MBA Internship Tips: Getting an Internship |

MBA Internship Tips: Getting an Internship

By Nicole Willson

Updated Updated

An MBA internship can help you launch your career. Not only does it give you a chance to work at a top company and learn more about your field, but the process of finding an MBA internship can help you clarify your career goals and build lifelong professional connections. Looking to get started with your MBA internship search? Here are six tips from career services directors at three top business schools.

1. Know what your school’s career services department offers

“Students who ignore the role of career services are doing themselves a disservice,” states Jonathan Masland, director of career development at Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School. Since each school varies, it’s important to investigate the types of tools and workshops offered by the career services department.  Knowing what your school provides will give you an idea of where you can receive outside help as well as what you need to do on your own. There are two different types of MBA internship searches, as identified by Masland. Career services can help with both.

The first type of internship search is the on-campus search where companies (typically those in the consulting, finance and tech sectors) recruit from specific business schools. An on-campus search will put you in direct contact with the career services department since it is involved in much of the on-campus recruitment process, including organizing resumes and scheduling events.

The second type of MBA internship search is the targeted off-campus search which is more self-directed. Although candidates need to contact the company directly, business schools offer assistance for the off-campus search. For example, the career services department can help you craft an off-campus strategy and identify additional companies to contact.  Fellow students and alumni can help facilitate off-campus networking

2. Own your internship search

While working with career services helps, you need to take charge of your internship search.  According to Sheryle Dirks, associate dean for career management at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, not only is a sense of personal ownership essential, it also increases the likelihood of landing an MBA internship. “Off-campus or on-campus, employers make hiring decisions, so the connection between the student and the company determines the hiring outcome. Students who ‘own’ the process from start to finish will be more prepared to shine in those employer interactions, which will propel them toward the success that they are seeking.”

There are also aspects of the internship search that career services that you need to do on your own, such as company research. Chris Weber, the director of career advising and corporate outreach at UCLA Anderson’s Parker Career Center points out that “There are going to be things that can’t be handed to internship seekers, such as industry trends happening right now that a student has to be comfortable talking about.”

3. Do your homework

Part of owning the internship search is doing your own research about potential employers as well as your industry so you can speak knowledgably with recruiters. At UCLA Anderson, students are advised to read the business sections of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal every day, so they can speak about business in general terms.

“You should also know the deep down industry challenges that are going on for the particular industries you’re interested in,” states Weber. Public company reports, such as 10-Ks (annual performance reports required by the US Securities and Exchange Commission) can provide insight about a potential employer’s strategy which will help prepare you for interviews. This kind of research will also give you a better understanding of a particular company, which Weber says is important since, “Recruiters like to speak to candidates who know what their company is doing.”

Reading, however, isn’t the only important part of the internship research process. Networking, specifically speaking to people who work in your chosen industry, is another way to learn about companies. For Masland, “A big piece of networking is learning about industries, companies and functions.” Masland also cites networking as a good way to learn about the tactics for applying to a specific company, such as the best way to craft a resume or cover letter or the types of questions which will be asked during an interview. You can also use networking to learn about the culture of a company, including how decisions are made, how teams get along and the structure of the hierarchy

4. Find the right fit

“Fit is a complex concept that spans across an employer’s values, practices, people, purpose, and culture, yet it’s communicated through every interaction,” states Dirks. How do you go about determining fit? “Pay attention to what you hear and see, and take time to reflect after interactions to maximize your insights.”

Networking plays a big role in helping you identify whether an industry or company is the right fit. It allows you to get information from a range of people so you can get a better sense of what the internship experience for a particular company.

Starting to network early on during your MBA program will give you more time and information to help you decide what you want to do. “Clarifying what you want to do is as important as getting the job itself,” states Masland. Students who avoid contemplating their career goals run the risk of taking a job that’s a bad fit.

In order to help students identify their career goals, career services offices offer assessment tools and workshops. Students also need to do work on their own by evaluating which skills they want to build right now as well as in the long-term.

According to Masland, it’s important that MBAs understand the value of finding the right fit, since some MBAs end up developing a herd mentality. This can cause them to choose an internship based on what their classmates are doing instead of looking more critically at whether a company or industry is right for them

5. Focus on general networking instead of only contacting a company when there’s a job

Contacting a company about a specific job is just one piece of networking, and it won’t give you a sense of whether or not you’ll actually like the job. That’s why Weber advises MBAs to “Think of networking as a continued conversation as opposed to a transactional one.”

Focusing on general networking, as opposed to until a job is posted, increases your credibility as someone who is truly interested in working for a specific company. When a student waits until late spring to get in touch with Tuck alumni, one piece of feedback Masland usually receives is, “Why is this student just contacting me now?” Alumni expect MBA students to get in touch with them earlier in the year, instead of right before the end of the term. Masland also points that when a student waits until he or she has an interview to start networking, they run the risk of coming off as someone who isn’t interested in the specific company and just wants to get a job

6. Treat networking like a relationship

According to Weber, relationship building is one of the most important parts of the networking process. Part of building relationships is continuing speaking to people and reminding them that they are interested in the internship. Another part of relationship building is attending multiple on-campus events hosted by the same company, since recruiters often track attendance for these activities

In order to build relationships, you also need to be consistent and authentic in expressing your interest. Dirks advises students to “Engage authentically during the process, as you will not succeed on the job if you represent yourself in ways that are inconsistent with the real you.”

One important part of relationship building is identifying mentors and champions. Mentors are people who can offer advice. Champions are different from mentors in that they are the people within an organization who will fight for you.

Finding champions usually takes more work than finding mentors. You can find them, however, by identifying influential people within an organization and working to get them on your side. Offering to help a potential champion is one way to get them to advocate for you. You just need to make sure that whatever you’re helping with doesn’t interfere with your main job.

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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