7 Tips for Successfully Closing MBA Summer Internships

A career coach, b-school student, graduate, and official offer their advice on best and worst practices.

(A US News.com article written by Menachem Wecker, Staff Writer)

AS THEIR SUMMER internships wind down, MBA students can learn a lesson from Ernest Thayer’s 1888 poem, Casey at the Bat, in which the “mighty Casey” strikes out in a clutch baseball scenario due to his arrogance.

“Don’t stroll or limp to the end of your internship. No matter what kind of an experience you’ve had, your self-esteem will be affected by the way you bring things to a close,” writes Robert Bruner, the dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, in his blog post, “To the Summer Intern: Remember This Batter.”

Former and current MBA student interns and career experts echo Bruner’s advice, and offer seven of their own tips for rounding out summer internships:

  1. Be professional: Interns from smaller towns often come to New York City, fail to appreciate the “horse race,” and make poor impressions by showing up late to work, says Roy Cohen, a New York-based career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. In the internship home stretch, it’s particularly important to be mature, he says. “Sometimes there’s an immaturity that gets expressed that really can sabotage success in securing a full-time offer.”
  2. Maintain relationships: Even if they are interning at companies that can’t extend full-time offers at the end of the summer, MBA students should build and maintain relationships during the second year of their MBA program, according to Cohen. That way, he says, students can get references when they apply for other jobs.
  3. Don’t be too aggressive: Sally Stahl, the director of MBA career advising and education at the University of California—Los Angeles Anderson School of Management, cites one student, who irritated colleagues by stepping on toes, as an example of an intern who misunderstood corporate culture. “Get buy-in for what you are going to do,” she says. “Don’t go solving problems that aren’t yours to solve.”
  4. Connect on LinkedIn: Michael Smouha, a second-year MBA student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, has used LinkedIn—which he calls “the standard business social connectivity tool”—to connect with “all the key people” at his San Jose-based Cisco internship.

When they use LinkedIn, students should send periodic and purposeful updates, rather than “just checking in,” says Cohen, the career coach. And before students finish their internships, UCLA’s Stahl advises, they should ask their supervisors how they prefer to be contacted. “Then you know you’re not being a pest,” she says.

  1. Communicate with your manager: Zach Bosin, a recent MBA graduate of Indiana University—Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business, who had a summer 2011 internship at General Electric, advises interns to talk their supervisors as their internships wind down to ensure that they’ve understood expectations. This is the time to “cement your image” and make sure that the internship has been successful overall, says Bosin, a product marketing manager at Symantec in San Francisco. Interns should also ask for a formal evaluation at the end of their internships, recommends Stahl, of UCLA.
  2. Be yourself: When interns interact with their supervisors, they shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves, and it’s even appropriate to crack jokes during their initial interviews, says Smouha, the MIT student. Smouha admits that being true to oneself is a bit of a cliché; however, “It’s one thing where MBA students are a bit hesitant.”
  3. But don’t be too casual: Social media and gossiping are two areas where MBA students may take informality too far, says UCLA’s Stahl. She cites the example of one student whose full-time offer was revoked after the student accidentally hit “reply all” in an E-mail that wasn’t as positive about the internship experience as it should have been. “Other people have done stupid things on Twitter,” says Stahl. “That’s one of the big things. Behave yourself basically. Don’t be an idiot.”

And, interns should remember how small the business world is, advises Stahl. As a member of the board of directors of the MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance, Stahl and her colleagues often compare notes and learn of students who apply for jobs after having already accepted an offer. “It gets around,” she warns.

By Menachem Wecker
Menachem Wecker Staff Writer