Internship Search

My Spanish friend joked that British come to Spain for 3S - Sangria, Sun and Sex. I kinda of agree with that, nice food and wine, perfect weather and lots of beautiful girls!

5 weeks passed since I started my internship here in Madrid. But before I go into the details of the internship, I would like to share about the internship search strategy. Well, people do think that finding an internship is easy for an MBA student...at least I thought the same when I first joined the program. But the reality is cruel, the Euro economy environment is still gloomy. Unemployment rate remains high. So, why should the company pay to hire you for the MBA internship?

At the time I started my internship in Spain, the statistic of the internship application success rate of my school is still not much encouraging. Only half of the class got an internship at that time. The type of internships available then was changed from a typical internship that require you to work fulltime in a company to a project-based internship which require only certain hours per week. Although this is still a good learning opportunity, but certainly not what MBA are looking for at the beginning.

So, how to improve your chance?

Start early

The first semester of the MBA program is always the toughest semester as this is where the steep learning curve begins. Not only the study loads, but you also need to settle down in a totally new environment, get used to the new language (if you are not a native English speaker), make new friends, and cope with cultural difference...So you will be busy through out the semester, not allocate any time for the internship search as you think you still have plenty of time...

The reality is cruel...chances are always given to whoever prepared. My Japanese friend who started his preparation as early as June (2 months before the MBA start) got his first internship in October, and the second one somewhere in February. Well, the Japanese companies, and also the banking and consulting companies, normally start recruiting earlier at around October, but most other companies open application only from February.

So, if you are not interested in Japanese companies, or banking or consulting, is that means that you can start late?

No! Start early doesn’t means start application early. There are lots more things to do before the application. For example, prepare a MBA level master resume (CV) and a master cover letter (CL), which you can tailor later according to the company requirement, do mock interview training, study the industries, the companies, knowing their requirements, and most important, study YOU as a candidate, know your strength, weakness, what you like and don’t like, how you can contribute and why the company would need you.

When the chance comes, you are ready to grab it.

Know yourself

Repeat again the point I made before. The company will not be interested on you if you yourself do not know well about yourself. I saw friends applied to whatever openings he discovered. He spent lots of time prepare the CV and the CL but sadly he didn’t success getting any of them.

I think there are 3 main elements on knowing yourself.

1) Know your interest

Know where you have interest to work, it can be industry, function or geographical location. But don’t come to conclusion in a hurry before you study them. Attend the company presentation, for whatever industry, function or geographical location. Try to understand first and then make your decision.

This interest will turn out to be passion showing on your face when you are in the interview.

2) Know your strength

What you interested may not be what you are strong at. Company recruits MBA for an immediate contribution in their business. They don’t give you much time to start from zero. Therefore, know well about your strength and shows how you can contribute to the company is very important in the interview. Being say that, if you think yourself have less advantage because of no experience in a new field, try to leverage the soft skills and general management skills that you have gained in some other fields. 

3) Know your want

Everyone wants internship for different reasons. Some want to experience a new industry, function or geography, some looking for a fulltime job, some for money, and some just to do because everyone else is doing. And this will definitely influence your internship choice. For example, if you are interested to start your own business after the MBA, you may want to gain entrepreneurship experience in a start-up company even it is an unpaid internship.

So, these 3 elements make the Venn Chart. The internships that located more towards the center of the Venn Chart, is the one that most suit you, and the one that you have the highest chance.

Rethink your change
Almost everyone pursue an MBA for a change of career, whether a change in the industry, function or geography. It is clear that the more changes you want, the harder it will be. Internship is an good opportunity for you to test out whether the change you want is what you want. However, getting an internship with all 3 changes is equally difficult.

As mentioned before, the company expect you to contribute, based on your previous experience or current skill sets you have. Change of all 3 aspects (industry, function and geography) put you in a less advantage position compare to those who already have some experience in the industry or function or geography, or two, or even all three of them.

Therefore, reduce a change will significantly enhance your chance to get an internship. For instance, for the three internships I secured, I have kept at least an aspect unchanged. For the internship in Spain, I changed the function from engineer to M&A analyst, the geography from Japan to Spain, but keep the same industry in oil & gas. For the internship in Japan, I changed the industry to consulting, function to management consultant, but kept the same geography. For another internship in Malaysia which I have rejected, I changed the industry to market research, the role to researcher but kept the same geography in Malaysia (Well, being a Malaysian although I have not worked in Malaysia for the past 10 years).

However, there are still many success stories among my friends who got internship that have changes in all 3 aspects. And the reason is simple, they have an internship that fit in the middle of the Venn Chart that I mentioned before.

The bottom line is whether you really want the changes!

So, what are you still waiting for? Start Now!