Money Monday: Tips on Having a Successful Internship

It’s that time of the year when students are getting a taste of what it’s like to bring home the bacon with summer internships.

Before I delve into this post, I just wanna say I’m so glad I was born in 1975 because I never had to worry about internships early on as a student. In high school, I was biking around the neighborhood and volunteering at the hospital. In college, I was desperately trying to pass Physics and surveying trees at Forestry Camp. The only time I ever had a paid internship was the summer in-between my 2 years getting my MBA. I hated it, but that was irrelevant. Just because you detest the work doesn’t give you license to suck.

Tip #1: Underpromise and overdeliver.

Tell whoever you report to that while you’ve never done this kind of work before, you’re going to work day and night to make sure you understand the ins and outs of the business. This is very important: this is your opportunity to absorb and learn. If you don’t know, ask questions! You’re the intern. It’s ok to not know. After your internship is over, if you still don’t know, that is a big problem. You probably won’t get hired and if you do, that’s worse because you won’t know jack shit and people will wonder why you’re such an idiot. You will never get this opportunity again. Don’t let it slip. Ask, absorb, learn, network. No question is a dumb question. Ask, ask, ask!

Tip #2: Appearances are everything.

Wear a suit. Dress a notch better than everyone else you will interact with. Be the first person at work. Be the last person to leave.

Tip #3: It’s not about you. It’s about your boss.

Forget about all those thoughts in your head about whether or not this is the right job for you. It doesn’t f*ing matter. When you’re staring at a handful of offer letters, that’s when you can start having those ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ conversations. Right now, it’s all about having a successful internship and landing an offer when the internship is over. Bottom line: make your boss look good. Your job is to make your boss’s life easier. If you notice that your boss is spending an inordinate amount of time running reports, learn how to run those queries and take on that responsibility. If you notice that during meetings no one takes notes, then take notes and distribute them to the team. What a great resource for someone who missed the meeting or isn’t able to attend! Seize opportunities to make yourself be useful. Don’t wait for people to tell you what to do. Don’t be a monkey! Be a problem-solving, creative human being.

Tip #4: Understand the culture and play the game.

During the start of my internship in graduate school, the recruiting manager talked about how this was the first time they were putting together a formalized internship program. She had conceived of the idea herself and was very proud of how the company had rallied around her idea.

At the end of the summer, the recruiting manager asked for feedback. A fellow intern, I’ll call him Larry, proceeded to give her very detailed, very critical feedback on how the program could be improved. Everything he said was warranted, but foolhardy. Larry didn’t know how to play the game. As he continued his critique, I could see the recruiter manager hang her head solemnly. She looked very upset.

After the room had cleared out, I went up to the recruiting manager and said, “I just want to say that I’ve never been a part of an internship program before and you did such an amazing job. It was extremely well-organized. I especially liked how you balanced the technical seminars with the networking events. I’m looking forward to applying all the knowledge I’ve learned this summer when I hopefully work here full time. And I owe that all to you. So thank you so much. I know it will make the transition that much easier.” She thanked me for those words and told me how much they meant to her.

I understood the culture. I mean, this wasn’t investment banking or management consulting. Sure the recruiting manager was looking for feedback, but you’ve got to read the situation and people properly. I couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to make someone feel good about herself and the work that she did. She was going to tell the hiring manager that she loved me and I knew that it was only a matter of time before I received an offer. Even though Larry was a rockstar intern, he was denied an offer. I’m sure the recruiting manager had something to do with that!

Money Monday: Are You Paid Enough?

It’s that time of the year when I receive my compensation plan and my bonus gets paid out. I’m happy to report that I’m pleased with the numbers. Not only do I enjoy what I do, but I feel I’m paid a fair wage.

Exactly one year ago, I was no where close to pleased. Frankly, I was pissed. After I received my comp plan, I returned to my cubicle and acted like I’d just been pink-slipped. I grabbed the calendar and threw it in the trash. I tore down personal pictures and put them in my purse. I emptied my filing cabinet and put the folders in the recycling bin. I left the office dejected, as if I truly had been laid off.

Because I’m an intense and productive hard-worker, I expect to be compensated for the effort I put in. I thrive on compliments, appreciation, and cold hard cash. After a sleepless night, I knew that tears would do me no good nor could I very well implode in a fit of anger. I had to get even. I had to prove not only to my employer, but to myself that I was worth more. I had to prove that my reaction of shock and utter disappointment was justified.

Enter Job Hunting Catherine-Style

Search jobs internally using key word ‘MBA.’

Search jobs externally (LinkedIn, Simply Hired) using key word ‘MBA.’

Search jobs in alumni databases filtering by role (strategy, product management, investor relations) and location.

Send brief emails (no more than a handful of sentences) describing qualifications and attach resume.

Do not send cover letters. That is a serious waste of time. If you are qualified, your resume will prove your qualifications, not what you write in a personalized cover letter.

Given that I only applied to jobs I was qualified for, I got a good response rate from hiring managers. Two weeks after I had started my job search, I secured my first offer and was on my way to getting a second. Along the way, several recruiters and hiring managers asked that I contact them if ever I found myself looking to make a switch in the future.

Keep in mind, I didn’t want to leave my job, I only felt I wasn’t paid fairly. Once I secured that first offer, I asked that my employer match it.

Success!

It’s around this same time that I hear complaints from people about work and pay. Believe me, I’ve been there. If you don’t feel you’re paid enough, then test your marketability by gathering offer letters, and come to some conclusions about whether or not you’re worth what you think you’re worth. It’s important to be realistic, but more importantly you have to be confident and have faith in yourself.

Job Hunting

One month ago I started aggressively job-hunting—as aggressive as you can be while having a full-time job. My job hunt consists of searching key words in my current employer’s website, LinkedIn, Simply Hired, and the job postings on the Chicago Booth alumni website. I find that the easiest search is the key word ‘MBA’ to hone in on management-level positions.

In these 30 days, I’ve landed interviews for a total of 6 positions.

3 have been with my current employer. I guess it’s always easiest to hire one of your own. Speaking of preferential treatment, I recently posted an ad on Craigslist to rent my garage space. Everyone who turned up was eager and professional, but I had to give it to someone who works at my same company. Doesn’t get easier than that in terms of references and payment.

2 were through website applications on job sites, tied to search firms. One of the recruiters has a loose connection to me, but a connection nonetheless. The other one, there was no connection—and it’s for a large, public technology company. It’s noteworthy to point this out because I think there’s this belief that you can’t ever get a job unless you know someone at the company. I don’t believe that to be true.

And lastly, one very promising job lead is through a Burning Man connection. Yey! When I was thoroughly depressed and complaining about my job, a fellow ARTery volunteer told me to send him my resume and he would pass it on to a friend of his who happens to be on the Board of Directors of a bank! The bank followed up immediately.

I am very excited about what the future holds. Based on my experience job hunting, I do feel the market is picking up.

Training Athletes for M.B.A.s

ATHLTEMBA

John S. Dykes

I wanted to Tweet this great article from the Wall Street Journal, but you have to be a subscriber to view in its entirety. I’m posting here instead. Interesting debate on MBAs catering to athletes. I vote against! Apply like the rest of us and benefit from a class of diverse backgrounds.

By MELISSA KORN

Quarterback, meet quarterly report.

In one of the latest incarnations of a business-school degree program, George Washington University’s School of Business this summer launched a two-year executive M.B.A. program that caters to the busy schedules of athletes and others in the public eye.

Business schools are growing increasingly creative in their offerings as they look to offset declining interest in traditional M.B.A. programs, focusing efforts on one-year programs for recent graduates, international partnerships and, in the case of George Washington, degrees for individuals in niche fields like professional football.

To be sure, George Washington isn’t the first to cater to athletes: Harvard Business School, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and others have long offered dedicated programs geared toward football players through courses sponsored by the National Football League. But those courses, on topics like real estate and entrepreneurship, last only a few days and don’t lead to a degree.

George Washington’s STAR—”special talent, access and responsibility”—program is possibly the first general business degree program for such a specialized group.

Business-skills classes can be particularly valuable for professional athletes, who often find themselves out of work—and out of money—by the time they hit age 30.

But some wonder whether the program perpetuates the assumption that athletes cannot also be academics.

Sanjay Rupani, chief strategy officer at George Washington’s business school, says the specialized program is needed to help the professional athletes translate “their special talents,” as many look to market themselves via entrepreneurial endeavors.

The STAR program’s 22-student roster includes Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, former gymnast and Olympic gold-medalist Dominique Dawes and professional poker player Michelle Lau.

The curriculum is similar to the school’s regular executive M.B.A. curriculum, but STAR students don’t take classes with the other students. The classes focus on finance, marketing and global business and cover topics like negotiation and statistics. The STAR students meet as a group six times during the two-year program and complete some online coursework as well. The program costs a total of $95,000, the same as the school’s other executive M.B.A.

Kenneth Shropshire, professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton and director of the school’s sports-industry research center, says such a segregated program could be construed as an “M.B.A. light.”

But Douglas Guthrie, dean of the George Washington business school, says that speculation is “puzzling,” noting that the coming February class includes an NFL player who attended Cornell University as an undergraduate. “While it is surely true that some athletes are not prepared for graduate education, many are,” he says.

George Washington’s Mr. Rupani says the application process is rigorous, weighing academic transcripts, personal statements and recommendations. Still, the current class had a 100% acceptance rate because all of the students presently enrolled were specifically invited to apply.

It is too early to say whether other schools will follow George Washington’s lead. Right now, they are channeling professional athletes into their regular M.B.A. or executive M.B.A. tracks.

University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has former professional football and baseball players in its current full-time M.B.A. cohort, tapping the athlete market without making special considerations for them, like separating them from other students.

Sara Neher, assistant dean for M.B.A. admissions at Darden, says it “would be really wrong for both [athletes] and the regular students in the programs if they were separated,” because the larger group wouldn’t be exposed to the athletes’ insights on teamwork and leadership. “They don’t add value to my Darden classroom if the other students aren’t able to learn from them.”

Wharton’s Mr. Shropshire says it’s no secret that a major component of a business-school education is to network with a variety of students who can become valuable business contacts.

But George Washington says the segregation actually adds value, putting the students at ease by surrounding them with others who may have been more focused on playbooks than on textbooks in recent years. “Our students get to network with other students who bring very similar experiences and perspectives to the table,” says Mr. Rupani.

And being surrounded by athletes is exactly what some of the STAR students expect after graduation. Mr. Ayanbadejo, 35 years old, says he is looking to beef up his résumé before retiring from the NFL and applying to jobs as a university athletics director.

But Scott Jackson, 32, a second-year M.B.A. student at Darden and former offensive lineman with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans, says he likes being thrown in alongside bankers and consultants. “If you’re segregating yourself into these buckets of athletes, you’re assuming that all of your future business interactions and transactions will be done with athletes,” he says. “It’s just not real.”

Write to Melissa Korn at melissa.korn@wsj.com

Yearbook Nostalgia

My camera went dysfunctional on me during our LA trip. The pictures from the BBQ turned out horrible so I’ll have to post pictures from Dean’s camera later on. I’ve spent the last few days reading camera reviews and wringing my hands over what I can afford.

During the BBQ, I was talking to my high school friend Joe who had mentioned his career kept track with what he did in high school yearbook. He took pictures and made decisions on the layouts. I was the business manager. Granted I am the worst person to seek advice on investments, it’s interesting that I got an MBA and work at a bank. And I’m good with managing money, but I think that has more to do with my parents being immigrants and molding me to their strict finances versus inherently knowing what to do. Then there’s Marc who was the yearbook editor and has found a career in brand management and design consulting. Fascinating, right?

There is a scene from my childhood that recently has been floating in and out of my thoughts. We took my sister who’s older to swimming class and I remember pouting and being upset because I had to sit there in the stands with my mom. Just staring. I don’t know whether it was my mom who talked to one of the instructors or whether the instructor pulled me out of the stands. But the instructor brought me up to the deep end of the pool and asked, “Are you going to be ok learning and being in the deep end?” I had never swam before, but nodded enthusiastically because I had no fear.

I want to be like that again.

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