So you didn’t land that internship you were hoping you would. Maybe you feel disappointed in yourself or that your dreams have been unfairly crushed.

Well, don’t despair; everyone has been there at one point or another. You’re not the only one who has faced this kind of setback. The path to success is rarely (if ever) linear. Try and find a successful professional who hasn’t been turned down for a job, laid off, or otherwise sidelined. You can’t always control the rejections and setbacks, but what you can control is your response.

Here are 5 actionable tips for building your resume and bouncing back after a setback. So the next time your ideal opportunity opens up, your resume will be sitting on top of the stack.

  1. Grow your experience. Formal work or internship experience isn’t necessary for resume building. Employers, especially in security, are increasingly accepting of experience gained outside the workplace. Try your hand at developing a tool, program, or app. Use your free time to build a home lab and start participating in bug bounties. Or, alternatively, test your skills on sites like hackthebox and overthewire. There is no lack of opportunities to enhance and diversify your skillset.
  2. Keep learning. You aren’t expected to know everything as an intern or fresh grad, but you are expected to learn a lot at work and in your free time. The best way to convince prospective employers that you’re hungry is to show it! Complete a certification like the SANS GCIH, or Comp TIA Security+, Network+, or A+. If a certification is out of your budget, take a course online. When it comes to online classes and tutorials, the resources are endless. Codecademy, coursera, and udemy are especially useful aids with free or budget-friendly options available.
  3. Demonstrate your passion. Recruiters and hiring managers want to know that you love what you do. Passion indicates that you will be a motivated employee who can ramp up quickly. Show hiring managers this side of yourself by tackling side projects and acquiring pertinent volunteer experiences, which segues right into …
  4. Find your community. You can establish connections IRL or online, but either way, just get out there! Join local groups that align with your interests like PHX2600, HackersNest, or Women in Security and Privacy (WISP). Should you need something a little more formal, sign up with the Infosec Mentor Project at If an online community is more your speed, become active in subreddits, engage with influencers on Twitter, and join relevant LinkedIn groups. Kelly Albrink, a consultant at Bishop Fox and Board Member with Day of Shecurity, recommends joining the OWASP slack and asking for help in the #mentors channel. As you interact with people in these communities, ask around for a mentor who is interested in helping you grow.
  5. Build your personal brand. Develop your reputation, so that recruiters can find you more easily. Polish up your LinkedIn profile by updating your headline to accurately reflect your current professional status, experience, classes, and skills. Change your dashboard to “open to new opportunities” and respond promptly to InMail so that you’re at the top of recruiter searches. Maintain a personal technology website, portfolio, blog or GitHub to show off your progress and contributions. Consider attending conferences like DEF CON, B-Sides, Day of Shecurity, or CactusCon (which happens to be the biggest security conference in Arizona – and is right in our backyard). If you’re feeling bold, take it a step further and submit a paper, talk or workshop.

The final tip I can give you is don’t take rejection too personally. Remember that a lot of decision-making criteria is ultimately outside of your control, such as other applicants, the specific needs of the organization, and even the timing of your application. I have worked with several candidates who have been turned down for a role, only to be offered another role at the same organization a few months later.

Rejection is a frustrating part of the human experience, but if you maintain positive relationships and continue growing your skills and network, you’re sure to find the right opportunity sooner rather than later.

Got a question? Want more? Ask me on Twitter @kaitlin_neil or LinkedIn at Kaitlin O’Neil