I have a little secret. I never had an internship. Nor did I really worry about one. I have a great reason why, and it isn’t that I am a trust fund baby or am highly connected and the internship offers poured in. You see, I worked full time from freshman year through completion of my Master’s Degree. I figured that would be more valuable and would provide money now, which is what I needed to survive.

I often wonder had I completed an internship, would it have taken my career down a different path? I didn’t think I needed an internship as an undergraduate because I was 75% sure I would be continuing on to law school and would worry about interning then. I thought I wanted to be an attorney, and then my plans changed. (They do that in life! I still can’t fathom how we are supposed to be so sure of a lifelong career when we are 20 years old, but that is for another blog post…)

Now that I am well into my career, I am on the other side of the table. I have exhibited at countless career fairs and I can usually tell before you even open your mouth if you are an eager beaver freshman or sophomore, bright-eyed and enthusiastic about your future profession, or if you are a frantic senior who for whatever reason, didn’t land that internship and is now of the “What’s next?” mindset. The thing is, because I networked and because I like to hear people’s stories, I also know what the recruiters are looking for in candidates, and I can tell you what to do if you didn’t get that internship.

Here are 5 things you can do if you didn’t get that internship:

  1. Don’t panic– OK, take one day, stay in your pajamas, eat ice cream out of the carton and binge watch Netflix.
  2. Put on your grown-up pants, look at your resume again, review your interaction with your interviewer and remember: NO ONE is perfect. Everyone (including your recruiter) is a WORK IN PROGRESS. This is not the time to overanalyze and Monday Morning Quarterback; learn from the experience and move on. Maybe you didn’t do something wrong? Maybe there was just someone more qualified or a better fit. If you’re still in school, schedule time at your campus career services to chat with an advisor or see if you can participate in a mock interview. You may learn something that will help you next time.
  3. Stay where you are. If you are working in retail, the service industry, a daycare, etc., lean in. People experience is good accounting experience. You just need to spin it and show your future firm that you have worked with all types of people, which is relevant as you will someday have to use these very same people skills to build your own book of business. Why not see if you can mention to a supervisor or your CFO/Controller/Bookkeeper that you want some real world experience? If they wouldn’t mind, (and if it’s okay with your supervisor) maybe you can shadow that person to learn more and build up your experience?
  4. Look around. No, I mean REALLY look around. Don’t just go on job search websites or talk to a few firms that visit campus. There really are opportunities out there – you just have to open yourself up to them. Look at the big employers in your area. Go to their websites and explore the opportunities/programs they may have for college students. Try physically going to that one-man or woman accounting firm and dropping off your resume, using a staffing agency where you can work temporary assignments, or connecting with professionals via organizations like Beta Alpha Psi, NABA, ALPFA, ASCEND, ASWA, and your state society of CPAs. Leverage LinkedIn to see who is working where and what career opportunities are out there.
  5. Give back. That’s right, VOLUNTEER. Sign up for VITA or call the smaller firms and if they don’t have openings, maybe you can at least volunteer or again, job shadow. Find a mentor in the profession, ask them to meet you for coffee and see if they will look at your resume and give you feedback and help you network for a role or internship.

The bottom line is that when it comes to an internship, sometimes we don’t land the dream internship we hoped for, but there are still ways to garner EXPERIENCE and that is what the recruiters and firms are looking for. Get creative and you will get the experience. Then, when it comes time to land the actual JOB, you will be able to use these same creative skills coupled with the experience you recently gained to have a few offers on the table, and then you can choose which role suits you best!

For more career tips, subscribe to Passing Insights, the Surgent CPA Review blog.

Shirley Claude is a Business Development Director for Surgent CPA Review. Shirley is a graduate of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and holds a Master of Arts in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix. Before joining Surgent, Shirley worked in Business Development for an education technology company overseeing East Coast growth.