“What’s the best career advice anyone has ever given you?”

The question is seemingly asked at career panels and networking events everywhere.

Take all the nuggets of wisdom shared and a glossary of inspirational quotes could be made. But there is one piece of practical advice that I think truly helps while navigating the internship process – and it’s not Timon and Pumba’s “Hakuna Matata”, although it’s close!

This gem is simple and direct: Don’t take it personal.

Beating yourself up throughout your professional journey can be typical. After all, we are our own toughest critics. Plus, we are human beings. We have feelings. Nobody likes failure or rejection so when it happens, it’s tough to just brush it off. In a world where building relationships is essential to business interactions, not taking things personal is easier said than done. Still, those words are powerful because they allow you to protect your confidence and stay true to yourself.

Here are three common scenarios within the internship process where adopting the mantra can help you keep a positive attitude.

“I applied to a black hole.”
Many applicants think when submitting a resume online it goes nowhere, but that’s not the case. Considering there are usually hundreds of applicants, don’t take it personal if yours isn’t picked. Instead, let it motivate you to rise to the top by finding ways to elevate your candidacy. Start by using the information provided in the job description as a blueprint to strengthen your resume.  Expand on your experience either at school or outside of the classroom, and continue to apply for internships that align closely with that new, sharpened skill set. Something will hit eventually.

“The hiring leader did not return my email.”
We’ve all zeroed in on our dream company at a career fair or speaking engagement and sometimes find ourselves meeting a hiring manager or a recruiter.  After a meaningful conversation, business cards are exchanged, resumes are given and you walk away feeling great. Then after following up, you don’t hear back right away. What gives?  Breathe. You’ve done nothing wrong. Understand that timing in an internship hunt is everything. Sometimes those representatives are busy and may eventually get back to you. So keep following up professionally being mindful of your tone. Usually, recruiters and hiring leaders are observing from afar and when the timing works, the connection is made. If it doesn’t happen, remember to not take it personal. Learn to let potential connections go to make room for new ones. But always stay persistent. Don’t let incomplete interactions stop you from pursuing your dream.

“Another candidate was chosen.”
You’ve done all the right things and secured an interview. You’re killing it throughout various rounds and feeling like you might have it in the bag. You get the call and find out the team decided to select someone else for the role.  Bummer! But don’t take it personal. Use the experience as a learning opportunity. The fact you’ve made it so far should serve as validation that you are competitive. Take what you learn from those meetings. Pick up on insight the hiring leader shared during those conversations. Analyze your answers. Ask yourself how you can improve and perfect your pitch. Chances are questions will be similar in subsequent interviews. Make sure to infuse that wealth of information in your answers moving forward.

Ultimately, there will be many scenarios throughout your professional growth where you may feel slighted or overlooked. But as you evaluate your professional connections, figure out the best job search strategies and gain experience through interviews, remember that by not taking setbacks personally, it allows the best version of you to be represented.  And, the best YOU is all employers are looking for.

RicardoDisney College Recruiting