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Three Tips for a Successful Internship

Three Tips for a Successful Internship

Sarah Baranowski / BusinessWeek

This summer I came inches away from foregoing the traditional internship route. I had decided that a few good but physically distant opportunities would put too much stress on my young children. And I was uninterested in many opportunities that would have sounded great to me eight or 10 years ago. I was weighing my nonconventional options, mainly pro bono work and new business development, when the right traditional opportunity came along. In the final weeks of spring semester, I accepted a strategic planning project for a local biotech company. I spent the summer working on product launch strategies, operations planning, and business model development for a new technology. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and a great learning experience to boot.

But first things first. It was not exactly smooth sailing the whole way through. Halfway into the summer, the company was acquired. As the result of a new, narrower focus, my project was canceled two weeks before my scheduled departure. My team was disbanded, and our plans were shelved. Of course I am disappointed that I don’t get to see my work put to immediate action, but I cannot discount the learning experience. Nor can I find fault in the decision to put the project on hold; better to secure success on one project than to risk failure on five—especially in the midst of a big transition.

No matter the bumpy landing, it was a great ride. Why? Three reasons:

• I did something different.

• I learned something about myself.

• I have a compelling story to tell.

So now I will turn to these specific characteristics that made this internship a good and worthwhile experience. I hope these thoughts translate into some useful advice about what to look for in an MBA internship, if you happen to have the luxury of selectivity. (And do be selective if you have the option. It is worth the effort!)

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