I’m a Darden first-year heading to a consulting internship this summer, and wanted to share some thoughts on how you can get a jump-start on the internship recruiting process. As I am sure you’ve been told repeatedly, the first semester of business school is going to have a lot going on and you won’t want to miss any of it, but you might be able to use some of your break between work and school to make the recruiting piece a little easier. I’m writing from the perspective of the consulting process that I went through, but these ideas may well apply to other industries.
Important disclaimer: It is completely OK also to not think about recruiting until you get to school. You know yourself best – if what you need is a break from all life to-dos and career planning, take the break, and be refreshed for school when it starts.
Retake the GMAT – if you want
You’re into business school – hurrah! However, it is a reality that consulting firms (and many firms in other industries) will weight your GMAT in deciding whether to offer you an interview. You can offset a lower score with networking, a strong resume, or a high undergrad GPA, or some combination of those things, but if you would be more comfortable, you can use this time to retake the GMAT. If your score doesn’t improve – no one ever has to know!
Keep an eye out for consulting firm-sponsored summer programs
Many of the major consulting firms offer them – some have a specific target audience but some invite applications from any incoming business school student. Your school’s admitted students’ page or career services department likely has kept a list of these opportunities and the application processes.
I didn’t attend one of these and was still successful in recruiting with multiple firms, so this is not a make-or-break. But if the timing lines up with your schedule, it can be a good way to start learning about consulting (particularly if you’re coming from a completely different industry) and getting your head in the game for the recruiting process.
Make notes before you brain-dump your last job
Once recruiting starts, you will have tons of people asking you to sum up everything that’s awesome about you ever. The break you have right now is a really good time to think back over all you’ve accomplished in your professional career and sketch out stories that demonstrate leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, analytical ability – basic things you’ll be asked for in interviews.
You’ve probably brainstormed a lot of this for your business school applications already – just put it into a word document on your computer and forget about it until the fall. Stream of consciousness is perfect, detail (what you did, who you worked with, what the outcome was) is helpful. One format commonly used in practicing for behavioral (fit) interviews is STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Result. I’ve found that old performance reviews can be a good starting point, since they usually describe a few scenarios in detail.
Learn excel basics
You will almost certainly learn excel skills in your first year at school out of necessity, but if you’ve never used the program before, you can make the learning process less painful. There are a number of free tutorials available online, and some schools offer pre-matriculation courses or similar opportunities.
This is less from a recruiting standpoint (your interviewers won’t test your excel skills until after you have a job) and more from the knowledge that, if you’re not spending precious minutes of first year learning how to open excel, you will have more minutes for fun, sleep, and (wahoo) networking calls!
Take a break!
I know that sounds counterintuitive given I’ve just made a whole list of things you could do this summer but seriously. Do some or all of those things if you have time and interest, but also take a vacation! Take a road trip! Read books for fun! You’ve earned it.
In conclusion, you are going to love business school. Each of your schools will have a ton of information and resources to support you through the recruiting process, so no matter what, if you show up with enthusiasm for learning more about potential career paths and patience for reworking your resume ten times, you’re going to be fine. I hope you have a great summer and an amazing start to your first year!
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2015
Darden School at University of Virginia