Pluck A Plum Internship

It's never too early for students to start working on strategy.

For MBA students, the right summer internship often opens the door to a desirable full-time job after graduation. The $10,000 to $25,000 they earn for 10 to 12 weeks of work is just the icing on the cake.

It's never too early to launch your internship strategy. Before students arrive on campus, some B-schools distribute lists of companies that will be interviewing to fill internship slots. By the time recruiting starts, usually in the first few weeks of the first semester, you should know what positions you want to seek. "The last thing I wanted to worry about was mixing classroom responsibilities with figuring out what I wanted to do," says Marcus Glover, a summer 2003 Harrah's Entertainment intern who has accepted a full-time job as "the president's associate" in the leadership development program of the hotel and casino operator.

The former management consultant knew that Harrah's was the only entertainment company that recruited on campus at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. Of the dozens of students who applied for the Harrah's internship, Glover was one of three hired. How did he land such a coveted slot? He credits standard due diligence on the company and its competitors plus more detailed scrutiny in the fields he most wanted to work in: technology and customer relationship management.

One of Glover's projects was to figure out how to maximize the time customers spent at gambling tables and slot machines by reducing waits for cashier windows and restaurants and by streamlining traffic in the 100,000-sq.-ft. casino. He offered several proposals to the executive committee, including one that has already been implemented: placing directional signs and maps on the casino floor. He'll pursue his other ideas, which are technology driven, when he starts his job.


The smartest students put as much energy and focus into their internships as they do into their schoolwork. University of Chicago Graduate School of Business second-year MBA student Frank Martin, who will start a full-time job in Citigroup's (C ) sales and trading program this fall, got in touch with high-level Chicago alumni at Citi more than a month before he began his internship there last summer to find out what he should read and know before Day One. Once there, he also asked his mentors for near-daily updates on his work quality. "If you wait for your five-week review, it's too late," he says.

That's a smart strategy if you're hoping for a job offer, says Alison Corazzini, head of investment banking recruiting at J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM ). Recruiters scrutinize how effectively interns solicit others' backing and assistance on their projects. "We notice who's proactive in group settings on their own projects -- and who asks the managers for more work or goes to an associate to ask how they can help," Corazzini says. They also observe how well they work with senior managers and mentors. Gary Fraser, assistant dean of the office of career development at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business, advises students to enlist the support of someone in upper management who has clout and will fight for you after you return to school.

Your internship may well prove more important to your career success than anything you'll learn in B-school. Start planning for it now.

By Kate Hazelwood

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