I am six months into the MBA program and two weeks into the thick of internship recruiting, and I get it now. I finally understand why the MBA application process is so vigorous. Among many other reasons, MBA schools are preparing you for one of the most important activities in the MBA program, finding a job. Following are four key lessons I learned along the way, that is, the hard way.
If applicable, get your internship recruitment done early at affinity conferences
As a female Pacific Islander, I kick myself all the time for not starting early with affinity conferences. Attending diversity conferences allow you to meet with your target companies as well as to interview with them for target positions. These conferences typically occur in the months of August and October, and yes, it will be a stressful time for you while your colleagues enjoy the MBA social scene.
However, the tables will be turned later in the year when you have received and accepted an ideal offer, taking advantage of the amazing MBA resources at your fingertips and having a real winter break, while your colleagues are busily preparing for interviews, which begin as early as the first week of January. To learn more about affinity conferences, contact your school’s career services.
Keep your options open
Lastly, I know this may seem contradictory to my previous lessons, but here’s what I mean when I say to keep your options open: First of all, pursue both on- and off-campus opportunities. These will give you more options, minimize competitive pressures, and ensure you get to your target companies, which sometimes do not recruit on campus.
Secondly, think of your internship search as a two-year search so do not completely exclude companies because their offices are in unattractive locations, or positions, or because you might be working on an unattractive project.
A small percentage of MBA students get and accept full-time offers from their summer internships, so try not to get bogged down from the pressure of getting the perfect summer internship. Instead, think of your summer internship as experience you can leverage to get your ideal full-time position.
Lastly, do not exclude yourself from applying for a job because you feel you may not have the “preferred” qualifications and experience listed on the job posting. Seriously, most MBA students are career switchers, therefore, are most likely in the same situation, and employers expect this. The worst that could happen is you do not get invited to interview for your ideal position. In that case, there is always full-time recruiting next year.
In summary, have an idea of what you want to out of your summer internship, start early by reaching out for assistance, attend a diversity conference, and keep an open-mind because anything can happen. If you use any one of these four lessons in your internship search, your experience will most likely be a little better than mine.
Shaw-chin Ioana Chiu, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, The Fuqua School of Business at Duke