Something you may not know about me – I didn’t get matched 4 times! Yep, that’s right FOUR. Full disclosure, it was 4 times over one year, but that didn’t make it any easier each time I got hit with rejection.
My first time applying was during senior year of college. If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t quite know what I really wanted out of an internship or if I was even ready for one. I just knew that that was the next step to becoming a dietitian. Senior year was a difficult time for me. I struggle a little with change and leaving my friends, my favorite school and my home for the past three years felt weird. As a whole, leaving college was hard because there was no next step in life, it was just time to figure out what you wanted to do, and frankly, I wasn’t sure what that even was. After applying, I had two interviews, which I thought went well. I had prepared for them and sent extra information if needed and figured I’d probably get in. At the time, I didn’t realize how difficult getting an internship really was. Then match day came. I didn’t focus on it throughout the day, oddly enough, but when the time came, and I logged in, rejection stared me in the face. I remember the feeling being weird. I was sad, but not devastated. More than anything, I was embarrassed. How was I going to tell all my friends, my friends who I studied with and spent the past three years with, that I didn’t get in? What would I do next? Turns out, a bunch of my friends also didn’t match, which brought me a feeling of relief. Thank god I wasn’t the long one. Now I needed to figure out what to do next.
It turns out that two spots opened at the school where I had completed my undergrad program, so I decided to apply to both and thought I had a good chance of getting into. One of these was a distance internship, so I spent hours upon hours finding preceptors within just a few days to be able to apply and be qualified. This time, rejection came by e-mail. This time, the rejection hit a little harder. All I could think about was how much time I had put into this and how much stress I felt applying and why did someone else get it and not me? Graduation came and went, my friends left, I moved out of my senior house and I stayed in the part time job I had with a nearby hospital, feeling a bit stagnant since I hadn’t gotten the one thing I needed to move on in my professional life.
After the three rejections, I reached out to some people I trusted (teachers, my manager and other dietitians I knew) and asked what they thought I should have done differently. I took their advice and moved forward. I started applying to some nutrition jobs to gain more experience, did some volunteer work in nutrition on the side and considered taking additional classes to improve my grades. In the meantime, I got a promotion at work and became a full time employee. This was the first step in growing my resume for the next application round. I was pumped! This would for sure make me look good! I’m in a good job, doing well and gaining experience in counseling. I’ll definitely get in next time right?! WRONG.
Fall match came around. I applied again, this time to all different schools (not all schools participate in Fall match), all across the country. I figured, this is going to help me be who I want to be, I’ll move anywhere just to get an internship. I understood the process, and the internship itself, more as well and I was ready! I landed two interviews. I was ready and I felt confident. This time, I focused on match day more, but was a bit more sure of myself regarding the process, so I thought I would get in. I remember where I was when I found out. I went out to dinner with my best friend and my boyfriend. I realized, in the middle of dinner, that the results were out. I logged into my account – rejection again. I excused myself, went outside, called my parents and cried. How could this happen again?! I had really improved, I had a better job, I did everything they told me to do! Yet again, here I sit, unmatched.
Thankfully, I’ve got a great support system, people who believed in me and told me that next time would, for sure be it! And if it wasn’t, I would find something else I loved and move on!
So, I reached out to more people, took more advice. This time I even called the programs that didn’t take me and asked them the big question – WHY? Some told me that I was actually a great candidate, but there just weren’t enough spots. However, one gave me some information I could work with – make your portfolio more presentable.
And so, the fifth time came along. This time, I applied early decision to the school I completed my undergrad program in. I re-did my entire portfolio and made it more presentable, I re-did my resume with the help of a dietitian I knew and I re-wrote my personal statement to really showcase who I was and what I could bring to the program. I also prepared all of my backup information, just incase I was not accepted. This way I could participate in the Spring match, if needed. After handing in my application, I waited. Each day, I checked my e-mail knowing that this could be the day I found out. On the day I found out, I remember checking my e-mail and the internship not even being on my mind. When I pulled up the e-mail, there it was! Finally, I had matched! I was so overcome with excitement and relief that I cried at work!
So why did I tell you my story? Because I want you to know that you’re not the only one. People get rejected, internships are hard to get (even if you’re super prepared) and sometimes, now just isn’t the time for you. And that’s okay! I would not be the dietitian, or person, I am today if I had gotten the internship that first time around (or the other three times either). That part time job that turned into a full time job? That got me a part time job during my internship AND my first job after the internship as a manager. My five years at that company helped me grow as a person and a professional and taught me more things than I can explain. It helped me meet wonderful people who supported me and believed in me and helped me get where I am today. That management job? It helped get me my first job as a clinical dietitian, which turned into a job as an inpatient and outpatient dietitian and got me my first bit of experience as a wellness professional. That clinical dietitian job? It got me where I am today – in a corporate wellness job I love. I sit on the board of two different professional organizations and I have wonderful relationships with so many different dietitians. I love my job, love all of the extracurricular I do as a dietitian and have experienced so many amazing things in my career so far. Not getting the internship those first few times didn’t define me as a dietitian, but what I did afterwards and how I reacted to that rejection did.
SO, you didn’t get matched. Take some time for yourself, wallow a bit, but then – MOVE ON. Ask for advice, call those programs that didn’t take you, improve yourself, soul search, get more experience and become the dietitian that you want to be and that you know you can be. You got this!