My colleague Julie Boden and I took some time to discuss reframing internship application rejection and put it into the broader context of an MBA career plan, and the application and review process. We’ve reached that time of the year where first-year MBA’s are receiving the unwelcome news that they will not be invited to interview for an internship they applied for.  Some students will receive this news from multiple companies and it can feel very personal. We often remind students to put this news into perspective and reframe it. They are not being individually rejected for a role, they are not being selected to interview for a role out of very large applicant pools.

There are approximately 10 thousand MBA candidates per year at the top 25 MBA programs in the United States (depending on who’s list of “top 25” you use). Nearly this entire population is applying for internships at the same time. It is reasonable that some of the most coveted internship opportunities — at companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple — receive thousands of applications. Of course every applicant can’t be individually screened and evaluated. Depersonalizing the news can help minimize the emotional impact of not being selected.

I was reminded of words shared by UW Professor of Social Work, Bonnie Duran shared on an episode of the Ten Percent Happier podcast, when something “bad” happens, ask yourself, “is this perfect? Is this permanent? Is this personal?”  When it comes to the internship search, it can certainly feel like a particular internship would be perfect, but in reality, there is no “perfect” internship. Not being selected to interview may feel like it is a permanent judgement on the candidate, but it is not, it is just for this one opportunity. Each year we see students who may not have gotten the chance to interview for a role at their dream company — or did and did not get the internship offer — get a chance to interview and get an offer during full-time recruiting. And lastly, the news of not being selected can feel intensely personal, but if we keep in mind the volume of applications that recruiters are considering, and the techniques and tools they use to evaluate candidates based often on just a resume, we realize that it is not a personal and individual judgement.

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