Career corner: Didn’t get an offer for your top choice? That’s not a bad thing

A depiction of two people shaking hands. Only the hands are pictured.
Graphic by Greta Long

The job hunt is tough, and sometimes, life doesn’t always go exactly according to plan. You might get your dream internship or job, but you might also not get an offer for your first choice. 

So, it’s important to keep in mind that even if you end up somewhere you’re not 100 percent excited about, you’ll still learn lots and make connections wherever you are.

Regardless of what position you have, your role is to learn and do your best at whatever you’re supposed to be doing. It’s okay to have a bit of a pity party if you’re bummed, but try to snap out of it before your first day. 

After all, it’s rare to find two companies on the same application timeline, and it can be difficult to articulate all your skills in application materials. Sometimes the stars just don’t align, and that’s okay. 

Think about it this way: An employer must have thought you had impressive skills and that you would be a benefit to the team if they extended an offer — meaning, you are valued! Try not to let your experience be clouded by regret that you didn’t get something else.

Whether you’re in an industry or position you know something about or not, you will learn so much about the real world of work and about yourself. Basic office technology skills and learning how to interact with professionals will be important in any job you hold, whether you are coding or canvassing. 

After spending time in any particular work environment, you’ll also get a feel for what type of things you want in a future job.

On the flip side, there might be things that you dislike, and those are important to know, too. If you can’t stand sitting in the same cubicle for eight hours a day, it’s probably good to know that. 

Your job experience can also give you ideas of what to ask employers about in an interview — is there anything you need to know about your future work environments based on your experience at your current position? 

The summer after my first year, I did a human resources internship at a private global corporation, having had no HR experience or intention to pursue an HR career before the fact. 

I’m still not planning to be a human resources professional, but I developed skills that relate well to my other interests and greatly enjoyed the connections I made there. In fact, having my HR internship likely helped me get my second internship this past summer because it showed that I had experience in an office setting and have references that attest to my work capabilities. 

In addition to learning from your work and your environment, make sure to communicate with your coworkers and supervisors. Careers come in many different paths, and you’ll likely find some interesting and helpful stories to guide you on your journey. 

A handful of my government coworkers this past summer had a film studies background — not exactly what you’d think of as a traditional field of study for diplomats! Even so, all of them are as capable as their colleagues who had studied political science. 

Making professional connections, otherwise known as networking, is also an important part of any job or internship experience. As each person comes with a unique background, it could be helpful to hear about their career experiences. Even if they aren’t knowledgeable in your field, they may be able to connect you to someone who can help you learn more about your intended path. 

Networking in a professional setting isn’t too far off from anything you likely do already on campus: making connections with people, learning from each other and staying in touch.

Any job or internship experience will also help you practice taking care of living as an adult. Working is quite different from being a student, and you may feel a different sort of exhaustion at the end of the day.

You might be living alone; you might be in a new city, state or country. You will most likely need to cook at least a little bit and learn how to get from place to place. Being able to adjust to new surroundings outside of work is also important when cultivating work experiences. It may not be something you can put on your resume, but taking care of yourself is essential no matter where you are in your life or career.

When it comes down to it, all experience is experience even if it isn’t quite what you had anticipated doing. Internships and jobs are meant to help you learn, whether it’s technical skills, professional skills or more about yourself. Be proud of where you’ve landed, and make use of the opportunity to develop as a professional, and as a person.

Got career-related questions? Submit them to or anonymously at

Olivia Truesdale SC ’21 is TSL’s career columnist. She’s a career consultant at Scripps Career Planning & Resources and currently studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea. She encourages you to check out the resources available at your campus career center.

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