When My Internship Didn't End With a Job Offer
Written by Mandy Shold
Fresh out of college, I landed the internship of my dreams. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I packed my bags and moved from Oregon to San Francisco to start my career at a big PR agency and embark on a wild love affair with my newfound life.
That summer, I fell madly in love—with San Francisco, with the career I set out for, with my new lifestyle, friends, and coworkers. The internship felt something like summer camp. Everything else faded away, and somehow the only construct that made sense was within those office walls. My fellow interns were my best friends, going to work was my purpose, and the occasional walk along the waterfront was my reward for all the work I’d done to get to this point. I’d graduated at the top of my class and beat out hundreds of candidates for this job. I was living the life.
Until, one day, I wasn’t.
My manager called me into a conference room about three weeks before the end of summer and gently let me know that they weren’t going to be able to offer me a full-time job at the end of my internship. She was incredibly kind during the entire encounter and went on to talk about the agency’s business and how small my department was. But truth be told, I didn’t hear any of what she had to say after she told me that I wasn’t getting hired. She broke the news and broke my heart. It truly felt like a breakup, and in a lot of ways, it was.
I’ve had heartbreak before. Failed romances, lost loves, disappointments, the whole lot of ‘em. But to this day, nothing shook me quite like this. It launched me into weeks and months of questions and crippling self-doubt. Was it something I did? Did I misinterpret all of the signs? Was it a problem with my personality? Was I simply not good enough?
Like any rejection, these feelings rippled into other areas of my life, too. Anger. Jealousy. Hurt. I saw the effects spreading like wildfire, and I began to both simultaneously lash out and close myself off from the world.
It’s not until now, reflecting on the experience years later, I realize I was going through depression.
Here’s the truth: I did everything right. Not being offered a job was entirely about the size of my department and the business of the agency and the client needs. I did everything right. But the truth is, sometimes you do everything right and it still doesn’t work out.
Shortly after my internship was up, I transitioned into another internship with a partner agency. It was under the same agency umbrella, with the same internship set-up, the same specialty, the same city—but it was different. More importantly, I was different. When I started I was closed-off and set up boundaries. I was curt and professional, and sometimes even cold.
But slowly, I started to remember why this was my dream career to begin with. I began to fall in love with my new job, started to make friends with my coworkers, and finally put myself back out there. Because, the truth is, that first internship was puppy love. Like a high-school romance, I fell fast and hard, and I probably couldn’t have even told you why. This time around was different.
Fast forward three years, and I’m still at that second agency. I was hired on after my internship—and have had three promotions since. I’m well-respected and well-loved, and I’ve found some of my closest friendships within these walls. It might have taken me a couple of tries, but I eventually found the job and people I was meant to be with.
Outside of my day-to-day work, I also run our company’s internship program. Yes, a lot of what I do involves showing them the agency ropes—how to write, pitch and cyberstalk reporters with creepy accuracy. But I’m also adamant about sharing my personal internship tales with them in the hopes that they can learn from my experiences.
People always say that when one door closes, another one opens. I disagree. I think if one door closes, you’re opening yourself up to take any other damn door you want. The trick is picking yourself back up and seeking out a different, better door. I’ll be the first to say it doesn’t happen overnight, but I promise you, it will happen. If it wasn’t for my first internship experience, I wouldn’t have come to find, love and appreciate the job I have now. The long and short of it is that new beginnings are far too often mistaken for painful endings. You’ll find your way—and it’ll be even better than you would have originally imagined.
Mandy spends her days working in public relations, specializing in sustainability and corporate responsibility - a job which not only fuels her soul but also pays her San Francisco rent. She spends her (virtually nonexistent) free time exploring the Bay Area craft beer scene, working on her rock collection, and wishing her cat would be the big spoon sometimes. For additional sass and details of her life held together by caffeine and dry shampoo, follow her on twitter @WayToRepresent. You can also check out her past work for us here and here.