Traditionally, summer internships have been an integral part of the educational journey for MBA students. These immersive experiences provide a unique platform to apply classroom knowledge, gain industry-specific insights, and cultivate meaningful connections within the chosen industry.
However, for Online MBA students, the process of securing a summer internship can present unique challenges due to their remote learning environment. Nonetheless, with the right approach and strategic planning, Online MBA candidates can overcome these hurdles and unlock promising internship opportunities.
Among the many benefits of the degree, securing a summer internship stands out for those looking to change the trajectory of their careers. So what are the best strategies that online MBA candidates can use for choosing the right summer internship for them?
Choosing the perfect summer internship
“Students should start with gaining clarity around which profession is a good fit for their talents and interests,” says Terri Cramer, associate director of graduate career services at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. “Through research and informational interviewing, they can center on a functional area and an industry preference, and then mine their personal and professional network to refine their understanding.”
They should also ask for guidance and advice on how to identify project work that is most relevant to their career goals, she adds.
About half of our Kelley Direct Online MBA students are career-switchers, with a significant portion of those are moving laterally into a related profession. They can make best use of the resources available to them at the business school to apply for and land a competitive internship, in several ways.
How career coaches can help secure an internship
“Career coaches are the best place to start. They not only can point students toward resources, including researching companies and making use of job boards, but they can assist with ensuring that the student is best poised to represent their interests,” says Cramer.
“This includes having their resume and LinkedIn profile aligned as closely as possible with what the recruiter is looking for, and ensuring they have developed messaging which allows them to show up with competence and confidence in the interview.”
Stephen Rakas, executive director for the Masters Career Center at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, has similar advice. “It can be very challenging to balance full-time work, a personal life, Online MBA studies and future career planning,” he says.
At the Tepper School of Business, Online MBAs have access to the same MBA career coaches as their counterparts taking full-time residential MBAs. “We encourage online students who are considering switching careers to carve out the necessary time to reflect on their goals and meet with a coach to refine them,” Rakas says.
How should Online MBA candidates be preparing for their summer internships, so they can hit the ground running on the first day?
Network ahead of time to ensure early success
For many online students, this is a critical decision because they are likely leaving a salaried, full-time job in order to complete an internship. “We encourage students to begin networking ahead of time with any alumni or current students who may be with the company and be sure to proactively complete all onboarding tasks or meetings with their future team,” says Rakas.
Preparing for an internship for an Online MBA candidate has all the same fundamentals as getting ready to start a new job in the open marketplace, adds Cramer at the Kelley School of Business. “Research the company to learn what is recent and important, and then mine the job description to identify and address any areas of vulnerability. For example, are my Excel skills up to par?”
Next, coordinate with HR to get all tactical questions answered, such as directions, dress code and work start-time, she continues. “If possible, schedule a time to meet with the hiring manager to begin the conversation regarding expectations and best practices.”
Securing an Online MBA internship is relatively straightforward, but getting hired in the right role is less so. How can students turn their internship into a full-time job?
“Many of the principles for establishing a strong reputation and getting early traction in a new job apply here. Advice for making a strong start as a new associate includes developing short-term goals for your position -- actions you want to take right away,” Cramer says.
“It also is useful to meet with key stakeholders to understand the organization’s culture, your manager’s key goals and priorities, and your accountability in accomplishing them. Also, gain an understanding of the history of your role and what expectations people have about it.”
Tepper’s Rakas agrees. “In any internship, it’s critical to establish strong rapport with new co-workers and supervisors,” he says. “This extends from the receptionist to the senior leaders. Being friendly and approachable sounds easy but will take much more effort if the internship is hybrid or fully remote.”
It’s equally critical to clearly define the work deliverables and schedule opportunities to check in with a supervisor on progress, he adds. “Lastly, pay close attention to the work culture and how people interact with each other and try to behave similarly.”