How to Turn a Summer Internship into a Full-Time MBA Job

How to Turn a Summer Internship into a Full-Time MBA Job main image

A summer internship abroad or at home is a wonderful way to suss out a potential employer, make valuable connections and secure a full-time job. But, with so many options, how do you pick the right internship? Competition is fierce, so you’ll need to find a way to stand apart from the pack.

We spoke with careers experts and current interns for clues on how to find the right internship, land it and make the most of it.

Identify what you want and find the right fit

Start your hunt for the best summer internship for you by doing your research.

Nandita Vijayaraghavan has accepted a summer internship at PepsiCo in New York and will work on marketing their North American beverage unit. The Michigan Ross MBA candidate began her internship search by researching companies’ culture, cold emailing alumni and speaking with former interns.

“My long-term goal is to work in brand marketing for a major brand that has a stake in media, pop culture and tech,” she says.

“But it [the research] helped me narrow my list of companies to the few I could envision myself working at long term.”

She stresses the importance of beginning your summer internship search as early as possible. “Having a clear vision of where I wanted to be helped in being genuine in my outreach,” Vijayaraghavan says.

“It ultimately put me in the great place of choosing an internship out of nine amazing offers and knowing I could be happy and successful [in that internship].”

Make yourself a must-hire candidate

The research shouldn’t stop when you find an internship that you want to do, as you’ll need to do more legwork in order to stand apart from other applicants. “Understand what is happening in your target industry and be able to talk about the current state of it,” says Beth Briggs, assistant dean of career services for NYU Stern.

“You must be able to showcase your skills and help prospective employers see the connection between your past roles and what skills you can bring to your internship.”

Toni Rhorer, associate director of career coaching at W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, adds that it’s important for MBA students to understand their unique value proposition.

“They need to tell their story in a way that’s confident and authentic,” she says.

“Having a strong elevator pitch, embracing networking and practicing interviewing are all ways students can help themselves stand out.”

Leverage technology and online tools to boost your chances

Technology can help you find the right summer internship and stand out from the crowd. Networking, CV building and searching for internship adverts can all be improved with tech, says Heather Byrne, managing director of the Career Development Office at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“This includes services like LinkedIn, which is integral to networking and building one’s brand,” she says.

“LinkedIn also allows students to view alumni career paths and view job postings, which is very helpful as students [can] build out their long-term career plans.”

She recommends MBA students check out specialist job sites, such as MBA Relish, MBA Exchange and Non-Profit Connection.

Once the right summer internship is found, Ross students use VMock, a tool which offers automated and personalized resume feedback tailored to their career path goal, to help them land it.

Properly prepare for your first day

Once you’ve landed an internship, what can you do to prepare for your first day? “Talk to any classmates or second-year MBA students who may have worked or interned at the company,” says NYU’s Briggs.

It’s also a good idea to continue to research the industry and the company to make sure you’re on top of current events at the organization, she says.

If possible, she adds, ask your future manager to have a coffee with you prior to starting the internship, and get their suggestions on things you can do to best prepare.

Once you’re there, make the most of it

One of the biggest benefits to a summer internship is the opportunity to network with senior leaders. Companies often give interns access to executives, who can share insight into their strategies which may prove useful.

Many companies also offer a variety of social activities that students should participate in, since building relationships with fellow interns can lead to a broader network in the future.

Aside from the high caliber of people students are introduced to, the educational aspect of the internship is also key. “For career changers, this may be the only direct experience they have in a new function area,” says the Carey school’s Rhorer.

They can gain new skill-sets and use them to launch a full-time job search at a new company, she says, adding: “Students can make the most of the internship by being open-minded to taking on projects that stretch them and add to their toolbox.”

Do everything you can to secure that full-time position

Simardeep Kochar completed a summer internship with Amazon in San Francisco’s Bay Area last year as part of his MBA at the Carey school.

It may sound obvious but completing assignments on time may lead to you securing more autonomy, responsibility — and the opportunity to shine in front of management, he says.

“When my manager was convinced that I could be trusted, he sent me to China on a solo business trip to negotiate and onboard new suppliers,” says Kochar. “This was a huge responsibility.”

The biggest mistake interns make is not asking their manager or mentor for feedback, he adds. “It’s essential to get continuous feedback on your performance and ask about any shortcomings [you have] that you can work on.”

Most companies have a six-week mid-term review built in to the internship program. “Have an open conversation with your manager about your strengths and weaknesses, and get their opinion on your project so far, so that you can course correct,” Kochar adds.

Ultimately, an internship at top companies such as Amazon will give you plenty of time to shine in front of a prospective employer. But to get a full-time job offer you will need to plan carefully, refine your strategy and use every tool at your disposal.

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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