Summer MBA Internships: An Important Career Stepping Stone |

Summer MBA Internships: An Important Career Stepping Stone

By QS Contributor

Updated December 29, 2023 Updated December 29, 2023

Summer internships are an important career stepping stone and MBA hopefuls need to recognise this fact sooner than later.

As any MBA student or top business school will confirm, a summer internship is a critical step in the process of enhancing your credentials, and landing a full time job. With more students doing internships, employers expect to see them listed on the resumes of potential employees. And, in the weakened global economy, internships are even more important to boosting a candidate’s competitiveness.

Though an MBA internship is not a guarantee of a full time position, it does enhance your chances. According to the U.S.-based National Association of Colleges and Employers 2008 Experiential Education Survey, employers extended job offers to nearly 70 per cent of their interns.

“Companies are not just looking for interns, but for potential full-time hires. So, you need to convince them that you're a good fit, not for three months, but for three years,” says Jeanne Chan, a 2008 graduate of Olin Business School, Washington University.

Summer internships offer the important opportunity to work closely with professionals in your field, and to develop knowledge, competencies, and experience related directly to your career goals. If managed correctly, internships will lead to new contacts, mentors, and references. With recommendations in hand from business relationships developed during a summer internship, securing a job becomes that much easier.  According to Catherine Ahlgren, Assistant Dean for Career Services, Boston University School of Management, summer internships are essential for MBA candidates changing careers or with less work experience than their peers.  “The competition is greater now that many candidates have more years of relevant experience; the more prepared a candidate is, the better their chances of success.”

Finding MBA Internships

If you want a summer internship, you need to start planning in the late fall, when top MBA employers begin their internship hiring process; in some cases, application deadlines are only weeks away. “In this [downturn] economy, students need to have multiple plans, particularly if their first choice had been an internship in investment banking,” says Diane Morgan, Director of Career Services at London Business School. “These options might include exploring alternative job functions like asset management or corporate finance as well as other geographic locations such as Dubai, Hong Kong, and Latin America.”

Other advice is to take advantage of the numerous services and job postings available from career services, and attend as many on-campus career fairs and networking events as possible. It’s important to personally introduce yourself to speakers and representatives from the companies that interest you.  Be sure to ask for their business cards so that you can follow-up after the event. The London Business School runs a Women In Business breakfast series while QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the leading career and education experts, host Women in Leadership and Diversity in Leadership forums in London and around the world.  Though not traditional recruiting events, these workshops provide exposure to a range of companies, and valuable insight into their business strategy and directions.

These types of events offer students the opportunity to meet potential networking contacts.  Evan Saroka, a second year student at Harvard Business School attended an on-campus presentation given by Inner Circle Sports, a sports- focused merchant bank in New York.  He followed up with one of the principals and was hired for the summer. “I believe I stood out because I made the case for how my strong passion for sports, combined with background in finance and mergers and acquisitions, could help them achieve their goals,” says Saroka.

Former colleagues, fellow students and MBA alumni can help when it comes to securing an MBA internship. Contacting someone with a shared background or interest provides a point of common interest, and a way to break the ice. Internship seekers should ask a networking contact about the company culture, and interview process. In today’s competitive job market, this inside information can give a potential intern an advantage over their competition.

Be a detective. Find out which companies are growing orexpanding internationally. Which are still posting jobs on their websites or participating in career fairs? Visit their websites and look up their employment opportunities. Network with anyone you know who can help get you in the door. Use this information to build a case for how you can help the company achieve its goals.

Selling Yourself

“There are plenty of great candidates out there, and hiring managers can easily distinguish the candidates who are inquisitive and passionate about an internship from those who apply just because having an internship with that company looks good,” says Walter Taraska, a director at Fidelity Investments, a global financial services company. Jeff Beavers, Director of Global University Relations at Whirlpool Corporation, a home appliances manufacturer, agrees. To him, it is essential that “MBA candidates clearly articulate the impact they have had at previous employers and translate those accomplishments into specific business solutions their new employer of choice seeks. These are the candidates who stand out in a competitive applicant pool.”

The seriousness with which candidates take the application process is an indicator of their level of interest, according to Maureen Crawford Henz, Manager of Talent Acquisition at Osram Sylvania, a lighting manufacturer, and a division of Siemens. “Education does not equal qualifications.  Dress your application for the part.”  From Henz’s perspective, it’s a buyer’s market so canned resume formats, spelling errors and formulaic cover letters are cause for certain elimination. Henz adds, “If you take the time to write a good cover letter, you’ll likely take the extra time needed on the job.”

At Oliver Wyman the international management consulting firm, “case interviews are an opportunity to show how you approach business challenges,”according to Lauren LeVeen, Recruiting Manager.  “Many MBAs answer solely using the business frameworks they are learning about in class. The candidates who apply those but go a step further, providing creative options and solutions for real world scenarios, and who are both personable yet professional are the ones who get the offers.”

Finally, “never underestimate the power of passion for a role, company, product or service in tipping the scales your way,” says Gary Bergmann, Assistant Director, Career Services, Boston University School of Management.

Internships are important to enhancing credentials, testing new situations and positioning MBAs for the next step. With persistence, passion and creativity, a summer internship is within reach.

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in December 2023

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