Ah, the internship. Not just a terrible movie. (Seriously, you guys made “Wedding Crashers”! What happened?!) It’s also training wheels for your post-MBA job.
In earlier posts, we discussed the pros and cons of doing an MBA and how to make the most of your experience once you’re there. So it’s only fitting that we talk about one of the most crucial aspects of your experience — the Internship!
In most cases, your MBA internship will determine your future career path. No presh, right?
But let’s simplify this and break it down by chronological order. Here’s how you go about finding that fantastic, life-giving internship and open yourself up to future opportunities.
BEFORE THE INTERNSHIP
Have a Plan
The search for your internship should start on day 1, and it’s important to have a solid strategy. Remember, Career Services are different at different schools in both effectiveness and scope. Don’t count on them to do the work for you. This is especially true for international students — you’re going to have to work extra hard, unfortunately. Key activities should include building a list of companies to intern/work for, building your network, and conducting informational interviews to learn more about those companies.
Play the student card:
At the start of my MBA, I was very keen on working for a particular company. They were going through a huge business transformation project at the time. So I decided to base a big project for my Organizational Development class on them. This gave me access to a lot of key people and subject matter experts for information gathering. Not only was I getting a ton of insider info about the company, I was also building my network. Guess who landed an internship with the company a few months later — this girl!
Moral of the story: play the hell out of your student card. People are always receptive to talking to students who just want information and guidance vs. a job seeker.
DURING THE INTERNSHIP
It’s the summer, you’re at your dream internship — now what?
Prepare for the worst:
You know how crucial the internship is to you, but that doesn’t mean everyone else gets it. Not every company has a well-defined intern program. Even if they do, you may be assigned to a manager and team who don’t understand the importance of an internship.
Remember that company I landed my internship with? Well, turns out, things get pretty chaotic when you’re going through a business transformation project! I was initially thrilled to be assigned to someone who worked on the implementation team. Once I got there … not so much. Soon after my arrival, it seemed clear that my manager had no interest in having an intern. My team was resentful. They were frazzled and overworked and now had to train an intern. That too, an intern who cruised in with her fancy degree and got all these perks they didn’t get.
Not a good situation. I ended up with no big project and only a bunch of meaningless busywork if at all!
What lessons can you learn from my disastrous experience?
Set the right expectations:
Know exactly what you want from the internship. Communicate that to your supervisor and team on day 1. Also, ask them what expectations they have of you and how you can add value.
If your project isn’t challenging enough or you don’t have a concrete project at all, make one for yourself. Do your homework about the company. Talk to people in other departments to figure out what their pain points are, and propose a plan to your manager.
Network like a MOFO!
Talk to everyone and show genuine interest in them. Whether it’s your fellow interns, your teammates, or people on other teams. Conduct a ton of informational interviews to learn about the company, different departments, and people’s career paths. Do a LinkedIn search of people at the company who graduated from your alma mater. Set up coffee chats with them. Also, don’t drop off the face of the planet after the internship. Keep in touch.
Stick the landing:
The end of the internship can be nerve-wracking. Interested in a full-time offer but haven’t gotten one yet? Set up a meeting with your supervisor and state your case. Show how you added value and communicate your interest in the company and a full-time position. Don’t be pushy or entitled, though.
AFTER THE INTERNSHIP
Once your internship is over if you have a full-time offer, yay for you. The pressure’s off a bit and you know what you’re running towards. Now, you can take classes that would add value to your post-MBA role.
But in the second scenario, you don’t have a full-time offer, so what do you do then? Take the time to reflect and ask yourself a ton of questions:
Why didn’t the company offer you a fulltime position? Is there anything you could have done differently? What feedback did you get from your manager and team?
Maybe you turned down the offer yourself. If so, what were the deciding factors? Was it the location, the company itself, the industry, or the type of work?
Once you define those, you can start to understand what you want in your post-MBA job. Then, it’s time to build a new strategy.
By the way, it’s totally normal if your goals have changed since the start of the MBA. Just be aware of why. As for me, I decided not to return to the company after the internship and set my sights in a different direction.
Well, hope you found this helpful. What’s been your experience with looking for an internship or actually doing one? Do you have any tips and tricks of your own to share? Let me know!