What Happens If I Don’t Get An Internship?

You work your butt off in school, join all the clubs, and network until you’re blue in the face. You crush all the interviews, shake hands with all your potential bosses, and send personalized thank you notes. You wait patiently, only to hear “No.”

Sometimes things just don’t work out.

And that SUCKS.

Rejection and failure are two of my biggest fears. I hate the idea of falling short or not making the cut. These haunted me as I applied for internship after internship in my final semester of college. While I ended up applying to 30+ internships, I couldn’t stop this thought from creeping into my mind: “What if I don’t get ANY of these?”

Surely the odds had to have been in my favor, right? Maybe, but I had witnessed so many bright, smart and well-prepared peers graduate without getting anything. What was stopping that from happening to me?

When I was a senior, I was under the impression that I needed to be an intern. I wouldn’t be a marketable entry-level candidate if I didn’t have that “intern” title under my belt. While, of course, it helps, it’s by no means your only ticket to a job. We put so much emphasis on getting experience in this way, that we forget about the other ways we can gain valuable pre-full-time-job experience.

These were some of my back-up plans:

1. Jump Into The Workforce

If I wasn’t going to get experience as an intern, I was going to get it in an entry-level role. The struggle here is that you need to recognize that you probably won’t get your dream job or land a position on your dream team. That’s okay. Put the time in, build relationships, and stick your neck out. Confidence and self-advocacy is key.

2. Volunteer

Many small and local businesses are desperately looking for help. They have big dreams and cool projects – they just can’t pay. While this is obviously a major downside, it has its upsides, too. They can’t be picky. If they have someone (like yourself) who is mostly qualified for what they need that is willing to do their work unpaid, how can they say no? Of course, this isn’t the case always, but you need to go into this knowing that you have the upper-hand. Volunteering is a great option because you’ll gain valuable hands-on experience that you can put on a resume or portfolio. Having work to display shows that you can not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, too.

3. Double Up

In the same vein of volunteering, small and local businesses are strapped for cash. Sometimes they can pay for a position, but only part-time. Apply for these positions anyway. If you can work it out, take on 2-3 of these at a time. You’ll keep yourself busy AND gain a lot of hands-on experience in a short period of time. It’ll also show future potential employers how great you are at time management – an important life skill.

4. Freelance

Put your skills to work. Sign up with a freelance service like UpWork, Freelancer, Fiverr, and more to start building your resume or portfolio.

5. Travel

Take a freakin’ break. Go on an adventure or try on a new place. You never know what some time away could do for you.

6. Back To School

You don’t have to get a Master’s Degree, but taking night classes or going to portfolio school will keep you sharp and show future employers your dedication to the field.

In the end, there’s no perfect path to your dream job – and each person’s story is different. Don’t focus on replicating someone else’s career. Build, craft and mold your own. The moral of the story is this: your career isn’t over if you don’t get an internship. Be patient, be positive and be prepared.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. What were your back-up plans? What did you do instead of an internship? Let me know! I’d love to hear.

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