Navigating rejection during the MBA internship search

Girl at desk

“Thank you for your interest. We will not be moving forward with your application at this time.”

Those words have become the email equivalent of “we need to talk” in today’s recruitment communication process. The adrenaline rush that accompanies seeing a firm’s email push notification on your phone screen is topped only by the sinking sensation that follows reading the email body.

For many MBAs, however, this “we need to talk” email is inevitable at some point during the summer internship search. Despite reassurance and support from second-year students, the emotional journey that many first-year MBAs have experienced in my cohort has been nothing short of a roller coaster. While embracing ambiguity is a work-in-progress for most of us, the sting of rejection can also offer an important learning opportunity. 

So, how can you make the most of the rejection?

Ask for feedback: If you made it through to an interview round, seek feedback. The worst response you can receive is simply no response. And, at best, you have an opportunity to receive tangible feedback from a firm you were interested in. Understanding the why behind one firm’s decision may help you land an opportunity in a program that better fits your interests.

Remember opportunity is not always a doorway: Rejection can mean the ability to broaden your horizons and open yourself up to a new potential opportunity. Stepping out of your initial comfort zone with the roles to which you apply could mean joining a firm you’d never previously considered in a position that gives you work that forces you to grow in unexpected, meaningful ways. Sometimes opportunity in life comes through a window and not a door.

Be vulnerable: Perhaps the hardest aspect of the entire journey is being open and honest with yourself and your peers about your experience. That said, experiencing rejection is an opportunity to be vulnerable with the rest of your cohort about where you are in the process. Lean on your cohort to offer support – both emotionally and with the rest of your search. Through that vulnerability you may find new opportunities and you will, more importantly, strengthen the relationships you’ve built with your peers.