For starters, you should start the process early.
Although it may be tempting to wait and sort it out when you arrive on campus, it’s important to remember that an internship, perhaps more than anything else in a full-time MBA program, serves as the springboard to your next career. It can also determine the trajectory of your entire professional life. That’s not something you want to leave until the last minute.
In approximately 12 weeks, you’ll confirm what you want to do, or you’ll discover what you don't want to do. Either way, an internship provides valuable insight that you wouldn't have without attending business school.
So, what can you do right now to identify and secure a great internship?
Pedro Gonzalez has worked on both sides of MBA recruitment: in business schools and in the corporate sector. His current role is Director of Career Management for Graduate & Executive Education at the Haslam College of Business at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. However, Pedro also led national MBA recruitment efforts for Siemens Corporation, an elite in-house consulting group.
“If starting an MBA program this fall, the best use of time in the remaining weeks of the summer is to create your own internship by taking a class that brushes up on your finance skills. Maybe a course at a local college or an online course that puts you through a condensed version of finance 101 to make that eventual immersion as an MBA student less daunting,” he says.
“Also, and more importantly, start adding to your professional network. Connect with alumni from your alma mater who are working at companies or in professions you are targeting for your post-MBA career.
“The new contacts you add during the summer will be invaluable for requesting an informational interview in the fall about your possible career path and when you start an active internship search by early January 2018. Company referrals from current employees go a long way to getting your resume noticed by the hiring managers – your resume has a better chance of landing on the right desk.”
Jane Barrett of The Career Farm, which provides career coaching services to students at leading business schools in Europe including EMLYON Business School and Cass Business School, also knows what companies seek in internship hires. She previously recruited MBA students for PwC. Jane says it’s never too early to get started:
“Spend time now to think strategically about how your internship can meet your career aspirations post-MBA. Will it give you specific knowledge of sector you want to move into? Prove you have transferable skills to help you move into a new job function? Experience in working in a country you would like to work in after your MBA?
“Your internship can give you a USP, especially if you have created it yourself. Often internships are a way to 'road test' a potential hire and for you to work out whether a company would be a good fit.
“It is without a doubt a golden opportunity to further your career goals, and one of the benefits of an MBA. However, take the time to work out what you really want and what you have to offer so that you make the most of your internship when you get there.”
Doreen Amorosa, Associate Dean & Managing Director of the MBA Career Center at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business brings in-house expertize to internship search strategies having worked as VP of Global Recruitment & Workforce Planning at American Express in New York City.
“A post-MBA career choice is often complex, because it involves many factors: functional fit, industry alignment, company size, organizational culture, upward mobility, global reach and more. That’s why an internship is an excellent way to help you more clearly define your career path,” Doreen explains.
“Each incoming student should consider past accomplishments when researching potential career choices. Think about what you liked and what you didn’t like in each of your previous positions.”
Chris Weber is the Director of Career Advising and Outreach Consulting and Social Impact at UCLA Anderson School of Management. In addition to his previous experience as a Human Capital Consultant Manager for Deloitte in Los Angeles, Chris brings personal knowledge to the process. He earned his MBA from UCLA Anderson in 2009.
“Knowing what types of industries, companies, and roles you are interested in is one of the most important things to do during the summer, as you won't have that much time to explore once school starts,” he says. “Take time to read up on industry blogs, company websites, and job descriptions to get a sense of what you like and what you don't.
“You should also determine what values are important to you in your next company. Determine what skills you'd like to refine and build during business school. This will help you think through what types of internships can help you achieve these goals.
“Find your career role models and look at what they did in their careers. Analyze what experiences they had and determine what roles, experiences, and skills you'll need to pursue a similar path.”
Feeling overwhelmed? The good news is that you’ve already started the process. Kristin Roth, Associate Director of Admissions at Tuck School of Business has also worked in career services at Dartmouth College. With this dual perspective, Kristin reminds students:
“All that reflection you did as a prospective student pays you back in the internship and job search process. Career-related activities will start pretty quickly once you get back to campus. Review your career goals and reach out to current students and alumni pursuing careers in those fields. Get their advice and learn more about their organizations.
“Read! Stay up-to-date on the news and the economy, both domestically and globally. Connect with your career development office and take advantage of the services they have to offer. Get your resume in order. And enjoy your summer. You’ll be hitting the ground running soon enough!”