The Chronicle of Post-Education: Rejection Letters Can be Deflating; Don’t Let Them Be Defeating

“Dear Ms. Lee, Thanks for inquiring about our summer newsroom internship. We’ve already filled that slot, selecting a young man who has already graduated from college and has some experience at both news writing and teaching. Your cover letter suggests you are a good writer; I encourage you to try again next year.”

It’s rare for a rejection letter to tell you who the company has chosen instead of you. “A young man who has already graduated from college” is vague enough – but OK, he has journalism and education experience. Fair enough, seeing as how the position was for an education-based magazine. I can accept that.

To be honest, the worst part about applying for a job isn’t rejection; it’s never hearing back. Most often, companies put a disclaimer on their job listings to inform people that due to the “sheer volume of applications” they receive, they can’t always let you know whether you’ve been accepted or rejected. So take a rejection as a semi-good sign: at least they considered you for a moment or two.

As I waffle around internship sites and other job listings, I’m confronted with the scary realization that I actually have to answer the terrifying question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” To be honest, it’s been over two weeks since I’ve completed my undergraduate education, and I don’t have a concrete answer.

Being a literary journalism and global cultures double major doesn’t exactly lead to a definitive career —  not that I’m complaining. I loved my majors, but the idea of “being a journalist” is vague. However, I needed to narrow my focus when it came to searching for an internship, so I settled on two areas: communications and marketing.

My various jobs plus the June commencement ceremony prevent me from leaving Irvine early, so my sights are set on summer internships, preferably on the East Coast. I’ve lived in California my entire life —  18 years in Sacramento and four in Orange County. I want a change of pace and a plethora of opportunities.

The next step after deciding those basic facts: just start applying. And I did. For everywhere, from non-profit organizations to education-related companies to sports marketing — doing anything related to writing or editing or management or, hell, even fetching coffee. While my first choice would be a paid internship, I’m not against the unpaid route either, because it’s all about paying your dues to society first, right? (At least that’s what I’m telling myself.)

The two things most internships will always ask you for when you apply are your resume and a cover letter. Best piece of advice I can give you, Undergraduate Anteaters: always keep your resume updated. Compiling one from scratch as you begin looking for a job is stressful.

A cover letter is trickier, and here’s where I realized that nowhere in school do they teach you how to write a “successful” cover letter. Should it be humorous? Straightforward?

Should I use bullet points? What about personal anecdotes? What if it’s cliche?

First, everything is going to sound cliche, so get over it. Next, the best way to gauge the tone of your cover letter would be to consider the company you’re applying for and decide based on that.

While PBS might appreciate your heartfelt tale of how your life was transformed by “The Magic School Bus,” The Chronicle of Higher Education may not.

Out of the many jobs you apply to, you may also receive a fair share of rejection notices, or you may not even hear back at all.

In these instances, the next best piece of advice I can give is to not be discouraged.

Out of the dozens of internships I’ve applied to so far, I’ve only received one offer (that I had to turn down due to timing —  grr), but I’m keeping my hopes up that the right job will come along eventually.

Though rejections are frustrating and it makes you feel angry and disheartened, the thing to keep in mind is that rejections are secretly a good thing because it means that you’re trying.

The more spaghetti you throw at the wall, the better chance you’ll have that at least one of those noodles will stick.

Of course, this could also be something I’m just telling myself so I don’t give up entirely, but I’m positive it isn’t. I

may not have figured out exactly what I want to be when I grow up, but there’s a big world of opportunities out there.