Internships – they may not always be glamorous or even the right fit, but they are more often than not the key step in MBAs securing the right post-graduation roles.
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2022 Enrolled Students Survey, 60% of B-school students who completed internships were offered jobs afterward, which yielded higher success than networking, applying directly to companies, attending job fairs, hiring career coaches, and other job search methods.
However, the report — which surveyed 1,718 students from 299 business schools in 57 countries — further discloses that despite the value internships bring, only 28% of surveyed students completed internships or company-based projects prior to graduation.
IN EUROPE, INTERNSHIP-LIKE PROJECTS ARE OFTEN COMPULSORY
But business schools are catching on, and many are making work experience a mandatory part of their programs. That’s especially true in the UK and Europe, where, for example, Alliance Manchester Business School has five compulsory in-company projects; ESMT Berlin requires students to do a three- to six-month internship; Vlerick Business School has one, large company-based project MBA students must complete to graduate; and Emlyon Business School has a compulsory four-month project.
Poets&Quants spoke with academic directors and alumni at some of Europe’s top B-schools to hear more about the value of internships — and they offered insights students won’t want to miss.
KATHARINA KLOPFER: INTERNSHIPS OFFER STUDENTS THE CHANCE TO LEARN A COMPANY’S CULTURE BEFORE COMMITTING TO A JOB
Although internships weren’t mandatory to graduate from the BSc in Business Administration at the University of Mannheim Business School in Mannheim, Germany, Katharina Klopfer wanted to gain real-world experience. After interning at a few different companies in the summers between her studies, she found the company she wanted to work for through one of Mannheim’s workshops led by PERI, a manufacturer and supplier of formwork and scaffolding systems.
Hosted by the company’s CEO, the workshop was about setting up a new strategy in the Indian market. “I immediately felt a connection to the company culture,” Klopfer shares with Poets&Quants. When she graduated in 2012, she did a six-month internship with PERI. Five months in, the company hired her full-time.
According to Klopfer, doing an internship before taking a permanent position lets students get to know a company’s working environment before committing – which was an important aspect of her job search. “This was a completely new industry for me, and I wanted to test it first,” she explains. “For me, a job isn’t just about the salary and the company’s reputation. For me, it’s mostly about the colleagues and the company culture.”
MICHEL PHAN: INTERNSHIPS HELP STUDENTS TRANSITION INTO ANOTHER INDUSTRY
Near the end of the international MBA program at Emlyon Business School in Ecully, France, students are required to work directly with a real company through a four-month entrepreneurial learning project. Then, once classes end, students have the opportunity to extend their program through an optional six-month internship.
Like Siegers, Michel Phan – academic director of Emlyon’s international MBA – believes that an internship offers both companies and students value. “We try to promote the internship as a testing ground for both parties,” continues Phan. “The student tests the company, and the company tests the student.”
But Phan says few students decide to do the internship; since the average age in the program is 32 years old, many people already have work experience and are more interested in getting a full-time, permanent job. Despite students’ resistance, Phan believes that internships provide a ton of value – especially for those wanting to transition to another industry.
“The dominant background in our cohort is engineering,” he explains. “Many of them want to get out of engineering and get into the management side of things, and the best way for them to do that is through real work experience.”
ROLAND SIEGERS: INTERNSHIPS LET STUDENTS SHOWCASE THEIR TALENT
Roland Siegers, director of external engagement and master programs at ESMT Berlin, says internships are a core part of the business school’s programming. “Universities are great learning places,” explains Siegers. “However, actually being out there and proving yourself in a company setting is a totally different learning experience – and one that can’t be recreated in a classroom.”
In 2023, the Master in Management will expand into three, more targeted programs: a master in global management, a master in innovation & entrepreneurship, and a master in analytics & artificial intelligence. Aside from the innovation & entrepreneurship master – which requires students to join a summer entrepreneurship program in order to engage with the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Berlin – students are obliged to do a three to six-month internship between year one and two in the other programs. “Nearly all of our students take up to six months of work experience,” says Siegers.
“As a student, internships are the perfect opportunity to showcase what you’re capable of,” he continues. “For companies, it’s the perfect, low-risk way to assess someone and determine whether or not they want to hire that person permanently.”
ERNESTO ZACCARIA: INTERNSHIPS ALLOW STUDENTS TO APPLY THEIR SKILLS TO THE REAL WORLD
After spending nearly a decade working in humanitarian aid, Ernesto Zaccaria was at a crossroads in life: either continue on his same path working for UN agencies in countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and all over Africa, or begin his next adventure of starting a family.
Ready for the stability that the for-profit sector offered, in 2019 he began his MBA at Vlerick Business School in Ghent, Belgium to help him transition careers. His mandatory two-month, in-company project with Ageas was the catalyst in doing so. Now, he works with the company in group strategy while being a father to his daughter, born in 2020 – the same year he graduated.
During his project, he and his MBA colleague helped Ageas explore potential opportunities to enter into the African market. For Zaccaria, this was a chance for him to apply the skills he’d learned throughout his previous career and MBA to a real-world situation. “At that time, I knew we were going to have some clouds in the economic environment due to Covid,” he shares. “The project was my best chance to prove my capabilities to a company.”
After completing the project successfully, Ageas invited him to an interview and was selected for a full-time position, which started as soon as he graduated.
Zaccaria says it’s crucial that students take opportunities to be exposed to companies. “You need this exposure in order to prove your abilities and skills, especially when hundreds of people apply for the same position,” he explains.
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