The title, albeit painful, is obvious. HR has just called/emailed you with some kind words wishing you the best as you did not get that job offer you yearned for after the internship. As soon as you heard they murmured the word “Unfortunately…”, the months ahead for you were suddenly clouded with saddening uncertainties. This article hopes to provide you with some clarity of the next sensible actions to be taken after a missed job offer.
Step 1: Slow down and take a step back to think
1. You have your lifetime to work
The situation you are in is difficult and admittedly, no one shall wish to be in this shoe. You have worked very diligently to obtain the internship offer. You may also have burnt yourself throughout the 3-month summer internship with the desire that your job search shall be put to rest with the eventual job offer. Yet, the result you heard is rather disappointing and saddening. Rejections are challenging as they affect the way we see ourselves and set us to a different path than otherwise envisioned.
However, the storm of disappointment that you feel has potentially exaggerated the scale of this set-back. You might currently feel a staggering peer pressure as everyone, but you, seems to be on track to a definite and certain path. Your desire for the comfort of a guaranteed job after graduation is not letting this rejection’s bitterness go.
The question that you may have missed in the midst of all these emotions is “Why so rushed?”
Once you start working, you will realise that you have the rest of your life to work. Your professional development is a life-long journey where this challenge you face is just the very beginning of it. In a typical adulthood, you shall be working for the next 40 years of your life, with the likely potential of facing more significant set-backs. An example of more significant set-back could be when you are suddenly laid off with zero income, whilst having the duty to make ends meet and take care of a family. Let’s compare that example with the current situation. Without having this job offer, you still have a university to come back to, still living for free on the finance of interest free student loan, or funds from The Bank of Mom and Dad. More importantly, it costs you nothing to try again and re-apply. It doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
It is indeed a privilege to having only spent a salaried three months and already knowing that this path may potentially be not for you. Most people in your parents’ generations only recognise the need for a career change after having wasted years in the job as they didn’t have the luxury of such internships, or such rejections.
Putting into perspective of your life-time journey, this challenge you are facing is not significant. It is actually a blessing to have rejections and realise the need for change early.
2. Get to state of peace for best evaluation/ decision making
It is important, however, to evaluate what happened to learn from it, and ensure the same mistakes are not being repeated. My previous blog has outlined the specific steps to how to feel better, overcoming the emotional storms and getting to state of peace for best evaluation/ decision making. I shall recommend you practice these specific steps outlined in that article to achieve internal peace, before starting the evaluation process.
3. They may change their mind… but it’s time to move on
I had two mentees who did not get the job offer post-internship initially. However, they were contacted by the banks a few months later suggesting if they’d like to take up the positions. Therefore, there is a chance that they may change their mind, especially if you were in the marginal “Maybe” buckets in your end-of-internship valuation. However, in both cases, the two individuals have moved on and had other offers elsewhere, hence rejected the banks which rejected them.
Although the possibility of the banks changing their mind is not zero, don’t wait for it. Even if they do, most likely they’d only contact you around Mar-May the following year. The reason for the employers to change their mind is simple: Higher-than-expected number of analysts leave after bonus season (which is usually in February). The employer then has a sudden lack of staff which were not envisioned during the recruiting season the months earlier. Hence, for such short-notice hire, they scout for the ex-interns whose performances were deemed marginal, or those they weren’t able to hire previously due to headcount issues. Because waiting for the employer to change their mind is such a long wait with a very slim chance, it’d be too risky to bet on this event. Therefore, please accept and move on. Things did not happen the way you wanted, but you always have another tomorrow to make a better future.
You may say “Everyone has told me to move on – but how do you actually do it?” The rest of the article outlines some specific actions to take, to reverse this circumstance.
4. Evaluate what happened: Is it the bank, the job or is it you?
No one likes looking into the ugly past; however, it is important that you perform some introspection into the cause of this unfortunate event. The question that provide the most clarity to the reason for this “break-up” between you and the employer is “Is it the bank, the job, or is it you?”
- Was you not hired because of bank-specific reasons? (e.g. no headcount in specific teams, teams currently being down-sized and restructured, culture/ people do not fit you, your nature or your expectation)
- Was you not hired because of job-specific reasons? (e.g. product too technical, specialised or require an opposite skillsets than what your nature/ strength can inherently offer)
- Was you not hired because of “you”?
The last question is rather difficult to admit or assess. Unless there is a certain and obvious “logistical” reason why the employer could not admit you, most of the time the reasons for rejection is because of you, your lack of skills or corporate exposures, your own work ethics, lower-than-expected output quality, your attitudes or that you seem not to fit in/ people don’t like to work with you. This is nothing against you personally – they are right but you are not wrong neither. You are just being yourself. Think of your job/ team selection like a marriage (It is indeed similar to a marriage because in most finance/ banking jobs, you spend more time with your team than your life partner). In your life, you may have been rejected by the opposite sex or went through break-ups sometimes. In those occasions, you have your reasons and they have their reasons; in the end of the day, no one is wrong. It was simply not a compatible match.
It is hard to assess your own areas for developments because we as human have the tendency to see what we thought have happened, not what you actually happened. To eliminate bias and hear the truth, if you have an advocate or a person whom you trust in the team whilst you were working there, call them up.
- Tell them in advance the purpose of the call is for your learning and personal development.
- Ask them for the negative feedbacks and the very specific details of why they think you are not hired.
It is surprisingly difficult to get negative feedbacks out of employers: they rarely give honest negative feedbacks these days. Don’t ask feedbacks for the formality of asking feedbacks and be complacent with general comments such as “You are doing great, do not worry”. You must walk away learning something about what you can improve, hence being really aggressive on chasing them for the really negative feedback that is specific, actionable and quantifiable. Not many ex-interns who call up their ex-bosses and asked for feedbacks, if you do it right, you may leave a long lasting impression on them and increase your chance of being called up when they change their mind later (See section 3).
Step 2: Accelerate and taking actions
5. Looking elsewhere and evaluate your best options
This step depends on the best answer that you’ve obtain in section 4. Is it the bank, the job or is it you? The course of actions is rather simple:
- If the answer is “bank”, and assuming your interest in the job still remains, your best chance is apply to the same job in another bank.
- If the answer is “job”, and assuming your interest in the bank still remains, your best chance is apply to another job in the same bank.
- If the answer is “you”, the course of action is not so simple. The following paragraph may be able to provide some lights.
When I encounter someone and make an overall assessment of a person, I usually separate them into two components: the person “core”, and their behaviour. The core of you is contains of elements such as your personality, your values, your morals, your beliefs and your life purposes. Your behaviour changes all the time depending on external factors such as moods, environments and mental states; however, the core of you is quite stable and difficult to change over a short period of time. An opinion on someone is best formed on their “core”, due to the unstable nature of behaviour. As you consider these two elements:
- If the reason that you were rejected is due to certain behaviours (e.g. slow response on emails), you can change or consider revising them in your next post.
- If the reason that you were rejected is due to the conflict between the “core” of you and the job/ employer/ industry (e.g. what they do is against your morals), it’s suggested that you consider a different job/ employer / industry.
6. If you are back to university
If you are back to university after the internship, I urge you to consider two goals.
- First of all, please get a good grade. Regardless of how disappointed you may feel now, your study should still be attended to. This undergraduate degree may be the last and only degree you shall complete, hence the grade will stay with you for your life time. A setback like no job offer may be completely forgotten 5 years down the road. However, if someone writes a biography of you 30 years later, they will still write on the fact that you have graduated with First Class from university.
- Second of all, although it’s tempting to take some time out after set-back like this by, e.g. taking a gap year, beware of taking a complete break. Potential employers do scrutinise any employment gap. Unless you can provide an excellence example of a year full-packed with opportunities that vastly improve your employability, any blank gap in your employment history usually works against you in future endeavours.
Step 3: Maintain velocity
Events like rejection make you stronger. They are also valuable chance for introspections. Setbacks are usually the junction where your life turns into a new page, appreciate this chance and use it wisely. For whatever course of action you shall take next, make an informed decision, stick to it until outcome is obtained, review the outcome and evaluate feedbacks for the next decision, and repeat.
I have collected over 100 of myself and my friends’ cover letters and published it at Cover Letter Library to help you. This member-only library includes successful cover letters from people who secured jobs at all major investment banks, big 4 firms and other. Check it out 🙂
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