How to Spend Your MBA Summer Internship for Career Success

MBA summer internships are HUGELY important for the success of your career after business school, because your first MBA job is the biggest indicator of long-term success and drumroll guess what gets your foot in the door?

But different people have different needs, and the same internship might not be ideal for everyone. In this video, Angela Guido walks you through the purpose of the MBA internship, how different people ought to think about it, and discusses some of the most common choices.

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Welcome back to MBA Monday! It’s pre-MBA season and I'm talking to all of you who have gained admission to your MBA program and you're about to start your MBA, and a question that is gonna soon be on your mind — if it's not already — is, what should you do for your summer internship? I'm gonna help you answer that question today on MBA Monday. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol. You are about to get on a roller coaster, my friend, and you are not going to get off of that roller coaster until, at the very earliest, the end of your summer internship, and maybe not even then. If you don't like your summer internship or if you decide to do something else afterwards, then you're going to get right back on it and go through full time recruiting your second year. Oh, the memories, the memories of MBA recruiting. But here's the thing: your post MBA job is super, super, super important. It's going to set the foundation, the threshold of the rest of your career in terms of your earning potential, your upward mobility, and the trajectory of your career in terms of industry and function depending on what you choose. So it's really, really important that you land in the post-MBA job that's really best for you.

I'll just kind of give away the framework that we coach our clients to think through as they're choosing their post-MBA job, and that's really that you want to pick the job that maximizes your learning curve in the first couple of years post MBA. What you're going to realize, you won't realize it until several years after business school. When you're in business school, you're going to think you're so smart, you're going to think you're a genius. You're going to believe that you can solve any business problem. You can tackle any challenge. There's a certain kind of Kool Aid that we all drink when we're in business school that makes us believe that we know way more about actually doing things in the world than we actually do know, because everything you're learning in MBA programs is theoretical. It's in a classroom. Even the things that are sort of hands on, where you're consulting an actual company to solve a problem, it's different because there are no stakes. You can't lose your job. The company is not going to implement your suggestions if they suck. You're buffered from the reality of the world while you're in business school. And that means that everything you learn there has to be relearned on the court, in reality, in your post-MBA job. And so if you have an idea of what you think you want to do for the rest of your career, you may want to look to move directly in that direction post MBA, and if you're like “Hmm, could do a bunch of other things. I'm not really sure exactly what I want to do, I still want to keep my options open.”, then you're going to go in a very different direction post MBA. The direction you’re going to go (if you follow my advice) is the direction that maximizes your learning curve, that forces you to learn as much as possible, and have as many diverse experiences that are interesting to you, applying what you learned in your MBA as possible so that you are rising faster post MBA than you were pre MBA. The way you rise up. The way you climb the ladder is through learning it's growth. When you know more, when you can execute more, when you can achieve more, you'll make more money, you'll get promoted, and you'll become a more important member of your organization. That's how that works. Now, there's all kinds of soft skills that you're also going to need to be able to take advantage of what you know and what you're capable of doing, but that's something that ideally you would learn pre MBA through working with the Career Protocol team on your MBA applications. But I digress because if you're watching this video, it's probably too late for you to do that. Back to the question of your post-MBA job. So you really want to target the post-MBA role that maximizes your learning curve, but what does that mean for your summer internship? Now this is a question that may have different answers depending on your situation.

1. If You Are Sponsored Or Have A Set Trajectory

  • Go wild (if possible)
  • This is research
  • See how the alternatives feel

So some of you will be coming into business school either pretty sure that you know what you want to do afterwards — you might even have an offer to go back to the firm that you're currently working for. You might even be sponsored by the firm that you're currently working for and going to MBA with a paid MBA with the intention of going back for two or three years to the firm that you're coming from. In that situation, if you're allowed to pursue a summer internship that's different from the company that you're coming from, then that's a good opportunity to really swing out and try something wild. It's like you're a sponsored management consultant and you've got the summer to do whatever you want and you've always imagined that you had a passion for education technology. Well, go work for a tiny edtech startup in the summer. See what the edtech space is really about. Work in the kind of company that you might not want to get locked into immediately post MBA, but you want to have some kind of an experience with it to test a hypothesis for the long term, to just sample something different, or to have an impact in an area of passion to see if it really fulfills you as much as you think it will. So for those of you who have fairly confident post-MBA paths ahead of you, the summer is a really great chance to experiment and to test hypotheses that you might have about the long term.

2. If Your Future Is Less Certain

  • Start securing that future
  • Time to get learning
  • Listen to your future self
  • Internships > jobs > $$$ > goods & services

For the rest of you, where you're not sure what you're going to do in your first post-MBA job (and that first post-MBA job is super important in the way that I described), for most of the rest of you, you're probably going to want to pursue a summer internship in the same direction that you think you want to go post MBA. So I'll use management consulting as an example because still to this day, 30% of MBA graduates go into management consulting for many very good reasons, one of which is that it does have the steepest learning curve you can tackle after your MBA. You're going to learn the most ‑ not the most, but like as much as possible, there are probably other jobs that are going to give you that much of a learning curve, but consulting, predictably, is going to give you an amazingly steep learning curve post MBA. So it opens more doors than it closes and it helps you rise up faster. These are all reasons why people love management consulting. You might think “Oh, well, I don't have to do a summer internship in consulting, I'm going to recruit for full time in consulting and I'll use my summer internship to do something else.”, but when you get to campus, you're going to start to worry that this approach is going to be too risky for a couple of reasons. The first is that most of the great consulting firms recruit the bulk of their full-time class from the internship class. So, in certain years where there's a downturn, sometimes they don't hire anyone new for full time, they're just hiring their full-time hires from the internship class. So if you miss the internship, you might miss the opportunity altogether. So therefore, getting the internship is really the right first step to go in that direction. Likewise, there's a very big difference between starting your career from scratch the first day after your MBA versus already having friends at the firm that you've worked with and you know you want to work with going forward because you got to know them over the summer. So the management consultants who also do a summer internship at the firm tend to rise faster and be more successful quickly than those who just come in post MBA. Now, these are not hard and fast rules, but you can see that the general trend is really thinking about where you might want to be post MBA and do as much as you can do to move yourself in that direction with your summer internship. That's the most conservative approach, it's the most risk-averse approach, and for most MBAs, especially those that are trying to make a pretty big change in a new direction, that summer internship can be a really critical time to build your foundation towards your full time role and not necessarily the best time to experiment.

So these are kind of your two options. You can use the summer to try something new that you're not sure about but you want to test it, or you can use it to make steady progress towards your full-time job. There's no right answer, but depending on where you're coming from and where you want to go, there probably is one that's better for you. So think really carefully about your summer internship. By the way, if you'd like help thinking through your priorities, your values, and what you really want to gain in your summer internship and in your post-MBA career, consider signing up for the Yomo program. It is designed to help you get ready for recruiting, examine your values like learn all about yourself, get to know more about who's recruiting on your campus and to start building relationships in the summer so that when you get to campus, you're not starting from scratch. You're knowledgeable, you're confident, and you're ready to go after the job that you really want for your summer internship and for your full-time job.

Sign up for my free MBA Recruiting Masterclass here at It's a free workshop to get to know all about MBA recruiting, the stuff that you don't yet know, the stuff that you got to know at some point to help you plan out how you're going to make the most of this one chance to make your post-MBA pivot. I'll also tell you all about the Yomo program. So if you want to join me and the Career Protocol community to prepare for your MBA summer internship, we'd absolutely love to have you in this year's class. So that's it! Think carefully about whether you need to use the summer productively or to experiment, and don't forget in everything that you do from here forward in your MBA and beyond, at least for the next few years, tackle steep learning curves. Seek to learn as much as you can learn. The more you push yourself now to learn, the better work-life balance you can have a couple of years down the line because you've invested in your knowledge base and you can later work smarter and be a little bit more chill because you're confident that you know what you're doing. That's the secret to being successful long term and leveraging the MBA to get you as far as you can go in your career. I'm wishing you all the best in your MBA and beyond, and I'll see you next week on MBA Monday.

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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