The Paramount Importance of the MBA Internship

If the job at the end of the rainbow is the destination, then b-school is the journey.  And one of the most critical parts of this journey is the summer internship.  Have you thought much about it?

Ok, so you are working hard on getting into b-school this summer, and perhaps just getting started pulling your admissions package together.  Or perhaps you did that last summer and you are enjoying your final few weeks before you start your MBA program.  Before applicants get too deep into the process, and before students show up on campus, however, they generally begin to make plans and do some vision-casting (or at the very least some day-dreaming) about their post MBA career so they can either relate their goals to the admissions committees, or they can begin crafting their class schedules. 

For full time MBA candidates, the summer internship between first and second year is your one and only shot to get real work experience in your chosen field as an MBA student and therefore puts a lot of pressure on you to find the right opportunity. 

To add to the pressure, students typically begin looking into these opportunities almost as soon as they hit campus in the fall.  That’s right—companies descend upon you as a student as early as week one of classes by way of presentations they make to tell you all about why working there is the bees-knees. 

Because of the volume and variety of company presentations available to first-years, you must focus up early in your MBA, lest you spend every spare moment attending cocktail parties. 

You literally will not have time to take in every presentation, so narrowing down your interests to a couple of chosen areas and a handful of target companies will be critical to your sanity and your schedule.  Plus, attending these corporate-sponsored soirees will indicate interest, which is akin to giving a car salesman your home phone number---don’t show up unless you are ready to make a lasting and frequent connection with that company. 

One of the most nerve-wracking moments in business school, is the day you say yes or no to an internship opportunity.  There are many competing interests when making this decision, which makes it all the harder.  Do you take that job in New York City? After all, you have always wanted to work in the Big Apple, and you may not get a chance to do so after you graduate.  What about that high paying internship in the Midwest?  It’s not really the company you’d like to choose, but you really need the money.  Or maybe you’d like to go where your friends or classmates are going? 

What you should really be focusing on for an internship choice, is where you want to be after your second year, not your first year. 

What opportunity will align you with the company or the industry you have been so desperately targeting? 

Of course it makes perfect sense to intern with the company you think you’d like to work for after you graduate, but what if you can’t land it as an intern?  Does that mean you must rule that company out for a full time opportunity?  Not at all.  Simply think on what experience might make you more attractive than you were as an intern candidate.  Choose a competitor or a complimentary role which would position you better to win a final job. 

Whatever you do during your only summer at B-school, make sure you do something.  Companies generally frown on taking that time off.

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