By January, some first-year MBA students have taken the first step in securing their careers as business leaders: They've accepted summer internship offers.
Employment is such a critical part of the b-school experience that an MBA program's career office usually starts working with first-year students before they arrive on campus and continues working with them on resume writing, interviewing and other skills after they find summer employment.
"Once you accept an internship, the process doesn't stop," says Mark Brostoff of Washington University in St. Louis' Olin Business School. Brostoff is the associate dean and director of the business school's Weston Career Center.
In areas such as consulting or banking, he says, it's not unheard for students to already have internships lined up.
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Prospective students think about their career trajectory even before they get accepted into school. Many MBA programs require applicants to submit a resume, which can give the admissions team a sense of what students are like as employees.
At the Yale School of Management, the admissions office wants to identify people who will not only do well academically but who also have high professional potential after they graduate, says Bruce DelMonico, the school's assistant dean and director of admissions. "We want to see some evidence of excellence in your professional background."
Students who already know where their summer internship will be, and those who will find one in the coming months, can use spring semester to prepare for work.
MBA candidates who find out early can take classes that are in line with their job, says Bukky Olowude, a 2014 MBA graduate of Yale. While a student, Olowude was a career coach for first-year students.
"If youre going into finance, maybe take some more finance classes," says Olowude, who interned at the bank Chase and now works as an associate in its leadership development program.
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Communication classes can also be beneficial for students going into management, says Brostoff.
No matter what kind of internship a student has, Olowude also suggests he or she take a competitive strategy class, which teaches students how to deal with competitors in the business world.
If it's too late to sign up for classes, business school case competitions can also provide opportunities for students to develop skills that will help them at work, she says. Teams are given a business problem and a set amount of time to solve it, which can be anywhere from a day to two months, Olowude says.
Competitions can be within a business school or allow students to compete with outside candidates. Many schools offer them as a way for students to hone leadership skills and business acumen.
Students who want to compete usually have an easy way to hear about them. "Clubs are always advertising for case competitions that they hear of," Olowude says. ..