Like most typical college freshmen, I, too, had hopes and dreams of landing my “dream job” at one of the top public relations agencies in the world. I must have applied to every possible internship that mentioned public relations and marketing in the job description, praying that I’d wake up the next morning to an email with confetti emojis.
Now, it wasn’t the next morning that I heard back. In fact, it was well over a month before I heard anything back. “Dear candidate, We regret to inform you that …” My heart sank. I tried to comprehend the email that told me they appreciated my time, but they decided to pursue other candidates. Was I not good enough? Was my resume terrible? Where do I go from here?
Now, years later, I have learned that it is nothing to take personally when you receive a rejection letter like this. But in the heat of the moment, that pain is fresh, especially when it’s for the first time. But as a young PR professional, it is important to redirect your mindset after a rejection.
1. Realize that everyone has experienced rejection.
In a perfect world, everyone would receive an offer for their dream job, but that’s not the case. Coming to terms with rejection is part of the journey for just about everyone starting out in their selected career fields. According to career coach and author Orville Person, the average job seeker is rejected by 24 decision makers before they get the “yes” they are looking for. Does it surprise you that Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, and that his first business flopped? Or that Stephen King’s book, “Carrie,” was rejected 30 times before it became a bestseller? Even in the world of PR, your ideas will be rejected. While rejection is a universal experience, it is up to you to use it as fuel to continue on to the next step in your professional career.
2. Focus on what is in your control.
While you can’t control the mind of the HR person reading your latest job application, there are certain things you can do to continue to grow yourself professionally. Whether that be attending a resume workshop on campus, networking with professionals through Champions for PRSSA, building a rapport with your mentor, or sending a LinkedIn message to an alum, it’s important to shift your focus to your own professional growth and development.
It’s also important to prioritize your mental health, whether that be during the job hunt or on the job. The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), and Opinium released their third annual report on workplace well-being. The report found that 95% of PR professionals believe their workplace has a role to play in the well-being of their employees, and 75% of them found their workplace to be supportive and understanding. Regardless of where we end up, it is reassuring to learn that the public relations industry is making progress on the stigma surrounding mental health.
3. Thank you, next!
The last step in dealing with job rejection is best said by none other than Ariana Grande: “Thank u, next”! The opportunity that’s meant for you will come. For all you know, you might end up somewhere that you’ve never considered before. Maybe your new LinkedIn connection reaches out about an internship on their radar, or someone you met at ICON thinks you’d be a great fit for something they came across. PR professionals will tell you how important it is to build up your network, as these connections can really help you down the line. A supportive network makes all the difference in reframing your mindset and preparing you for the next chapter of your career. Everyone’s path is different.
A rejection letter is nothing to be discouraged by. As harsh as it sounds, rejection is part of life. Ten years from now, you won’t be kicking yourself over an internship that you didn’t land. You’ll be grateful for the things that were there for you along the way. Those connections you made and lessons you’ve learned are far more important. I don’t know where I’d be today without the network of supportive individuals that have always cheered me on. You are meant to be right where you are, it just takes the right mindset to see that.
Caitlin Ficarra is a senior at Manhattan College in New York City studying marketing with minors in business analytics and digital arts and humanities. She joined PRSSA as a freshman, and attended ICON virtually in fall 2020. On campus, Caitlin works in the career center helping students develop themselves professionally. Her first internship was at a female-owned PR and marketing firm. Following graduation in May, Caitlin will be a lead analyst for Cigna Healthcare.