With the post-graduate recruitment process now more competitive than ever before, many students are turning to internships to get a foot in the door before they even finish their studies. As it turns out, that’s a smart move.
According to a range of different employer surveys, around 75% of companies that offer MBA internships look to former interns when they begin hiring. Similarly, other research has found that paid internships tend to turn into official job offers approximately 65% of the time, whereas outside applicants are hired at a rate of 37%.
It’s clear to see why internships matter. But, what does it mean to get the best one for you, and how do you go about getting it?
Everyone has different career goals, and clearly what’s best for one person will not be the best for another. Figure out what you mean by best, by looking at:
- What role and in what field you need your internship, to fit into your long term career goals
- Which companies are offering the best types of internships for those roles
- What skills and experience you will need to get those internships
A great way to get started is to look at someone working your dream job on LinkedIn and work backward through their CV. Where did they intern, what did they do, and for how long?
Once you’ve got a general idea of what the best internship looks like for you, it’s time to get started on making it happen.
1. Start early, strategise and do your research
Many students complete an internship during the summer break of their two-year MBA program. That’s a great way to get a head start before you graduate, but it also means planning early, because you’re going to have to get on top of it quickly. Remember, the best internships are in high demand, and application deadlines are going to come up quickly in your first-year calendar.
Start developing an internship timeline and strategy a few weeks before your MBA begins. This way, by the time your first semester starts, you’ll already have a clear idea of which companies to approach, and what relevant MBA subjects to choose. Your strategy can include some of these important action points:
- Research career opportunities, growth industries and different roles, to create a target list.
- Use career sites, school resources and online searching to research networks and networking opportunities
- Research companies recruiting in your desired roles and fields, and find out what specific types of internship programs they offer
- Attend conferences and industry events before first semester begins
2. Focus on getting a paid internship
Paid internships are better internships, and not just because of the immediate cash. According to a 2017 survey, students in the United States who completed paid internships with private, for-profit companies received US$53,521 in starting pay when they were formally hired. In contrast, those who had taken on unpaid internships received an average starting offer of US$34,375.
Another study also found that unpaid internships led to lower levels of job satisfaction, and less skill development than paid internships. Some companies also offer unpaid internships with no guarantee of eventual hiring. Be careful, and make sure you ask a company if they intend to recruit via their internship program before you begin working for them.
3. Get some pre-internship experience or brush up on some skills if needed
If you want the best internship possible, the application process is going to be competitive. All MBA students have already been in the workforce for some years, so you are competing with other people who have experience. Recruiters will be looking for students who have skills that match the position.
If the internship you’d like to get demands experience in a few areas you’ve not covered yet, it might be time to brush up on some skills or get some further work experience. A great way to do this is to take a crash course, tailor your MBA subjects to match the gaps in your knowledge or to take on some relevant volunteer work, or extracurricular roles, while at university.
4. Find out what internship services your school offers
The single most important helping hand through this whole process is, of course, your education provider. Before going off to organise your own internship, you’ll want to find out what industry connections and internship programs your school offers.
Some MBA programs will offer a whole guided process, setting you up in an internship using their industry contacts. Whereas, some others will take a more hands-off approach, allowing you to take the reigns and offering support where needed.
In either case, it’s important that you take the lead in the process. If you want to get the best internship possible, it’s important not to be satisfied simply with what’s on offer at your school. If you have already conducted your own research and identified better opportunities, discuss this early on with your careers advisor to find out what kind of assistance or contacts they may be able to offer, outside the standard program.
At Torrens, as well as an internship program, MBA students get access to a personal success coach. You coach will be able to support you in arranging your internship program, whether it is via school industry contacts or through your own initiative.
5. Organise an internship independently
If you’ve explored all avenues at your institution and you’ve found that the best internship for you is going to happen outside their official program, you’ll need to work a little harder to make it happen. But, don’t worry: this may mean the process will be less competitive, and your institution will support you. Ask your careers service for assistance during the process.
Assuming you’ve come up with a shortlist of places you’d like to intern at, the next step is to consider how you’ll contact them. Some of them may be posting internship opportunities online, so take a look on some job-seeking websites, or on their own website. If not, you can approach them and find out.
Ideally, you will have some connection to these companies in your networks. Take a look at your extended network on LinkedIn, ask your lecturers and careers advisors, and try and get introductions from your own industry contacts. If not, call the company directly and find out who to contact about internship opportunities. The more direct human contact you can have, the better it is for first impressions.
If the company has an existing internship program in place, great, you can ask them how to apply. If not, you can enquire if they might be interested to take someone on. Don’t be shy, and make sure you’ve practiced an elevator pitch about why you’re a great fit for their company. Read a few more tips here on organising your own internship, to make sure you’ve got all bases covered.
6. Do lots of preparation before your interview
Finally, you’ve found your perfect internship and reached the interview stage. Now’s your chance to shine! You’ve already put so much thought into why this internship is the right one for you that you should be able to talk freely on the spot.
However, just to be sure you get that really great internship, follow these super important tips on preparation:
- Know your company, field, and industry, inside out. Being able to discuss industry trends and the details of your company and its position in the market is essential.
- Come into the interview with a clear set of internship goals, and an idea of what you would try and achieve in your role.
- Practice your interview a whole lot beforehand, based off some of the standard questions.
- Often, interviewers want you to tell stories about how you’ve managed situations in the past. Try and pre-empt those, by looking at your previous experiences from the perspective of this role.
- Prepare questions for your employer. They will inevitably ask, ‘do you have any questions for us?’ and you never want to say ‘no.’
If you’re still feeling unsure, check out a few more handy tips on how to ace your internship interview here.