Perhaps you have already committed to staying at your current position
until shortly before school... or maybe you've planned the trip of a lifetime that's going to occupy your entire summer.
However, if you're like most of the MBA students we've known, you're planning on leaving work sometime in the next couple of months and taking some summer downtime before school starts. While downtime may sound thrilling (and you have no doubt earned it!), you may already be feeling conflicted about how much time to take, as well as what to do with all of that that newly found time.
There are many options... choose wisely!
This summer presents a great opportunity: you could volunteer, travel somewhere new, put plans in place for a business you want to explore during school. It's very possible that you are preparing to make a big job transition over the course of your MBA. If so, perhaps you should consider a pre-MBA internship. While pre-MBA internships remain relatively rare, they can be enormously helpful, especially if you are planning a career change: proving your dedication to a new industry and beginning to learn the ropes will be a great differentiator for you during recruitment. (BusinessWeek offers stories of people successfully securing pre-MBA internships in a variety of different industries.)
Formal pre-MBA programs
First, please note that many of these programs have deadlines coming up right away - so if you are interested in pursuing them, act now!
Formal programs, while becoming somewhat more common, are still pretty rare. Few organizations are offering full-fledged internships at this point: while some offer an opportunity to work with the organization for up to four weeks, a more likely scenario is a camp or summit that takes place over the course of a few days or a week. Don't discount those opportunities; they not only provide an opportunity to learn a great deal about an industry in a short time, they often provide access to hiring managers and other high-level executives.
With regards to established, formal options that are open to all comers, the two most popular we know of are Deloitte University and P&G's Marketing MBA Summer Camp.
Further, there are many programs offered to specific groups, such as ethnic minorities, LGBT students, women, and veterans (some of these programs also offer financial support towards attending school!). Even if you don't think of yourself as coming from a "protected" group, check these out to see if they might be right for you:
There's nothing that says you can't offer your services up to a company or industry that interests you. Some of our clients have found particularly interesting opportunities with portfolio companies that they worked with previously in a PE capacity; they have indicated that these internships provide a chance to gain operational experience while still contributing to the larger organization.
Network your way to someone who might have need of an extra hand and see what kind of arrangement you can strike. This might mean assisting with one particular project or interning on a very part-time or short-term basis. In some cases, it could mean interning without pay. But these restrictions will be worth it if you can connect with hiring managers and high-level executives, or build new skills. And later, when you are recruiting for MBA summer internships, you'll be able to point to concrete results in your (new) industry of choice.
Start-ups offer many unique opportunities, both in tech and across a diversity of functions and industries from marketing to healthcare to online services, among others. Start-ups need people who can work on strategy, branding, finance, and every other functional area, and the organization's lean staffing means you will probably get a chance to get your hands on many different parts of its operation. Another benefit to consider: start-ups can have a short hiring cycle, which makes it possible to create a role for the summer even if you're just reaching out now.
Don't assume start-up experience is relevant only if you're thinking of running your own company (although it will certainly help). This experience could also be attractive to other employers looking for leaders in consulting, strategy, or general management; they would be very interested in ways that you've taken initiative, dealt with ambiguity, or worked in close-knit teams.
In addition to networking your way to a start-up, you might consider checking out these sites; though their job listings are likely to be for full-time, permanent positions, it will give you an idea of what companies are out there that may be of interest to you, as well as what their current needs might be.
Securing a pre-MBA internship can be tough; challenges arise due to the time you have available between work or school, and due to the fact that some people may shy away from the formality associated with the word "internship."
There is, however, another approach that can be very powerful. Find someone in a position that you are interested in and ask if you can spend a week shadowing him or her. Not only will that give you a handle on what that type of position entails, it can also provide you with a concrete answer months later when a recruiter asks, "What appeals to you about this job?" If you've actually seen the day-to-day of it, you'll have a much firmer response. One other great aspect of this option is that you can take the time to shadow several different people-so if you are on the fence about where to focus your job search, this could really help you narrow down your options.
This week, think through your summer plans and decide if one of these pre-MBA options makes sense for you and, if so, lay out a plan of action to pursue it!