By Mary Shea Watson
Newswise — Soon, University of Virginia Darden School of Business Class of 2020 students will depart Grounds for their summer internships. During those 10 to 12 weeks, rising Second Year students will delve into an industry or function of choice, connect with new colleagues or perhaps explore new international locations. And afterwards, nearly 60 percent of the class will return to Darden in the fall with a full-time offer from their internship company.
Students often ask Darden’s Career Development Center (CDC): How does one secure that full-time offer? Several recruiters and School alumni shared their answers to those questions during Darden’s inaugural spring career fair, which included a networking reception with a dozen companies, two panel discussions, company office hours, and on-Grounds and virtual interview opportunities.
“The career fair gave students insights on how to have a successful internship through the lens of a recruiter and business manager,” said Casey Floyd (GEMBA ’17), CDC director of employer engagement and recruiting.
Courtney Harris, CDC assistant director of employer engagement and recruiting, also touted the value of the fair. “Through programs like our spring career fair, students are exposed to new opportunities that might result in job offers, and our employer partners can access the talented pool of students at Darden,” Harris said.
How Can MBA Students Set Themselves Up for Internship Success?
- Tip No. 1: “Intellectual curiosity and humility are a powerful combination. Take ownership and anticipate questions. Don’t wait to be told the next step,” said Darden alumnus and CarMax Director of Merchandising Strategy Matt McFarland (MBA ’13) during an alumni panel moderated by CDC Senior Director for Consulting Careers Christy Gunville. “It’s what makes you perform well at Darden. Bring excitement for the company and your job.”
- Tip No. 2: Patrick Higgins (MBA ’16) focused on attitude and image as an intern. Higgins spent his internship as one of three MBAs at digital product agency WillowTree, which is headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia. WillowTree’s other two MBAs at the time? The mobile app company’s co-founders. “It’s about how you carry yourself and talk to others,” Higgins said. “My mentor was two years younger than me. I had to check my assumption at the door and say, ‘Let’s learn how to figure this stuff out.’” Higgins now serves as WillowTree’s vice president of business development and serves as strategic lead for solving challenges faced by clients like HBO, American Express, National Geographic and more.
- Tip No. 3: Elizabeth Preston (Class of 2020), who will intern at Google, asked the alumni panelists for advice on how to get up to speed on complex processes and tools in order be successful in a short time frame. “Don’t put added pressure on yourself. Create three or four tactical things you want to accomplish,” suggested Aneesh Saxena (MBA ’18), senior marketing manager at Wayfair. “You’re getting in the groove of nine-to-five again. Nobody is expecting you to solve a project in one week. Work with your manager to determine the best way to be tactical.”
- Tip No. 4: Participants in the career fair’s recruiter panel also emphasized the importance of creating an early connection with managers and cross-functional colleagues. They highlighted the need for MBA interns to show preparation and problem-solving skills, while bringing intentionality, transparency and creativity to their projects. “We deliberately give interns projects with gaps, fractures and missed opportunities,” said Nicole Wormley, Danaher global director of talent branding and university recruitment. “How will you use data to influence your hiring manager, stakeholder or end user to help them? We’re looking for interns to be potential general managers. Bring innovation and thought-leadership, but do it in an empathetic way.”
- Tip No. 5: Panelists during both sessions recommended students stay in touch with recruiters, colleagues and managers — regardless of whether or not they pursue a full-time opportunity with the same firm. Panelist and Darden alumnus Nate Weir (MBA ’14), now marketing strategy manager at UPS, didn’t get a formal offer from his summer internship company, The Washington Post, until late fall. He called his former colleagues once every few months to stay up-to-date on hiring opportunities and, ultimately, found a great fit.
- Tip No. 6: “Have fun getting to know your organization as a whole,” Wayfair campus recruiter Sarah Roberts encouraged. “Ask yourself, ‘Can I be happy here?’”
About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.