I am six months into the MBA program and two weeks into the thick of internship recruiting, and I get it now. I finally understand why the MBA application process is so vigorous. Among many other reasons, MBA schools are preparing you for one of the most important activities in the MBA program, finding a job. Following are four key lessons I learned along the way, that is, the hard way.
Lesson 1: Stay true to your goals through a skills gap assessment
From those time-consuming, tedious introspective essays that ask you about your goals and passions, you should now have an idea about your long- and short-term goals and how the MBA program can help you accomplish them, at least in theory. Here’s the practical way to apply that introspection.
With a long-term goal in mind, see if you can come up with a post-MBA target position or company. Next, make a list of all the skills you have that would help you get to your target. Rank those skills in terms of proficiency and complete that list by adding in skills you lack. That list should help you identify your skill gaps. Use that skill gap assessment as your blueprint to navigate the internship recruitment process, specifically to target individuals for informational interviews and to determine which company corporate presentations to attend and for which positions to apply. Much like the MBA application process, the internship recruiting process is time-consuming, so the more true you are to your goals, the more guided you will be in internship-related decisions. By the way, don’t worry about having a clear idea. Mine was not that clear, and I found myself, many times, getting side-tracked by the ocean of opportunities in the MBA program. Informational interviews and networking will help clarify your focus.
Lesson 2: Network and conduct informational interviews as early as possible
Most schools will give you access to their alumni networks as soon as they receive your intent to attend confirmation. Search that alumni network for people working at companies or in positions of interest, and begin your outreach as early as possible. Do not exclude current students, because they will actually be one of your most important resources. Once school starts, your time will be limited. Your primary goals in the informational interviews should be to learn more about the interviewee’s position, company and why he or she chose that position or company. These conversations will not only help you narrow your internship search criteria early but also get you leads to off-campus career opportunities, as well as mentors to help you throughout the internship recruitment process. If you prepare early enough, you’ll be able to take advantage of the next lesson.
To be continued, watch for our next blog post.
Shaw-chin Ioana Chiu, Forté Fellow MBA 2014, The Fuqua School of Business at Duke, Forte Fellow