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Seizing Opportunity: MBA Students on How to Successfully Secure Internships

When it comes to demonstrating to employers that you’re the right candidate for the internship or job, your resume does a lot of the talking. But while educational background, professional experience and competencies are all important, by themselves they are not always enough to land you an offer.

“Everyone in top MBA programs is going to be very successful and have impressive resumes and backgrounds, so I think [you should] always think about what separates you [from everyone else] and make sure that comes out when you’re networking and speaking with recruiters,” says Aaron Wilson, an MBA student and Consortium fellow at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

Building Your Resume

Wilson recommends that people think hard about how they want to come off in their resume and what they want people to take away from it. For Wilson, who will be interning with McKinsey & Company this summer, this has meant focusing on his background and diverse set of experiences and successes combining marketing strategy and analytics.

To truly stand out, however, Wilson says it’s important to engage in pursuits you are passionate about. For him, this is giving back by mentoring underprivileged students in the local community.

Aaron Wilson

“I really believe in the quote ‘Lift as we climb,’” he says. “So while you’re doing all these things to build your resume, you should also take some time to do something that you actually care about passionately because I think it [builds] character. Yes, it can be part of your resume, but it’s also good for my soul.”

Having something you stand for outside of your professional life is part of having a solid foundation, Wilson says, which, in turn, can help you grow as a professional. “At the end of the day, that is what makes you stand out,” he says.

Tyrone Sampson, an MBA student and Consortium fellow at Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business, also believes in the power of “personability” and says a resume is one way of demonstrating this.

“Do not underestimate the additional information section that usually comes at the end of a resume,” he says. “I’ve used that as a way to initiate conversations with people, and it’s been a great way to show how I’m different from other candidates. It can take the form of listing interests, associations you’re a part of, board affiliations, certifications, or anything to [show how] you are a little bit different.”

On a similar note, Sampson and Wilson both emphasize the importance of young professionals being aware of what makes them an asset.

“Make sure the story you’re telling makes sense and that you’re able to convey your value to that future employer,” says Sampson, “because the same way that you’re evaluating them, they are certainly evaluating you — and that doesn’t start on day one. That starts with everything you do to get up to day one, whether day one is the interview or your first day on the job.”

Expanding Your Knowledge

To increase your likelihood of even reaching day one on the job, Sampson says it’s important to ensure that you are not only focusing on the bigger picture but also on the small, simple things. This means doing things like increasing your knowledge of a company, initiating conversations with recruiters and sending thank-you notes.

“You want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward and that you’re ready for any opportunity that could come,” says Sampson, who will be interning with The Vanguard Group this summer.

Tyrone Sampson

He worked to familiarize himself with the company prior to interviewing by reading not just the company’s website but also books by Vanguard’s founder John Bogle. “I was prepared to have conversations about Vanguard and the culture,” he says. “My story was worked out on why investment management, why an MBA, why Emory — all of those basics.”

Wilson says his focus on improving is guided by his curiosity. This is one thing that struck him about several CEOs who spoke at one on-campus event he attended: “I found that the similar quality in all of them [was] that they were extremely curious about all things, the industry that they worked in,” says Wilson.

By allowing himself to follow his curiosity, he has gained a diversity of experience in different areas, helping grow his knowledge and skill set. All of these encounters, however, were all directed toward one goal: using analytics to drive strategy.

He likens his quest to expand his abilities to a basketball player. “They’re going to want to work on their free throws, they’re going to want to work on their speed and strength, they’re going to want to work on their shooting — different things, but they’re all focused on one goal of being the best player,” Wilson says.

Sampson has taken a similar approach to becoming a well-rounded professional. Through an improvisation class, he has worked to prepare himself for the uncomfortable situations he’s likely to encounter as a future business leader. He says that while he’s made “a fool out of himself,” what he’s taken from the experience is the ability to quickly articulate his thoughts in a succinct way.

“It’s a bit nerve-racking at first because you know you’re going to be called on, you know you’re going to have to do things you’re not comfortable with, but that’s life,” says Sampson. “Life has a lot of uncomfortable moments, moments where you’re nervous and don’t want to get up in front of people and speak, or you’re caught off guard. It’s a great way to gain exposure to that and become a little more comfortable with these situations.”


Making genuine connections is another way to expand access to opportunities. For both Sampson and Wilson, The Consortium has offered this, facilitating connections with not just other Consortium classmates but also alumni and business leaders from some of the world’s most prominent companies.

“I understood that one of the most beneficial factors [of The Consortium] is that you have a network — not just within your school but multiple schools within The Consortium. That’s the thing that really appealed to me,” says Wilson. This network, he adds, has also helped him become more aware of professional and recruiting events happening around the country.

The Consortium’s annual conference, the OP, is where Sampson initially connected and interviewed with Vanguard. But he says the organization’s network has helped him in other ways as well. Emory has a Consortium support team as well as a list of alumni who students can reach out to for guidance.

“I was able to find people who are like-minded, who want to pursue the same thing or the same industry, and bounce ideas off of them, share resumes, share cover letters,” he says.

Beyond The Consortium, both Sampson and Wilson have learned the value of connecting on a personal level with recruiters and interviewers.

“They really want to get to know who you are — ‘Is this someone I could work late hours with? Is this someone who I think adds a unique asset to our firm and our team?’ You have to make that come out during the networking piece, whether it’s out getting dinner with recruiters or current consultants,” says Wilson. “I think that’s going to be very important because, at the end of the day in business, you’re always working with another human.”

One way Sampson has built his network is by becoming involved with clubs and organizations, like the Center for Alternative Investments at Goizueta, where he is a fellow. This experience allows him to not only connect with fellow students but also help plan and execute events as well as gain valuable leadership skills. Outside of Goizueta, he is a member of the Atlanta Society of Finance and Investment Professionals, which allows him to connect with and gain insight from leading professionals in the region.

Interviewing and Reflecting

Being able to articulate your qualifications and your story in an interview is also key to improving your chances of successfully landing an opportunity.

Sampson utilized staff in Emory’s Career Management Center to help polish his resume and pitch, develop questions for employers and learn about valuable resources like The Wall Street Journal for staying on top of industry trends.

Wilson emphasizes the importance of practicing when it comes to preparing for interviews, ensuring that you are organized and succinct, especially when it comes to case interviews when you may have to do quick math on the spot.

Overall, one of the best things you can do for yourself before even pursuing a company or position, Sampson says, is to take time for reflection to determine what you really want. For him, this meant considering factors such as location and job function — “basically creating a scorecard for myself to determine what’s really important for me in an internship and then tailoring [my search] around that,” he says.

“This all prepares you so that when you’re in that moment and you’re showing them your resume, the story you’re telling is compelling because you’ve thought it through,” says Sampson. “You’re prepared to seize the opportunity, and I think a lot of interviewers can feel when you’re prepared, when you’re ready and when you’re excited about the opportunity.”

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