What if you don’t get the job?

Internship or job search can be a very stressful process, and it requires an incredible amount of energy and faith, especially when you have done everything you can to pursue an opportunity and you still don’t get it. Well, your attitude can make a big difference in situations like this.

Thank yourself for your hard work.
It’s normal to feel disheartened, and sometimes even angry or lose faith in yourself when you are rejected. However there can be all sorts of different reasons why you are not selected. You might not have conducted yourself most successfully in the interview. They might be looking for some particular skills which you don’t possess yet. It can be just that you don’t seem to fit with certain expectations (e.g. job might require frequent travel but you don’t seem to be able/willing to do that) or there are just too many highly qualified candidates like you. There can also be internal candidates who might have done the job and known the company already (for example their summer interns), etc. Regardless of the reason, keep in mind that you already won by getting on the short list (just imagine how many applications they might have received). So thank yourself for the excellent job you have done to stand out from the crowd. Last but not least, be thankful that you have had the opportunity to thoroughly examine your skills, learn some great insights on certain job requirements and interview skills, or develop some valuable connections that can be beneficial for your professional development in the long run.

Show appreciation to your interviewers and all those who have supported you in the search process.
It can be hard to be thankful when you don’t get what you want. Yet, you are interviewed because people are interested in you, and you have been given the opportunity to present your qualifications and passion. An interview, especially a panel one requires a lot of arrangement and time. A gracious attitude towards rejection says a lot about your personalities and can open up future opportunities – you never know when you can cross paths with any of the interviewers again or there might be other opportunities that can be a better fit for you in the same organization in the future.

Get feedback from the hiring manager or interviewers.
Every interview is an opportunity to examine your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your fit for the type of jobs and/or organizations. If you don’t get an explanation regarding why you are not selected, take the initiative to get some feedback from the hiring manager, so that you can be better prepared for future interviews. Nobody likes to deliver bad news; most hiring managers don’t feel comfortable giving feedback to those that they reject. So you have to be really genuine when you make the request, and you want to make it clear that all you need is some feedback on your interview skills and what you can do to make yourself a stronger candidate for future opportunities in the same organization.

Be positive and have faith in yourself.
It’s normal to feel discouraged when you are rejected. If you do seem to be a great fit from all aspects and you still don’t get the job, remember you can always find a similar job with another organization. If you don’t conduct yourself most successfully in the interview, you’ve learned a great lesson and you will be better in future interviews. If you don’t currently own some skills that are key to the job, you will figure out what your next steps should be. Most importantly, only you know best what you are capable of. You might be rejected several times, but you don’t want to give up if you believe deep down in your heart you will be great in that field. You are always your strongest advocate.

Understand and Manage Your Post-Graduation Expectations: Tips for International Students

With three fairs in one week, last week was truly a week of career fairs at Career Services. At the engineering career fair (Engineering Career Day), I was a little surprised but happy to see lots of first year international students – most of them master’s students. For many of them, that was only their second week at Penn and in the US. Many of them were not even in the system yet so we had to type in their name manually into our system to print out a name tag for them. As a career counselor, I was really glad to see that these new students were already on a job search mood before their journey at Penn fully unfolded. As a previous international student, I couldn’t help but thinking about what would happen to these students a year or two from now. Would they want to stay in the US? Would they get to stay? What would that mean to their professional and personal life?
I understand that many of you may not have yet pondered what this American education can mean for you. While undergraduate international students may have the luxury to focus on just being a student in the first two years of their Penn career, most master’s programs are only a year or two, so as an international master’s student, you do have to be conscious of your post-graduate plans throughout your journey at Penn. Here are some of my personal thoughts as a previous international student more so as a career counselor:

• Understand your post-graduation expectation. Ask yourself: do you want to work in the US or to go back to work in your home country? No matter what you may want for yourself, this is a huge decision that will not only affect your career but also your personal life. While working and living in the US can be very exciting and it may bring many benefits that working in your home country may not offer, it can also be very challenging. Working in the US means you are most likely going to be far away from your family, friends, and familiar culture and activities. Whether or not you are the only child in the family, eventually you may have to worry about the ability to care for your parents when they get old because you may be just too far away to do that. If you decide to have a family in the US, your children may not have that much opportunity to bond with your family back in your home country and neither will you have that much family support when you need it. So it’s not just a decision on your career, it’s a decision on many aspects of your life.

• Be aware of your options. You may or may not want to work and stay in the US. While it can be a lot easier to get visa sponsorships and ultimately green cards with majors in certain fields such as STEM, it can be rather difficult for humanities majors, because H1 visas and green cards are often tied to specific educational background. So if you do hope to work in the US after graduation, you want to make sure you learn as much and as early as possible about all visa related questions. You want to seek out advice from ISSS advisors and take advantage of all available resources inside and outside of Penn to best prepare yourself for a potential career in the US. Sometimes you may even need to transfer to another program or consider a dual degree to be able to eligible for visa sponsorship. A few of my colleagues have written blogs on ways to identify US employers hiring international students as well as various resources for international students’ job search. You can find all of them by just searching “international student” under our blog category at the top right corner. Some of you may want to return to your home country. Naturally, you would want to take advantage of Penn alumni as well as your personal and professional connections in your home country to find a dream job. However there may be opportunities to work for some American companies’ offices in your home country. Some US companies may even recruit graduates to work for their rotation programs where students may spend the first year or two in US locations and then complete their program in other countries.

Networking: Tips for Introverts


Many of us dread the idea of networking, though we all know how important it is. If you see yourself more as an introvert, you may feel very uncomfortable at social events, or you may be reluctant to reach out to people for advice. As such, you may miss opportunities to connect with people and that may affect your professional development. Yet, the good news is there are often two sides to each personality. For example, if you are an introvert, you may be a hesitant speaker, but you often might be a good listener and you might be sensitive to other people’s feelings. If you are an extrovert, you may feel more comfortable talking to people, but sometimes you may need to be a better listener so you don’t miss out information. So if you take advantage of the strengths of your personality and make a goal to work on the weaknesses, you are more likely to branch out and have more enjoyable and satisfying networking experiences. Here are some tips:

  • First, understand your fear. Ask yourself: What am I worried about? Am I afraid that people will not respond to my email? Am I nervous because I often don’t know what to talk about? Do I fear that people will not be interested in speaking to inexperienced students like me? Well, these are natural worries that we all might have. But there are ways to think about them from different perspectives, and there are ways to better prepare us for networking opportunities.
  • Realize that sometimes networking can be a numbers game. So take no offense if you don’t hear back when you reach out to people. There can be all sorts of legitimate reasons why people don’t respond to your email. They may be going through a difficult time in their lives; they may be too busy at that moment; they may not have seen your email because they are no longer using the email listed on QuakerNet or wherever you found it. So if you don’t hear back from this person, don’t be discouraged. Just simply move on to the next person.
  • Think of social events as an opportunity to meet new people and learn about new perspectives, rather than to impress others. If you go to a social event hoping to impress people or to get business cards, you will surely have more pressure because you make it all about yourself. However if you decide just to meet interesting people and enjoy a good conversation, you may be more relaxed and comfortable.
  • Prepare some talking points and ask good questions. If you are meeting with someone for the first time, it’s only natural that he or she would want to know something about you. So be ready to talk about your studies, activities, career goals, personal interests, or just anything you feel comfortable talking about. Asking questions is also a good way to get the conversation going. Chances are the fact that you are an introvert may make you a good listener, and that would prompt you to ask good questions. Asking questions is also an effective way to show your interest in the other person, and people generally respond well to those who are interested in them.
  • Always try to see the personal side of the person that you meet with. When you talk to people, especially those in a higher status, remind yourself that no matter what title that they are wearing, they are always someone’s child, or someone’s husband/wife or dad/mom. If you can see the personal side of that person, it may help you overcome the anxiety that may be caused by the title that person is bearing.
  • Be humble but confident. Yes, you may be a green college student, and you may not have years of professional experience. But who wasn’t once young and green? Remind yourself that, a few years from now, you might be the advice giver.

Networking: Depth vs. Breadth

By Mei Long

 Today’s social media and technology allow you to reach just about anyone. With QuakerNet (the Penn Alumni Database) and networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, thousands of alumni and professionals are just one click away. These networking sites are a great tool to identify and connect with people working in different fields and they provide an excellent opportunity to expand your network well beyond your direct social circle.

However the downside of the ease of these networking tools is that they can make networking a numbers game. But building a network is more than just growing the number of your connections.  In fact, the number of connections you have is meaningless if there is no depth in them, and depth starts from a genuine interest. If you are not interested in other people’s careers and you haven’t done enough research about them, chances are you are not likely to craft a personalized and compelling message, and they are not likely to respond to your request. So read their profiles and learn more about their careers and the fields before you reach out to them.

If they accept your request, this is just the beginning of the relationship. You can then ask for informational interviews to learn more about what they do and seek out advice.  Then show your appreciation by a hand-written note and a thank you email. But don’t let the relationship stop there. You want to continue to nurture it by keeping them posted on your progress once in a while – if people have invested time in your career, they want to see results. Besides, any long lasting relationship is a mutually beneficial one. So you don’t just talk about you and your career, you also show interest in their career advancement and personal well being.

Whenever it is possible, you should also give back. Ask what you can do for them. You may think because you are just a student, there is nothing you can offer. But trust me everyone can use a little bit of help here and there, as long as you are genuine in your offer. You can offer to write a recommendation for them on their LinkedIn profile. If they are Penn alumni, there may be opportunities for you to nominate them for an alumni award. If they are working on a very labor-intensive project, find out whether there is anything you can do to support. This list can go on and on, but the point I am trying to make is if you are mutually interested in each other’s careers and lives, chances are your relationship is going to blossom and your connections will look out for you just like they would do for their family and friends. Why? Because people tend to support those who care about them and whom they care about. This is simply human nature.