection (of at least 25-30 rejections) and 2) Where do I go from here? (I’m in my last year of school so many internships won’t be available to me anymore. I plan on applying to junior roles and graduate internships, I think).

I know many of you are stuck in the same boat of struggling to prove yourself and I hope we can keep a good discussion going on this thread and help each other out. If you all would like, I will try to come up with a list of most asked questions I got and what each type of company seemed to want out of the potential intern.

Can you contact the companies to find out why you weren’t successful? It would be hard to learn from the experience if you don’t know what areas you need to develop. You may not get a reply from all of them but any feedback is useful.

Does your college run any internship programs where they can help you with your CV and interview skills? Do you have a career advice team you can talk to? Or can you set up a meeting with one of your lecturers to get advice on how to improve your internship chances? (If the lecturer knows you they may be able to advise you on your strengths and weaknesses and how you can develop your professional skills).

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  1. How do I grow/learn from this amount of rejection (of at least 25-30 rejections)

The level of rejection involved in job hunting can be a hard thing for people to deal with even as they mature and progress in their careers. The best advice I have on dealing with rejection is to talk to other people who are also job hunting. They will probably have many of the same experiences and it may help you take it less personally.

  1. Where do I go from here? (I’m in my last year of school so many internships won’t be available to me anymore. I plan on applying to junior roles and graduate internships, I think).

You may still have internship opportunities. I worked internships during the school year my last two years of college. I started my second one in January of my senior year. That said, you’re right to focus on post-graduation placement and it’s already time to start getting proactive about it.

Your university probably has a career center. Go talk to them. At my school this was one overworked woman in a tiny office, but she was incredibly helpful. It will still be on you to take the initiative, but the people who work in career centers can give you so much information that you don’t even know exists. They often have direct contact with recruiters. They can tell you how to tailor your cover letter for a position. They can help you handle interview questions that you don’t know the answers to.

Do something every week that is focused on your job search. Do a mock interview. Do an exercise in Cracking the Coding Interview. Meet with a career councilor. Attend a networking event. Cold call or cold email a few companies. Applying to jobs online doesn’t count for much here. You need to do that, but as you’ve discovered it’s about as productive as throwing copies of your resume into the wind.

Have specific goals. (This is something a career councilor can help with.) Tell yourself that you are going to achieve specific benchmarks at specific times. I was extremely aggressive in this. I said I was going to have a signed full-time job offer by December of my senior year and then I designed a plan working backwards from that.

Attend every possible career oriented event your school offers. Networking nights, meet-and-greets, career fairs, resume workshops. Go to all of them.

Anecdote: The evening before the STEM Career Fair at my university, there was a “preparing for the job fair” event featuring a panel of recruiters from bigger companies that were hiring. I showed up in my interview clothes, holding a stack of resumes. The career councilor laughed and asked “Why are you even here? You know what you’re doing.” I said “Exactly. Those are the people I want to interview with.” I sat in the room, asked intelligent questions, and when the event ended I went to thank the panelists. One of them (Northrop Grumman, I think. Maybe Boeing.) asked if I had my resume - of course I did - and then if she could buy me a drink at the campus bar and talk to me right away. I had a lovely conversation with her and was put in direct contact with hiring managers.

I had a similar experience at Lockheed Martin’s informational event.

Always be seeking opportunities to promote yourself.

As I said, I had very aggressive and ambitious goals. I was also in a strong position in terms of my local job market and my resume. I am not saying my experiences are common. What is common is to hit a panic mode in March or April of your senior year and try to learn all of this at once… while finishing your capstone projects/courses. This is what most of your classmates will do. By June many of them will have had 5 interviews and 1 job offer that they feel compelled to accept even if it’s crap. If you start taking this seriously now, you will have a huge advantage. Even if you get nothing but rejections for the next 8 months, you will be so much more prepared than your peers.

Getting recruiters attention is a skill that can be learned and practiced. Interviewing is a skill that can be learned and practiced. It’s bullshit that your skills as a programmer only play a partial (seemingly small, at times) roll in that. That’s how it goes though.