McKinsey? Goldman? Forget It. More MBAs Opt To Spend Summer At Startups

Silicon Valley


Fitzpatrick says recruiting by startups for Harvard students is year-round. Her office has made efforts to get small startups on campus as well as providing opportunities for students to travel to startup-rich Bay Area. “A lot of them (small startups) don’t have the budgeting and recruiting that larger companies have so we make it easier and free for the organization to come on campus,” she says.

According to Fitzpatrick, career management staff at Harvard will do everything from extensive internet research—often using SpotRocket—to exhausting alumni lists to make connections for students with startups. After identifying a few target companies, Fitzpatrick says her staff trains students to more effectively pitch the value of having an MBA candidate as a summer intern.

Wharton also is doing a lot to connect MBAs with small startups. “Unlike other schools, we have a specific model with dedicated individuals to startups in terms of relationships and placements,” says Michelle Hopping, director of employer services at Wharton’s Career Management Center. “The dedicated team has been great. From a philosophical standpoint, we meet the startups where they’re at. Huge companies have different numbers for recruiting MBAs than a startup might. We make it so there are no hoops for them to jump through.”


Hopping says her office has recently created marketing collateral and cheat sheets with info about what MBA students can do for early stage startups. “Not all startups are at a point where they see much need for MBAs or they are not built on people coming from that background,” Hopping explains. “We are really working at helping the West Coast startup understand what they can get from a Wharton student.”

According to Hopping, they have had success by communicating the collective and impressive professional background of Wharton MBA students. “They (startups) value the work experience students come in with,” she says.

Still, according to Beryl, career management offices could be doing more. “If I were dean of HBS for this one project—nothing else, just this one project over the career services office, I would start creating long-term metrics of success,” Beryl says. “The real goal should be how many people are in the same job two years in as when they started. If your metric of success is job placement and average income, you are incentivized to funnel students into investment banks and consulting firms.”

Regardless, Hopping sees students coming back from startup internships with distinct results.

“It’s individual for each student but there are some broad things I’m hearing,” she says. “One of the words we always hear from students before and after is impact. The ability for a student to feel they are making a tangible impact so when they come out of it they can look back and say they accomplished the goal. The second thing is passion. When you think about working at a large financial service firm, there’s a huge difference in being able to channel passion. They are also getting exposure into what it’s really like at an early stage venture and for better or for worse, learning what it takes.”


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