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Three Tips for a Successful Internship

Three Tips for a Successful Internship

Sarah Baranowski / BusinessWeek

Build a Compelling Story

Earlier in my career, I enjoyed a jump-start into management by choosing to work for a startup rather than a big established company. At the time it was not a career development strategy; I simply followed my interests. But in hindsight, I can see what it did for me. I wore more hats, and I wore them earlier than I might have otherwise. Perhaps as a result, this summer I did not shy away from the uncertainty of a smallish company rich in intellectual property and ripe for acquisition.

Combine that company profile with a manager who did not treat me like an “intern” but rather wanted me involved in answering hard questions, sought my advice on strategy, and encouraged me to reach out to people across the organization and to customers and partners. The result was an internship experience that gave me a wide-ranging perspective on a complex company in a very short time. I really had the opportunity to work with all of those functions that I mentioned earlier, and I connected with people from executive management on down.

Here’s my point: Whatever type of companies you target in your search, seek out those internship opportunities that you will be proud to add to your career narrative. The further you are in your career, the more difficult this goal will be. It’s not just about a big company name. You also need a role that does not put you in a quiet cubicle every day, that gives you practice adapting to rapid change, that pulls you up and makes you more than who you used to be. Your role is temporary, so don’t shy away from risk. Just focus on finding an environment that offers you maximum exposure to really interesting stuff, and then enjoy the ride!

Well, that’s it, my internship experience in a nutshell. To first-year MBA students out there, I hope this journal entry gives you food for thought as you look for your perfect summer project. Happy hunting.

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