MBA Journal: The Internship Dating Game

Spring has arrived in London and the monochromatic palette of winter has finally been brightened by the rosy complexion of tulips, magnolia, and crab apple blossoms. With the sun making an appearance for a good four to five hours longer than during the dark winter months, suddenly the masses are coming out of the woodwork, and the pubs are overflowing with happy-hour revelers.

At London Business School (London Full-Time MBA Profile), we are experiencing a transition of our own, emerging from the frenzy of internship recruiting season, a time of countless networking sessions, informational meetings, schmoozing, phone screenings, case studies, corporate presentations, group and one-to-one interviews, and decisions. As of early April, we are beginning our third and final term of the first year, and rumor has it that about half of the class has secured an internship for the summer. An auspicious start, this number represents a majority of students in the finance and consulting sectors. The first batch of industry sector offers (from companies with structured MBA internship programs) is also included in the mix. Meanwhile, for those seeking industry roles, a number of positions are still available with more to come as companies evaluate their needs for the summer.

In many ways the recruiting experience is analogous to the trials and tribulations of dating. It begins with each side trying to prove just how sexy, accomplished, and appealing it is to the other. Descriptions like "seeking the highest-caliber talent in the marketplace" and "superior analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills required" plague the career services board like pickup lines. Students respond in kind with equally extravagant language chronicling their accomplishments on their résumés. Highly sought-after company internships become the hot gossip of the hour, as does how to crack the interview and seal the deal.

Much like people are wont to "Google stalk" their desired dating partners, doing the same for summer internships is a requisite step for success. Researching ahead of time not only enhances interview performance but also helps to inform you whether the company and individuals you meet really will be a good fit for you and vice versa. Nothing compares to talking to people, however. On more than one occasion, I discovered that a company I had long admired appeared less than desirable as an employer once I was able to take an inside look during interviews and speak to current employees.

Interview Impressions

The first interview is akin to a first date. You've already vetted each other on paper, now you're curious about the chemistry. Will you mesh well with the interviewer? You put on your smartest outfit and prepare your most insightful potential answers and thoughtful, intelligent questions. You try to strike a balance of interested but potentially unavailable. Subsequent interviews may have you jumping through any number of hoops: personality assessments, Excel examinations, intensive case studies, behavioral monitoring, the list goes on.

Further into the process, the caliber of your competition begins to set in. With such amazing business and life experience all around you, you begin to think, "How can I compete?" Everyone deals with the competition differently. Many students choose to keep their cards close, only divulging details of their conquests and keeping mum on their applications and rejections. Others "kiss and tell," divulging intimate details of each question asked during an interview.

Invariably, rejection is a rampant theme in the recruiting process. There are too few positions and too many exceptional students for you not to be disappointed at least once along the way. Inevitably, though, people find their match, best-fit scenarios popping up around every corner; soon enough most of your classmates will be paired off with a company they are truly excited about.

If you are interested in several different companies and you play your cards right, at the end of the recruiting rigmarole you might end up with multiple suitors. How do you decide which one is the best fit? Once you have an offer, the requisite wooing takes place. The wooing is particularly dramatic for those with offers in the finance sector: a magnum of Moët & Chandon here, a discussion of long-term opportunities over wine and cheese there, perhaps even a meal at one of the finer London dining establishments.

Difficult Decision

In all seriousness, though, it can be a very difficult decision, and the wooing won't help you prioritize which role best suits you and your career. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself with a couple of offers to choose from, and I had a very difficult time making my decision. The highest priority in my search criteria was that of fit. Are the employees passionate about what they do? Do they have a good work-life balance? Is there room for growth in the long term? Does the company invest in employee development in practice and not just in platitudes? Can I see myself working with the people I've met?

In each case the answer was yes for both offers, so I considered more of my search criteria. If you've read my previous posts, you know I don't consider myself a traditional MBA candidate. My goal for the summer was to find an internship that capitalized on my less conventional business experience, satisfied my need for creativity and innovation, as well as allowed me to test the waters in a big, name-brand company. Again I felt both offers pretty well satisfied these requirements, so I added one more dimension: trying something completely new but very related to marketing, internal communications.

I am thrilled to report I will be spending 12 weeks this summer on the internal communications team of an exciting technology company. Unfortunately the big, name-brand company also comes with a sophisticated PR team, and company policy doesn't allow me to specify the name. What I can say is that I'm incredibly excited to see what the summer brings.

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