Remembering that rejection isn’t failure

Rejection stings. Whether you get turned down from the internship or summer job you have been pining for, or whether you receive the dreaded email from a graduate school or study abroad program, receiving a “no” can be downright devastating.

Students at the College of William and Mary hold themselves to extremely high standards that are often influenced by the accomplishments of their peers. We watch as our friends secure summer internships or get accepted to graduate schools that land them incredible opportunities soon after leaving school. As a result, we often think our own paths to attaining our goals must follow the same formula. We idealize these paths that appear to secure immediate success post-graduation, often believing they are the only ways to get us where we want to go.

When our projected plan is disrupted by rejection, it tends to feel like there is no other way we can achieve what we set out to accomplish. We feel defeated.

But rejection should never derail your aspirations.

You are a hard-working, brilliant, successful person — otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.  We sometimes need to be reminded there are multiple ways to get where we want to be.

As a notorious optimist, I strive to find the silver lining when my friends tell me of their dark clouds. Yet, there is nothing that puts this optimism to the test like having a cloud of my own.

When I did not hear back from the several summer internships to which I applied, I was disappointed.  It felt like now that my plan of using an internship to investigate possible career paths had fallen through; I would never figure out what I wanted to pursue.

After my pity party, however, I realized there were still other ways for me to investigate possible career paths and to gain valuable knowledge in the process. Since I am considering a career in counseling or education, working as a camp counselor will give me hands-on experience coping with conflicts and observing the developmental milestones of different age groups. It may not be as prestigious as a paid internship at a counseling office, but it will definitely give me practice listening, problem solving and interacting with people of diverse backgrounds.

“Down and dirty” summer jobs and volunteer gigs can still provide you with opportunities to hone skills future employers will love. If you want to be a lawyer, you can gain insight into legal proceedings by volunteering with a program that allows you to accompany victims of abuse to court. Waiting tables sharpens your memory, gives you experience working in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment, and allows you to strengthen people skills. Volunteering at a hospital or nursing home can give you inside information about what it is like to work in the medical field.

And while you are working these hidden gems of summer jobs, you can schedule informational interviews with people who work your ideal job. A concept introduced to me by my wise mother, informational interviews provide a low-pressure forum to ask various professionals questions that give you a deeper understanding of what it is like to work in that field. At the end of an interview, you can offer to leave your resume, and also ask for the contact information of three additional people in their field that they think would be willing to share their experiences with you, too. In this way, you can get your name and credentials out there, and develop a network that could land you a future job.

With a little creativity and an open mind, rejections can turn into blessings in disguise. So don’t be discouraged. As you wait tables or facilitate a game of freeze-tag, you are still gaining valuable skills and hands-on experience that will allow you to be the best you can be at your future job. So grab that apron, those scrubs or that sunscreen — your bright future awaits!

Email Andrea Aron-Schiavone at


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