The benefits of an internship

Practical experience is invaluable and the way to secure it, while still studying for an MBA degree, is by applying for an internship. Thus, you will not only work closely with professionals in your field and develop knowledge, competencies, and experience related directly to your career goals but you will also make new contacts.

You will further develop your practical skills, stay in touch with the industry and experiment with careers that match your professional interests. According to a GMAC survey, MBA interns have distinct learning motivations.

For example, as a group, interns in investment banking want to improve their competency by learning financial analysis skills, increase their company knowledge by learning about employment opportunities within a specific bank, and enhance their career by learning about job options throughout the industry.

All in all, the learning motivation of those pursuing an internship exceeds their performance motivation. Most interns have three distinct learning goals – competency, company and career. According to the GMAC data all three goals are met during an internship, though results differ for the different industries. For example, manufacturing industry interns reported the most soft skill learning and government/nonprofit interns reported the least.

The gap between soft and hard skill learning is largest for consulting and technology industry interns. In total, according to GMAC data for 2012, 44% of interns reported receiving a job offer after completing their internships. Those who did not receive an offer estimated they had a 63% chance of receiving one. There was substantial variation across industries in the proportion of interns who reported receiving offers.

Interns working in consulting (77%) reported the highest proportion of job offers received, probably because consulting firms typically make offers by the end of the internship. Interns in the technology (22%) and government/nonprofit (21%) industries reported the lowest proportion of job offers received, probably because fewer interns in those industries thought their employers intended to use internships for full-time recruiting; only 16% of government/nonprofit interns thought so, compared with 95% of consulting interns.

So you can hardly make a bad move with an MBA internship. For the majority of graduating MBAs, internships provide an opportunity to develop industry-specific abilities, develop strong teamwork skills and increase the likelihood of building professional networking contacts, mentoring relationships and so on. The GMAC survey concludes that those MBA students who have undertaken an internship typically perceive that they have learned more about the company or career in which they have interned and are more likely to receive and accept job offers.

Research and select carefully

In fact, it is advisable to begin considering your internship options while still choosing a business school – once you have identified the field in which you want to grow professionally you should look into the business schools which offer internships in the venue of your preference. And if you don’t know where to start, visit your university’s career centre – a must-stop for all potential interns. On-campus recruitment fairs are also recommended – you should use them to meet as many people as possible. Seek advice, make contacts and network with people in your desired field.

Many students find a wealth of information within internship directories at libraries, bookstores, and some online programmes. Talking to professors, alumni and other students can also be quite helpful. Although your objective is to find out what vacancies are available in the professional field of your choice, you should not limit your search to just a couple of the most popular options. Searching beyond the obvious, i.e. placements with large companies located in metropolitan areas, may not only increase your chances of getting an internship but can also prove valuable in terms of the quality of work you will be asked to perform. With large companies you may be assigned small tasks, whereas in a small enterprise you may have to take charge of more meaningful functions.

In other words, looking beyond internships which offer prestige, pay, and considerable hours offers students the ability to advance their personal goals while gaining the crucial on-the- job experience necessary to propel their careers. Selecting is never easy, especially when you have a number of good options to choose from, which should be the case if you have done your research well. There are a number of factors which will help you narrow down your choice. First, check to see that the deadline is not too tight and the application requirements are not too hard to meet. Then proceed by considering the location and the pay. If you opt for an unpaid but a challenging internship in terms of workload, you must explore options to cover your expenses while fulfilling internship responsibilities. Contacting companies by phone or email can also assist you in the sorting process. Furthermore, you should consider the time you are willing to dedicate to an internship – can you do it during the school year (for 4 or 6 months) or are you more inclined to work during the summer breaks of your two-year MBA programme?