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Preparing for Your MBA Summer Internship

The summer internship; it’s one of the most essential elements of a Full-Time MBA. Not only does it offer MBAs invaluable work experience; it also sets up the path towards a career. If you want to land an attractive, well-paying, and prestigious job, then the internship is your first step.

But when does that first step start?

Landing a summer internship can start before you ever arrive on campus. That’s because, by January, barely a semester into the Full-Time program, most students have already accepted their summer internship offer.

So, to be prepared, first-year students have to start working on their resume, interview, and presentation skills as soon as possible.

The reason the internship is so important is because it will most likely determine your job. Several studies have revealed that companies prefer hiring their interns, and even more, they pay their interns a higher starting salary.

In fact, at some companies, positions are opened to interns first before other candidates.

So how do you prepare for something so important with so little time?

Before School

Before you even begin your first year, you should be thinking about your MBA summer internship. That doesn’t mean that you have to know which company you want to work for, but you should already have identified a few possible career trajectories.

Many top-notch MBA programs require candidates to submit a resume along with their application. For the schools, it’s a chance to identify MBAs who will not only perform well academically but also professionally.

Bruce Delmonico, the Director of Admissions at Yale School of Management said in an interview, “We want to see some evidence of excellence in your professional background.” As for students, they can use the resume as a starting point for gaining an internship.

Ideally, before school, MBAs should know exactly what career path they want to enter. That way both the program and the internship can be used to hone your skills in your particular field. However, that level of knowledge isn’t always possible. If you entered your MBA to make a career change, you might have to wait until you start your program.

First-Year Fall Semester

As soon as you begin your first semester in B-School, it’s internship season. There are a few things you need to figure out right away.

  • Job Function: Once your classes begin, you need to decide fairly quickly what interests you so you can decide your job function. Typical MBA internship functions include accounting, financial analysis, consulting, general management, information technology, marketing, law, operations, sales, and research.
  • Industry: The industry you choose is just as important as your function. Each industry offers unique opportunities and challenges. You can make a choice between accounting, consulting, government, services, healthcare, entertainment, consumer goods, and more.
  • Location: Internships can be located anywhere in the world. It’s important to choose a location that suits your needs, plans, and skills.

If you need help deciding your function, industry, or location, ask advice from speakers, alumni, and professors in the fields that most interest you. They should be able to provide you additional insight and guidance.

After you outline what type of internship you want, then it’s time to start planning out how to make it a reality. The best thing you can do is immediately start working with career services professionals at your school. They can help you put together a list of potential companies—companies that have partnerships with your MBA program as well as those found on websites such as Internships.com/MBA, Indeed.com, and LinkedIn.com.

Once you have your list of companies, it’s vital that you narrow it down by meeting with corporate representatives at on-campus events, researching the organizations, and outlining information about their corporate culture and core values. Your career services office should have a multitude of resources to help you out. They should be able to tell you about previous internship opportunities, organizations coming to campus, alumni who are willing to assist, and more.

At the end of the day, you should have a list of fewer than ten internships. Choose organizations that pay what you want, have a reputation for treating interns and new hires well, and have expectations that match your own aspirations and competencies.

For advice, interview second-year students who’ve already completed their internships or contact colleagues from previous jobs who might have additional insight.

The more information you have, the better.

Applying for Your Internship

The next step in the process is to apply for your internship. This typically happens either at the end of the fall semester or early during the spring semester. It’s the most important step and can make or break your internship.

Work with career services to tailor each of your applications, including your cover letter and resume. Even internships within the same job function and industry will require slightly tweaked applications. You want to make sure that your application speaks to the organization’s culture, values, and job requirements.

The key is to use the organization’s wording to describe yourself; this is where all your research from the previous step comes in handy.

When applying and interviewing, your goal should be to demonstrate to the recruiter that you are a great fit for their company. You want to show that you have the skills, insight, and passion that they’re looking for. Do whatever you can to make sure that your application stands out from the crowd by following the guidelines carefully and adding as much detail as possible.

If you don’t have the necessary skills or knowledge at the time of the interview, make sure that you’ve signed up for classes and/or case competitions over the coming months and bring that up in your application and during your interview. The more you can demonstrate that you are willing to do whatever it takes to become a valuable contributor, the better.

After Accepting Your Internship

After you accept your internship offer, your job isn’t done. Instead, it’s the perfect time to sign up for classes that match your chosen field. If you’re going into finance, take some more finance classes. Take communication classes that can benefit you in positions of management. Take a strategy class so that you can be a better competitor in the business world.

MBA students who want to impress during their internship prepare long before they start their new position. If it’s too late to sign up for classes, join a few business case competitions or participate in student-run organizations that will give you the insight and skills you need. Clubs can offer a broad range of career development opportunities that focus on improving your textbook knowledge with practical application and leadership skills.

During Your Internship

Finally, to get the most out of your internship you need to go into it with the right mindset. Follow these three tips:

  • Network: Your internship is an excellent opportunity to build your social and professional network. Make sure to create relationships with your colleagues and managers; they could have a say in your future.
  • Remember It’s an Interview: Just because you got the internship doesn’t mean the interview is over. The entire summer is your chance to demonstrate to the company that you would make a great employee. At the same time, it’s your chance to interview the organization, job function, and industry to see if it suits you.
  • Make a Difference: Remember that your summer internship is your chance to explore new opportunities. Go into your internship with an open mind and look for chances to make an impact at the company.

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About the Author

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Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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