How To Get The Most From An Internship

Jon Fuller of Clear Admit

Jon Fuller of Clear Admit

Jon Fuller, Senior Admissions Consultant, Clear Admit

I advise interns to proactively seek feedback. It’s pretty typical to have a performance review towards the conclusion of an internship (the ultimate review often being in the form of an offer letter … or not). But it’s in your best interests to check your status along the way, too. Early on, ask your internship manager about having a mid-point review (or more frequent depending on the situation). Divide your big project into smaller deliverables and get feedback while you work on those components. Course corrections and building on your successes over your summer can go along way to ensuring a great experience.

Ann M. Salamy

Ann M. Salamy

Ann M. Salamy, Associate Director, MBA Career Management Center, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

A traditional MBA summer internship lasts 1o weeks and a decision about whether to offer a permanent job to the intern might be made before the end of the summer. This means that interns only have about eight weeks to make an impact. Getting off to a strong start is important: Be sure you fully understand the project, set expectations for the deliverables, and identify the stakeholders.

But overall performance will be judged by more than just the results of the summer internship project. Interns who hustle to add extra value have the biggest impact and the best experiences. Here are a few ideas to contribute:

1) Carve out time on a weekly basis to have introductory meetings with alumni in the company, colleagues in different functional areas and other interns. Understanding the larger picture about strategy, project impact, and potential synergies helps you connect the dots. It also creates an ongoing support network to help you tackle future projects.

2) Attend (and help to organize) team-building events, working lunches, employee networking events, and happy hours. Employers are looking to hire people who contribute to the bottom line and to the culture of the firm.

3) Smile and say “good morning” to colleagues. It’s amazing how often people forget this building block of congeniality. Happiness really is contagious.

Lucy Brady

Lucy Brady

Lucy Brady, Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group

First, relax and don’t overly stress on the offer. It’s easy for me to say that. One thing I always encourage people to remember in my advice: Interns are evaluating us too. So get to know the firm. Get to know the culture. Get to know the people at all different levels. Ask yourself: Can you be successful?

Also, ask yourself: What does success look like? What are common patterns of success and failure? A good question to ask: What do their really successful people do well? For people who don’t do well, what are the common mistakes?

Ask for an evaluation early on. Know what criteria are being for performance reviews. Get tangible examples so you know what skills you need to succeed at the job.

Keep the big picture in mind. The people who succeed at BCG don’t just focus on tasks. They focus on the big ideas and not just executing the day-to-day basics. Have a broader view. By broader view, I mean not just taking an interest in your work, but the work of those around you. We have a strong team culture here. When you have a broader perspective and understand how your piece fits it, it helps you be more effective in your job because you understand the connection points with the bigger picture.

Two other things related to that. We always encourage people to set development goals. Ask yourself: What do you want to get out of summer? Talk about those with your manager. Ask for feedback along the way. That’s important. We’ll show you how to improve. Don’t wait until the end of the summer for feedback. Do it continually through the summer.

In my internship advice, I always encourage people to flag problems early. If they have questions or need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. It’s not a sign of weakness. Part of that is looking for mentors that you’re comfortable asking for help. It could be people you work with (project team), your fellow interns, or people who helped bring you aboard. They can all serve as mentors, to ask questions and learn from.

Finally, have fun. Enjoy the summer. It’s a great opportunity to learn and participate in the social events too. It’s not just about the work. Events are a great way to know the culture of the firm and meet people, to see if this is the kind of place you want to work in the long-term. Too often, interns get so stressed and worried about the offer that they forget to have fun.

Doug Mayes

Doug Mayes

Doug Mayes, Assistant Director of Career Management and Career Coach, N.C. State Jenkins Graduate School of Management

Your internship is an opportunity to get a glimpse into a particular industry. Treat your internship as a giant fact-finding mission and cram as much learning as possible into your brain. Explore different career paths by inviting successful employees for coffee. Ask them about what motivates them to do their best work and what makes them lose sleep. Talk to the company’s customers. What’s driving the industry? What’s broken? Where is the opportunity for a person with your skills to make a huge contribution? Be willing to adjust your path based on what you learn.

By building relationships with people during your internship, you will position yourself as a thoughtful professional — not just an intern focused on your final slide deck. Bonus: All those relationships become internal advocates who can help you convert that internship into a full-time gig once you earn those letters behind your name.

(See next page for internship advice from best-selling author Dan Schawbel)

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