Keith Bevans, partner and head of global consultant recruiting, Bain & Co.
I think, first and foremost, the goal of the summer internship program with Bain is to get an offer and hopefully join us full-time. When you talk about having a successful internship, it’s important that you define what success means. Over 90% of our interns get an offer to return and an even higher percentage accept that offer. For us, the ultimate success is that people have a great experience, do great work, and feel good about the work they’ve done, the impact they’ve had, and joining Bain. That’s how I would define a mutual success. That’s the first thing that’s worth keeping in mind: Everybody should be] aligned and all the incentives are aligned for you to have a successful summer and get that offer. You should step into an environment that’s very supportive.
The next thing is to really focus on the impact that you’re having on the job. For whatever internship that you’re doing, you should be trying to make a real difference. In that sense, you’re not on a tour or a safari looking at and experiencing different things, you should be making a meaningful contribution to the organization that you joined. We put our MBAs on live case teams and work streams that meet with real clients to share their work. Go in with that mindset that, yes, this might be a new industry and a career change, but your goal has to be to have an impact and make a difference with the executives at the companies we’re working with. At Bain, that’s part of our DNA. So being successful at Bain requires our interns to really think about driving results and impact for our clients in a way that may be new to them coming into consulting or joining one of our teams.
There were two other things I wanted to mention. One revolves around networking. It is really important, as we get to know you over the summer, that what I see a lot is interns will naturally gravitate to the teams they are working on and to each other. It’s like being a freshman in college: They all stick to each other because it’s all new to them. What I would encourage interns to do is, once you’ve established those early relationships with their class, make the effort to get to know people beyond your immediate sphere of influence. Go beyond your case or class. Find a consultant you might have met in recruiting or a manager or partner who is working in an industry or practice area that might interest you longer term. See if you can go to lunch or grab a coffee one day. Maybe after an office meeting, which is usually followed by a social gathering, make it a point to catch up with them. We have, throughout the year, different sports team and clubs meeting in the office. Find ways to participate in them. I would make it a more concerted effort to deliberately expand your network beyond the obvious sort of ‘You’re on my team,’ you’re in my summer class.’
The last thing that I think is important for interns to remember is that they should really be themselves during the summer, just like they were during recruiting. Ultimately the success will come from you being really good at the job and in a place that really needs what you can provide and being around a group of people and a culture that’s supportive and you feel comfortable with. You have to be genuine with what you value, how you think about problems, and what you are trying to do. Ultimately, that will help you understand whether or not the place is a great fit. You’ll do the work and hopefully get the offer. But what you want to do is be excited about that offer and the potential to join that firm at the end of the summer.
What that means is that, from roll out perspective, you’re not looking for people who are just like you. You’re not looking for someone who went to the same school or grew up in the same part of the world or has the same hobbies. What you’re looking for is a composite of values, of all the values that are important to you being represented across the office team, whether that’s spending time with your family, exercising, having coffee, the arts, travel, or just spending quiet time to think. You’re not going to find a clone of you sort of fast forward five years from now. What you’re going to find is that, across the entire office, all of those values are represented on the leadership team and the culture. So you know that when you join the culture, you’ll be comfortable there because the things that are important to you are respected and appreciated by the office as well. When you look at it that way, you end up having a pretty good experience with the culture and people in a slightly different way that’s a lot more productive.
Over the years, I’ve had several different interns. The ones who stand out to me are the ones with a great attitude about being ready to learn. They’re eager to make a contribution to the team. I’ve had a couple come into the team who were just eager to go and they’re willing to work hard and learn and study the industry and get all that behind them. And then they’re constantly think about, ‘how does what do fit into the bigger picture?’ How does this work stream fit into the case and how does this case fit into the overall relationship with the client? And knowing how to think big picture really makes them successful on the case side of things.
Another way where I see people being successful is that they have fun during the summer. They have a good sense of humor and learn from their mistakes. They don’t take constructive feedback in a way that’s destructive. They truly try to learn from it and get better at it.
I remember a couple of years ago, we had an intern vs. manager-partner volleyball game. Despite all of the hard work they were doing, we were able to take some time and enjoy the summertime in Chicago. And we (managers-partners) lost for the first time in several years. At the end of the summer, I remember sitting at my desk and seeing a group of interns coming towards my office. They were handing out second place trophies to all of the partners on the way out the door. It was fun – and it just showed they appreciated the relationship and they felt comfortable doing that. It just speaks to, you’re going to have to work hard, learn a lot, and make a great contribution. But when you can build those types of relationships, have fun, and enjoy each other’s company (and poke fun at different things), then I think you’re on the right track.
Editor’s Note: Keith still proudly displays that second place trophy in his office.
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