Internship Diaries

As a friend jokingly said the other day – you should call this part of life partially employed!

Jokes apart, after spending eight months rigorously studying courses from various disciplines of management, I am currently on a short sabbatical from the academic life. End of April marked the beginning of my 4-month internship at the Paris-based office of a reputed multi-national organization. I will be working here as a full-time intern till the end of August, and then go back to the university to complete my specialization phase from September to December. 

MBA program at HEC gives you the unique option of either doing 8 elective courses (and then a month and a half long internship), or doing a 4 month internship (technically it is called fieldwork) after the completion of fundamental phase. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the courses taught in the fundamental phase of the MBA, but from the bottom of my heart I was craving to go back to the office life, projects, deadlines, jam packed outlook calendars since the first month in Jouy. Hence, I made my decision to go for option 2 – the longer internship (fieldwork!)

As a large chunk of visitors of this blog arrive from various GMAT forums; hence, I thought I should detail out some of the challenges and best practices prospective candidates should be better prepared for, regarding internship/job search, before they dip their toes into the MBA life. The experiences may vary based on the type and geography of the company you apply to; however, the pointers below are an average of experiences a job seeker would face / is facing.

The Challenges 

It is not a hidden fact that most of the European states are currently facing tumultuous economic conditions. In comparison with the students from past intakes, finding an internship or a full-time position this year seems to have been especially tricky. Some of the most common roadblocks I personally witnessed during my internship search were:
  • Work permit - This usually is one of the initial filters and is a limiting factor unless you are applying to a large conglomerate. Due to various cumbersome steps and costs involved, companies seem to prefer candidates who already have the authority to work in the country under consideration
  • Local language - If you are looking for a client facing role, such as in consulting, knowledge of the local language of the office you are applying for is an absolute must
  • Length of the internship - A lot of Europe based offices expect an intern to stay with them upwards of 6 months, which can be a limiting factor as a lot of b-schools do not provide this large a gap during the MBA
    • This one is a negotiable issue basis what value you can add in the time you have, and if you can stretch the period by working part-time for a while

The Best Practices

I knowingly didn't call this part of the blog post as 'the solutions.' Job/internship search is never a one size fits all game. The challenges may be common, but the solutions are unique to every individual. However, one needs to be very aware of the importance of the following:
  • Network, Network, and Network - There is no need to highlight the importance of networking in today's world; especially, in the world where we all seek to move post-MBA
  • Solid research about the companies and the profiles - Contrary to what some people suggest, I recommend that one should apply to only a handful of companies, and not spray and pray! 
    • Apply only where you really want to go or to a company which does what you really want to do
  • Work on your pitch - Make your pitch, not a 30 second elevator pitch, but a concise summary of who you are, what have you done, and what is it that you bring on the table for the job/project under consideration

But don't forget...

… there is always a component of luck in every good or not-so-good thing that happens in your life. I am a firm believer of ‘whatever happens; happens for a reason’ camp. So, fingers crossed and wish you luck for the search! 
London Eye
Serious stuff aside, April and May have been really good to satiate my wanderlust! I had a two week long trip to India, two trips to London and one trip to Amsterdam! And of course, visited some new places in Paris. Over the next few days, I will write about those trips as well. Keep watching this space! For select pictures of my European sojourns head over to my Instagram page.

Till then, as they say in French, à bientôt !

There are no superheroes

But then there are no tasks that a cross-functional team, with proper coordination and a good leader, can’t successfully execute. 

As a part of the MBA program at HEC, we have to participate in a two-day off-campus leadership seminar at St Cyr military academy. It is a well-known fact that the military is unparalleled in its processes and logistics. However, before embarking on the 2 day sojourn at St Cyr, it was a question in everyone’s mind regarding if it was going to be a commando training or a lecture on leadership skills at the academy. It was none. 

Days at the academy start at 0500 hours and continue till the evening – packed with exercises and simulated scenarios that army faces on a regular basis. Albeit, some activities required physical strength, the focus was on fostering clarity in thoughts, communication and execution, and in-turn leadership. Based on the speed of execution, each group had an opportunity to do 10-15 tasks. The activities included saving a snake-bite victim from another side of the lake, to finding an injured colleague in the wild and aid air rescue by taking the victim to a safe flat land area. Obviously, no one was bit by a snake, and the injured friend was a cloth filled dummy saved by an imaginary helicopter, but the rest of the activity was done in near real scenarios. 

The tasks were similar to nothing that we have done in our professional lives, and the team had members of which most of them hadn't worked together extensively in the past. As a result, we were unsuccessful in executing first 2 time-bound high-stress tasks. From the third activity onward, our mentor, the representative from the army, appointed one leader and suggested some ways and methodologies for a better team performance even on tasks on which no team member has any experience, whatsoever. We saw an exponential improvement in team performance with each additional task, as the next leader utilized the best practices and learned from the mistakes of the previous leaders. 

For each task, we had to follow the concept of ‘leaving no man/woman behind.’ Implying, the task is not complete if a prodigy from your team walks on the rope and reaches the other side, you can use such a talent to your advantage, but the task is only complete when the whole team crosses the said water body in allocated time. The second best thing about these tasks was the debrief session post the task. It was the best learning experience, where your peers provide you feedback, as well as, you also introspect that if we start from scratch, what can be done differently. 

My team building a 'X bridge' to cross a small river

To be a good leader, you need to be able to think swiftly, motivate intrinsically and delegate appropriately. Secondly, for problems of unknown nature, sometimes the leader needs to step out from the execution zone, and focus on adapting/making decisions and guiding his specialized teams.

There's a simple formula for success as a leader. Know the tasks you can delegate, find the right person, delegate the tasks to him / her, move upwards towards more challenging tasks, repeat. Once you master this formula, you will see yourself, your team and your organisation climbing the ladder of success.

Certainly, as our senior batch mentioned, St Cyr. is one of the most memorable events of this MBA journey. It journey not only provides a great outlet to practically apply concepts learned behind the classroom doors, but also helps in trying out some adventure activities which you will most probably never come across in the day-to-day life.