Guest post by Seven Ma, MBA Student at Duke Fuqua in its Health Sector Management Program.
Most full time MBA students choose to do at least one internship during the summer between their 1st and 2nd years. It’s a great opportunity to apply what we’ve learned in class, rapidly build a professional network in the firm, experience what is going on in the industry, and may even lead to a full time offer. But how does one begin the searching process and find the ideal internship?
1) Talk to a lot of people
The first thing to do is to talk to people who either interned or worked for the firms or industries you’re targeting. It’s okay to not have a specific industry target, and that’s why this is a process that should begin as early as possible. I’d even argue that this should happen even before or during the MBA application process. It’s the easiest, and arguably the most efficient way, to learn about a future job role without actually taking the position. These are also called informational interviews, and offer fantastic insight on what it’s like to work in specific industries or functions.
Where does one start? An effective channel is with alumni. LinkedIn makes this very easy. Do an advanced search and put in some search criteria (company, geography, industry) and also input a school you went to. You’ll be able to create a spreadsheet fairly quickly.
2) Know what companies recruit MBAs for
Companies who recruit on campus at MBA programs are looking for specific roles to fill. It’s important to figure out what these roles are and think about which ones, if any, would be helpful for your future goals. This was something I did not do well initially. In retrospect, I should’ve explored marketing in pharma sooner. When I started recruiting, I only knew that I wanted to work in pharma but did not know exactly which role would be the most interesting to me.
I should’ve taken time during the spring or summer before the MBA program to figure this out. That way, during on campus corporate presentations and networking events I can dig deeper in the firm’s culture and build more meaningful relationships with recruiters. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the first term of the MBA as classes and recruiting for the summer happen together. Having a targeted approach and head start in the process will be helpful.
3) Be open, and understand your goals
In the recruiting process, it’s important to think about the customer. In this case, it’s the hiring firm. An applicant has to clearly articulate how past experiences are relevant to a future position. To do this, the applicant must first understand what his or hers goals are in order to figure out the translatable skills and experiences.
One tip I have is to be as open as possible. This means to approach this process as a way to learn more about oneself. At Duke Fuqua, we had “Day in Consulting”, “Day in Finance”, and “Day in Marketing” for new first-year MBA students to do just that. However, it’s up to the student to take advantage of these opportunities through being introspective and inquisitive. This is again something that can happen before the MBA. There are plenty of volunteering opportunities in industry conferences, Meetups, and several ways to network with folks in your industries or functions of interest.
4) Keep talking to people
Because the first point is so important, I want to repeat it again here. There is no substitute to engaging in conversation with people. I found that this is a great way to test your assumptions and also learn unexpected things about a role or company. The recruiting process is ultimately about finding the right fit between a firm’s culture and the applicant. Talking to people in these firms is often the only way to know what it’s like on the inside, short of actually having worked there. On my blog, I review a lot of books about biopharma companies and enjoy reading them, but they are no substitute to talking to actual people.
Steven Ma is an MBA student at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business (’15). He has a background in the life sciences and is passionate about innovation in health care. The Duke MBA and its Health Sector Management Program has been a critical part in Steven’s transition into business and he enjoys sharing his experiences. Visit his blog, From Bench to Board.