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Best Practice: How to turn the internship into a successful experience

Intern Masters Contributor:

Guzeliya Sayfullina, 2020 MBA candidate, Simon Business School



My Name is Guzeliya and I'm a 2nd year MBA student at Simon Business School at the University of Rochester. For my undergraduate degree I majored in linguistics and translation studies, starting my professional journey as an interpreter. As my career progressed, I started realizing that I did not want to limit myself to just one function within a company. Having no prior business education, I could feel that a lack of core skills and business knowledge was slowing me down. The longest time I spent with one company was where I worked for the largest Russian retail company managing our UK division. Prior to heading to Business School, I spent 1.5 years at an aviation company shaping our market strategy and developing value propositions for different customer segments.


I had been thinking about getting my MBA for about 2 years before actually applying. First, I weighted the pros and cons of getting an MBA in the US where the typical program duration is 2 years opposed to Europe where it typically takes 1 year. Apart from that, I was looking for a program with a small class size, diverse candidate backgrounds, and one that fostered a collaborative environment. I also understood that I needed to build my knowledge in data and analytics and a program that could cater to all those requirements would be the one that would stand out for me. Simon was a natural fit. It had a rigorous approach to analytical problem solving at the heart of its curriculum and it was the country's first STEM MBA option available regardless of a student's specialization.


The summer between my first and second year I was able to take a summer internship with Cargill at their headquarters in Minneapolis with the Global Strategic Pricing team. Looking back, I realize how different choices and attitudes shaped my internship experience and I'd like to outline some key learnings which will make your internship experience exceptional.


Choose Smart

Being a good fit for your team and company is vital. Always think about your internship choice as a step which will bring you closer to your end goal. In most cases, there is never a 100% fit for both you and the company but it should bring you closer to your professional career ambitions. If you hesitate whether it's the right choice, be honest with yourself and ask if this is actually something you want; or is it dragging you away from something else. For a lot of students, an MBA program allows them to switch career paths and it can be hard to pivot to a new function or area. Be focused and make the right choice.


Do Your Homework

I mean that in every possible way. Any class you take during your MBA is important and brings additional value to your set of skills. Coming into an internship prepared will help you achieve optimal results. Whichever skills are crucial for your internship - take extra time to deepen your knowledge and sharpen your ability in those areas. And keep in mind that it's not an accident that a broad set of skills and knowledge is the main feature of an MBA. It will help you feel comfortable going into any conversation.


What I also mean by doing your homework is researching the company; the structure, culture, mission statement, goals and objectives. When you land your internship, it will help you integrate into the atmosphere easily and will provide a lot of topics for your networking meetings.


NETWORK!

Speaking of networking, take the time to get to know people in the company. Every student networks while looking for an internship. Don't stop there! Networking within the company helps you build professional connections which will serve you not only during the summer but throughout your career. Always think of networking as a long-term investment. It helps you understand the different function within the company and to get a more robust understanding of the industry as most people you meet will have significant experience.


Networking exposes you to different events happening within the company too. These can be trainings, happy hours and even volunteering events. This build your reputation within the company. Even if it is extremely large and you are only there for 10-12 weeks, believe me, whatever you do will be seen and will shape your image within the company. Networking is not just a way to get a full-time offer, it is about building your professional network and brand, which serves you your whole career.


Be Curious

If you think of behaviors that can turn an average intern experience into a transformational one, think of enthusiasm and curiosity. Whenever you get a task, it is good to understand the underlying processes which can help you make the correct decisions. Don't be afraid to ask questions and speak to your colleagues as they may have valuable insights. Avoid isolating any business project into a vacuum and limiting yourself to just your project. Everything in the world has influence on everything else to some degree; and knowing the bigger picture may help you with a solution which is much better and efficient than the one which already exists. You can also think about it as creativity or ability to think outside the box.


Drive the Change

Another way to say this is to exceed expectations. Don't just do what is being asked. If you see something that can be improved... do it. Be the change agent, the catalyst of projects and the be the image of an employee which the company wants to hire. If you work on a project and need another team member, who would you want to hire? Is it someone who adds value and creates a positive impact?


Be a Self-Starter

An MBA student is someone who is expected to be extremely comfortable working on their own and requiring minimal guidance. You don't want to blindly make decisions on your own but only ask your manager when there is no way for you to find the information or solve the issue on your own. Always think from the manager's perspective; if you were an extremely busy manager and look to add a member to your team, who would you add? Someone who constantly needs guidance or a self-motivated enthusiast who will take an assignment and drive it forward?


Be Professional

It goes without saying that looking professional, being on time and showing respect is vital. Everyone around you is a human being - show your gratitude and appreciate the people around you. I truly believe that an exceptional internship experience comes from exceptional behavior. If you look to turn your internship into a successful one, be exceptional.


Guzeliya Sayfullina is a 2020 MBA candidate with over 6 years of progressive experience in strategic planning, international marketing and business analytics. She has a proven record of managing complex business challenges and lifting under-performing teams, driving change and innovation, improving margins and enhancing sales growth. If you'd like to connect with her on LinkedIn, click here.

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