MBA Life (13): Applying for an internship? Here’s a handy action plan

The original source of this article appeared in blogs.ft.com (Jan 25, 2016)

The search for an internship during an MBA is an important experience for many students. It provides the chance to work in the jobs and places where we see ourselves in the future. Regardless of previous work experience, the search for an internship is one filled with expectations.

During my preparation I took the presentation slides from various career management sessions to develop an action plan. I thought it would be ideal to have a “dashboard”, or visual map, with the basic aspects of the process, company details, specific roles and areas for further research and preparation. I filled in a dashboard for every position I was applying for. As I advance in the MBA and my search for a job, the document will change and improve. You can see in the image the areas covered.

This latest version had six key blocks:

 

  1. Comparison of competencies and skills desired with personal experience: With the job description at hand I identified all the key words from the job and put them in a column in order of my perceived importance for the role (eg analytical skills higher in importance than Excel knowledge). For each attribute I then identified two or three personal experiences where I excelled at this competence or skill, writing a sentence using the known Star technique (situation, task, action, and result). This process was long but worth it, as it helped me reflect and better structure my experience.
  2. Company’s value and culture, and personal strengths and weaknesses: Culture fit is something all companies are talking about, and at first glance all company values “look” the same. What is the difference between excellence and effective for two different companies? How should I address these during the interview? My approach was to create a link between a company’s values and the typical strength and weakness question. That is, for strength I identified ways in which my skills enhance some values, team player to collaborative, for example, using a Star sentence. For weakness I prefer the “strength in disguise” and link it to a value.
  3. Professional goals related to the company: I took the internship process like a regular job process, taking time to think about what my career path could be in the company. The path has to be realistic. The role you seek in 10 years must be feasible with the respective interim 2-3 year promotions. This was one of the hardest tasks to think about as all roads lead to Rome, depending on the organisational structure of the company.
  4. Company information: This was the easiest part, which was divided into five branches: products, markets, competitors, financial information and latest news. It is impossible to be an expert on any company, but this gives a general idea of the core business and its performance. A part that I started to include later was to identify key people besides the chief executive and other board members. After completing this portion of the dashboard I would reflect on the value I could add from the internship role to any of the branches mentioned.
  5. Follow up questions: As in most interviews, at the end you get the “do you have any questions?” So I searched online for the best type of questions. Based on research on websites such as glassdoor.co.uk, and input from HEC alumni, I would make a list based on: responsibilities; team; and future challenges.
  6. General notes: This space was devoted to any new idea or information to complete my preparation. I used it most during the phone interview process to jot-down key words or layout my thoughts.

I had an internship at Schneider Electric in Paris. During the time I applied to various companies, having dashboard really helped me. I Hope this tool helps you. And I am keen in learn how other MBA candidates approach their applications for internships.

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