My first year as an MBA student has been an absolute roller coaster at times, and nothing had as many highs and lows as the internship search! I want to paint a realistic picture of summer internship recruiting at Fuqua while simultaneously telling you about my adventures in recruiting.
I got a preliminary taste of recruiting during the summer by attending the Forte Foundation Conference and the Credit Suisse MBA Explorer program, and I spent a large portion of my time during the first two terms networking with companies, tweaking my resume and cover letters, mock interviewing, holding informational interviews, and practicing my STAR stories. However, nothing could have prepared me for my recruiting adventure during the first spring term.
My recruiting experiences have probably made me the most stressed, disappointed, and humbled that I have been since I started business school … but everything works out in the end. First though, I want to tell you about the numerous lessons I’ve learned and the mistakes that I made …
This might seem like a faraway point to you (depending on where you are now), but do not underestimate the first-year internship recruiting process.
If possible, start thinking about potential career paths, geographic locations, companies that support MBA internships, and make a preliminary list of companies where you would like to work. This pre-work will only help you further down the line, since Fuqua has certain career deliverables and deadlines during the first terms for you and your career fellow (a second-year MBA student who’s paired up with you).
During the fall, I did about 5 mock interviews and they undoubtedly helped me get more comfortable with some of the typical interview questions (like tell me about yourself, why this company, why this position). Here are some additional lessons that I learned while interviewing in January and February:
Craft Your Story – It’s important to research the company and position you’re applying for, and customize your “story” to highlight your skills, strengths, and goals that gel with the job and the company’s culture. Every interview became a learning experience that I used to continue to tweak my story and better prepare for future interviews.
Balance is Key – During the first spring term, I had a hard time finding a balance. I could not give recruiting 150% and ignore my schoolwork, but at the same time, I could not solely focus on my schoolwork and ignore internship recruiting. Time management and balance is key for B-school and internship recruiting is just another example of where it’s critical.
Step Away – There were days when I really just needed to take a step back and forget about recruiting … and that was ok. Those breaks ultimately helped me move forward and keep a positive outlook.
Competition is Stiff – Not only are you competing against your classmates during on-campus recruiting, you are also competing against candidates from every other business school. I did not have time to dwell on my rejections. I had to continue to move forward with the process.
Recruit Smarter – Near the end of the process, when I was gearing toward my off-campus search (on-campus interviews are set up by career services, off-campus interviews are set up directly with the companies), I started recruiting smarter. Instead of solely sending in my resume and cover letter, I tried to connect with alumni and get a realistic picture about a day on the job. This practice helped show my interest in the company and gave me more background to talk about during interviews.
Make Sacrifices – Ideally we all want to land our dream job in our ideal location, but that might not happen. There are times that we will have to make sacrifices in industry, location, etc. Again, this is all part of the learning experience and we might get pleasantly surprised in the process.
Look for Ways to Improve – Some of my interviewers gave me feedback on ways to improve for the future. These have included brushing up on finance concepts, being a little less formal, and framing my case answers better. There is ample time to continue improving and this feedback is very appreciated.
My internship recruiting process lasted roughly two months. During that time, there were many highs and lows. Sometimes I dreaded receiving new emails and during other times, I was pleasantly surprised by calls coming from unknown area codes. I traveled to various places including Chicago, New York, Charlotte, and Hershey, and these experiences will be helpful, regardless of what happens in the future.
Some of my classmates had seamless recruiting experiences. Moreover, they deserved them! As disappointed as I was at times, it makes me happy to know that everything worked out well for my classmates and teammates, who put equally as much passion and energy into the internship search. We are all part of Team Fuqua and this group will continue to be part of my network for many years to come.
And with all this being said, I will be working at Lowe’s this summer outside of Charlotte, where I will be doing corporate finance in the Merchandise and Supply Chain group!
The internship matches many of the things that I was looking for, and I am excited to begin my new career in corporate finance!
At Fuqua, I have an incredible support network who helped keep me going on days that I wanted to crawl under a rock. These people include my friends, who listened to me complain, helped with mock interviews and company lists, and gave me company facts if they had already spoken to that company. Lisa from the Career Management Center, who again listened to me, helped me do mock interviews, and helped me craft a game plan for my off-campus search. And lastly, Fuqua alumni, who have been extremely helpful in putting me in touch with the right people in the right places and were always willing to help with informational interviews.