Internship rejections: Fighting nihilism in the search for my future

“Unfortunately, we have decided to move forward with other candidates for our Digital Engineer Intern position.”

The words burned into my corneas as I read them in my quiet Ytterboe bedroom. There is no way I did not get this position. There is no way a water treatment company would not give me a software engineering internship. But no matter how long I stared at it, the words never changed their meaning: I had been denied. Or – in their words – they had “decided to move forward with other candidates.”

I felt bitter. I felt angry and frustrated by my inability to acquire any position I applied to. I felt as though my work meant nothing, like the hours I had poured into my degree were meaningless, that there would always be a better competitor than me.

At that point, I thought to myself “Why even try? You did your best, and you failed.”
Familiar habits set into place as I was caught in an episode of self-loathing and doubt.
The truth is, I really just needed to calm down. It is easy to explain shortcomings with self-hatred and anger and even easier to adopt the nihilistic mindset that tempted me with its simplicity. The hard thing to do would be to press forward and move on and to accept that I will not get everything I apply for and there are truly better things out there for me.

Perhaps I was not meant to work with a water treatment company. Perhaps working for that bank was not all that it was chalked up to be. Maybe I was meant for better things than a cubicle, a laboratory, the other thing I applied to, the thing before that or the thing before that. I will hold onto the hope that one day I will find my place, the niche where I was meant to be, a team that serves me as I serve it. No matter how our shortcomings seem to trap us in the moment, it takes willpower to get up and move forward. This is the same willpower that will define us when we search for jobs coming out of this place.

There is a lot of pressure to find the perfect internship for the summer after junior year. If you are like me, you might sometimes feel like you are throwing yourself against a brick wall in your constant search for positions. If you are anything like me, you might even feel dizzied by the difficulty of the process, the absurdity of how competitive it is. You are not alone. There are an innumerable amount of people at St. Olaf, in Minnesota and in the nation that feel the same way. Keep pushing forward, keep spamming LinkedIn applications and catch yourself when you feel like none of it matters. If you ever feel the need to yell about it, just send your friend a message because they will probably be yelling about it too.
Agustin Forero ’21 is from Naperville, Ill. His majors are computer science and history.

+ posts