MBA Internships are a great opportunity to explore a potential career path, and often lead to a permanent job. At Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, for instance, 45% of job offers made to Two-Year MBA program graduates come directly from their internship employers.
This was true for Sophie Reiser, who joined the Goizueta MBA in 2018. Completing a summer internship with Big Four consultancy, EY, confirmed her career plans and landed her a permanent job offer.
We caught up with Sophie to learn how other MBA students can get the most out of their own summer internships. Below are her top three tips.
1. Know the company inside out
Being familiar with the company you’re working with is vital if you’re to make the most of an internship—and land one in the first place, Sophie says.
“Do whatever you can to truly understand the work you’re applying for in advance,” she recommends. “Unless you know what that work really is, it’s hard to ask genuine questions and be engaged.”
Because knowing where to start can be challenging, Sophie recommends asking second year MBA students for their insights—chances are one of your peers has completed an internship in the same function, industry, and perhaps even organization.
Doing this research will also ensure that the company you work with aligns with your career goals. For Sophie, this meant an internship in consulting.
“I got really into the idea of starting a consultancy that helps businesses be strategic about how they’re investing in social impact,” she explains.
Sophie began her career in a very different space— as a professional soccer player. After a season of injuries, however, she retired to join a sports marketing agency.
A few years later, ready for a new challenge, she was drawn to the idea of work that would make a social impact. This led to a year volunteering with the Dandora Transformation League in Nairobi.
There, she helped to expand a project improving public spaces. “I started to see the disconnect between social impact goals and business strategy,” she recalls. The experience sparked the idea for her consultancy.
This goal is what led Sophie to business school. Goizueta stood out for its entrepreneurial bent, as well as a focus on social enterprise and a small, tight-knit cohort.
Undertaking an MBA would lend her the technical skills she needed to thrive in consulting, and give her the chance to get some hands-on experience in the sector.
“My internship with EY was an extension of my MBA, where I could not only learn quickly, but also apply what I’d already learned on the program,” she reflects.
2. Invest in relationships
At EY, Sophie quickly realized that making personal connections would help her get the most out of her internship. “So much of consulting is about building relationships and building trust—I can’t emphasize that enough,” she says.
This isn’t unique to consulting, either. According to research by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), 81% of employers rate ‘working with others’ as one of the most important skills an MBA hire can have.
When it comes to establishing these relationships, small steps add up. “Just saying ‘hi’ and properly introducing yourself to colleagues and clients really makes a difference,” Sophie advises.
Practicing these social skills helped her communicate more effectively throughout the internship, which made the transformation project she worked on run smoothly. This project helped US insurance and annuity provider, Brighthouse, separate from its parent company.
Throughout the internship, Sophie needed to take on information and think fast. Building relationships with her colleagues helped.
“Having a level of familiarity can really build your confidence in terms of contributing in meetings,” she reflects.
3. Think long term
Although most MBA internships last for just a few months, they can result in a permanent job offer. For this reason, thinking long term is crucial if you’re to get the most out of your experience.
Sophie found the brevity of her own internship to be one of its main challenges. “But you’ll be more engaged if you dive in, and imagine you’re there for the long haul,” she advises.
As well investing in relationship building, long-term thinking means asking questions and considering how you could progress in the company. Taking this approach allowed Sophie to give the internship her all, and it wasn’t long before she was managing her own work stream.
Sophie’s successful internship with EY has solidified her career plans, she says. Building her knowledge and experience will create a foundation for when the time comes to establish her social impact consultancy.
“If I want to help businesses position themselves on the social impact side, it’s important to have a baseline understanding across every aspect that makes up a company,” she concludes.