Preparing for your Summer Internship: Finding your Anchors

Rohan Hemrajani, Class of 2017

Rohan Hemrajani, Class of 2017

As you start your summer internships, you are going into a new and unfamiliar environment, where you would need to prove yourself worthy for a full-time gig in less than 10-12 weeks. I walked into Ecolab Inc. in Minneapolis for my summer internship that encompassed a whole lot of unknowns: the city, the industry, the role, the team and the company itself. In order to maximize my productivity and experience, I had to anchor myself to people within the company who can help me settle down quickly, and also contribute towards a success summer: people who can support me beyond the professional context. I called them my “go-to team.”

Who can they be?

Essentially, your anchors should be employees within the organization who have spent a considerable time in the company as well as the location. They can be someone who you have some similarity with, such as company division, business school, work floor or even ethnic background. My “go-to team” comprised of my manager, my team’s director, 2015 Booth alumni and a fellow Indian who had his work station right next to me.

What can they support you in?

It is important to build personal relationships with your anchors, to enable trust and support beyond your project. Some of the different areas I took support in were: feedback and run-through on final presentation, who to network with and how, fun things to do in the city, and even pursuing common interests together. The interactions could range from personal to professional contexts: from a formal meeting to getting drinks or even catching up over the weekend.

Recognize that you may need more than just one type of anchor. Find a diverse group of people to surround yourself with.

Recognize that you may need more than just one type of anchor. Find a diverse group of people to surround yourself with.

How can you sustain these relationships?

Your anchors should know that you value their feedback and trust their opinion. This makes them more invested in your development and experience. I often openly communicated this to my anchors, and it fostered a stronger bond with them. Beyond communication, it was also important for me to maintain regular interaction with them. The conversations shouldn’t always be when you need some kind of support. I used to often catch up with my anchors, and have meaningful conversations with them about their personal interests and background or their professional goals. This way, you are also building long-term relationships, but do not do this with the intent of sustaining anchors; be genuinely interested in building these relationships.

The first few days of your internship are overwhelming because you are getting to know new people, while trying to figure out the scope of your project. Hopefully, you find your anchors in these days so they could help get you over this feeling faster and can direct you towards a successful summer stint.

I love it when a plan comes together

By Matt Richards, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

By Matt Richards, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

It took until mid-November this year but fall is finally in the air. Thanksgiving is upon us. For first years, your first quarter is nearly over and Winter Break and all of its ski-trip glory is just around the corner. Almost time to kick your feet up and relax, right? In the words of our President-Elect: “WRONG!”

It may initially seem counterintuitive, but now really is the time to begin putting together your detailed recruiting plan. Corporate conversations have wrapped up and hopefully you’ve found the industry and set of firms that you would like to target. With finals, applications, career treks all looming in the next month, having a well-structured plan is critical to ensuring your success in the recruiting process. Here are some planning suggestions to help you achieve your ideal recruiting outcome:

Solidify your list of target firms. Be sure to prioritize this list into your top choices, your second-tier choices, and your fallback options. Try to target an initial list of at least 10-15 firms in rank order. Yes, that might seem like a lot but it’s always easier to whittle down the list than start too narrow! Keep in mind how many are on-campus vs. off-campus as this will dictate their recruiting schedules.

Map out everything you want to accomplish between now and the beginning of Winter Quarter. Write out the application deadlines for all of your target firms (you could include this info in your above list). How many require cover letters? Make sure you demonstrate you are highly knowledgeable about the firm (and why it’s unique!). Will you need to do case prep over break? Practice valuations? Craft a stock pitch? Make sure you include that into your plan. Are you going on a career trek? Plan on doing some company research. Do you want to have some informal networking calls/chats over the break? Try to schedule those before winter break starts.

Prioritize how you want to allocate your time. This element is critical. How soon are your applications due? Some are due before the break so prioritize your cover letters and applications accordingly. After applications are submitted, will you need more preparation on technical or behavioral questions? What about further company research? This will dictate how much time you allocate to each. Try to be specific with your planning estimates. In addition, overestimate how much time you’ll need and start early. Better to feel over-prepared than cramming come January!

Stick to your plan! While we are all inclined to pull on a cozy sweater, grab a book (who are we kidding? It’s really Netflix), and cozy up by the fire (TV) with our favorite warm beverage, this upcoming break from classes is some of the most valuable time you will have in preparing for interviews. Make it a goal to set aside at least one hour a day preparing for interviews or working on your recruiting efforts.

Building and executing a detailed recruiting plan may not be what you envisioned doing over winter break but it could be one of the most instrumental elements of your recruiting process. Two months from now, offer from your top choice in hand, you may find yourself whipping out a cigar and, in your best Hannibal Smith voice, muttering to yourself, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Matt is a Career Advisor and he is happy to help with recruiting (by appointment).

Your Cover Letter Sets You Apart from the Pack

By Brian Tung, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

By Brian Tung, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

Networking like a pro is well underway and it’s time to start thinking about those stories you will be telling in interviews.  One of the best places to start thinking about what sets you apart from the pack is your cover letter.  

Over this autumn quarter, I’ve met so many talented first-years with impressive and unique backgrounds: from submarine officers and Teach for America administrators, to past consultants, bankers, and analysts.  When thinking about cover letters (and interview stories in general), the biggest piece of advice I’ve given to all of them is to embrace your past.  

To those with non-traditional backgrounds worried that a firm won’t be interested because you don’t have business experience, think hard about how your experiences in the past involved analysis and critical thinking (I promise you, they’re there!) and then highlight those attributes while still displaying the wonderful uniqueness of your background.  

For those with traditional business backgrounds who are nervous you won’t be unique enough, embrace the fact that you’ve seen the way businesses face and address their challenges and how you’ve contributed to those strategic decisions.  Everyone in the Booth community has a tremendous background that can be tailored and articulated in a way that is both impressive and practical.  

Here are a few additional tips as you think about your stories:

1. A cover letter is a complement to your resume. This means that you don’t need to rehash everything you’ve ever done in your career. That’s already in your resume! Pick a story or two that you think effectively demonstrates everything you try to convey in your resume (analysis, leadership, critical thinking, teamwork) and try to tell it in a succinct manner.  The SOAR method works well as a framework for cover letters (not just for interviews)!

2. Don’t be generic with your cover letters. It’s incredibly easy to tell when someone wrote a cover letter designed to say “Dear [Firm], I am interested in [role].”  Some of the best parts about being at Booth are the tremendous opportunities that are in front of us career-wise. You should be excited about whichever job you’re applying for, so tell them why! Do your research about the firm, industry, and role, and then articulate why you are the perfect fit for it.

3. Remember that we have tremendous resources at Booth to help you succeed. If you have any questions or are having trouble telling your story, Career Coaches, Career Advisors, and your peers are all here for you.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone you think can help you.

The last word of encouragement I have for anyone worried about telling their story in an effective manner is this: Admissions is very good at what they do, and you’re here for a reason. Keep that in mind and go win that dream job!

Brian is happy to review cover letters in exchange for a frosty beverage (or a simple GTS appointment registration) at any time!

The Tipping Point of Feedback

By Michelle DiMattia, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

By Michelle DiMattia, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

As a Career Advisor I spend a lot of time helping students sharpen the various tools in their recruiting toolbox: the perfect resume, the attention-grabbing elevator pitch, the compelling cover letter, and the insightful question that cuts through what can feel like recruitment propaganda.

I truly believe that working with someone else can provide tremendous value when preparing for the various aspects of recruiting.  

  1. An outside perspective can see how a point on your resume highlights the success of a project rather than just celebrating the impact you had on that project.

  2. Someone from a different background can help you cut out the jargon you didn’t realize was actually distracting from your elevator pitch.  

  3. Someone who has recently been through the recruiting process can help you focus on highlighting the stories or skills that were top of mind for recruiters.

At Booth, where the pay-it-forward culture is so strong, there is never a shortage of people willing to help and provide guidance!

However, despite the tremendous value that can be gained from external review, there inevitably comes a point when you no longer benefit from seeking out that additional feedback.  There are two main reasons for this.  

First, recruiting is inherently subjective because what is considered valuable or desirable will differ amongst firms.  And this is exactly why seeking out diverse perspectives for input on your recruiting approach is so valuable!  Yet, too many opinions can sometimes lead candidates to dilute or contradict their message in an effort to try to appeal to each person’s definition of “value”.  

Second, in recruiting--as is the case in business generally--the law of diminishing returns applies.  I remember getting to a point last year where I spent hours swapping action verbs on my resume because my mentor told me one thing and Management Consulting Group (MCG) told me another. Or spent hours trying out different ways to emphasize leadership and teamwork in my interview examples because peers gave different advice.  And while it was important to have strong action verbs and punchy interview stories, I definitely hit a point where the effort I was putting in was far greater than the benefit I was getting out. recruiting—as is the case in business generally—the law of diminishing returns applies.

Again, I am not saying that review and feedback is not important – I think it is critical! But I do believe that it is important to always be conscious of the value you are expecting and the value you are actually gaining. My best advice is to take a minute to think about the value you want to get from each recruiting activity early on.  Whether it is a resume review, a coffee chat or case drills, ask yourself what you hope to gain from each activity. And equally as important, be honest with yourself about when you’ve hit a certain saturation point.  Recognizing that can can allow you to redirect your efforts to another activity where you can truly benefit.

Michelle is ready to complicate recruiting preparation by giving Boothies some of that much-needed career advice. By appointment of course.  

Highlight transferable skills to switch careers with ease

By Amy Berg, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

By Amy Berg, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

It goes without saying that people use business school as a means to switch careers. Lawyers moving into marketing. Consultants pursuing banking. Engineers seeking PM roles at tech firms. Engineers transitioning into operations roles. Engineers switching to corporate strategy. Okay, those last three are just transitions I pursued last year.

I spent my pre-MBA career as a design engineer at John Deere. I entered business school with deep knowledge of farming, heavy manufacturing, how to work with unions, and how to remove green paint from clothing. How was I supposed to convince a recruiter at a tech company that he or she should spend any time considering me for a job?

I had to spend some time re-framing my previous work experience in order to highlight the transferable skills I had gained and why they made me a serious candidate for whichever role I was considering. When discussing PM roles with recruiters, I talked about my general passion for product development and how the time I spent in the field helped me develop empathy for the customer. For operations roles, I highlighted my experience on the factory floor, working cross-functionally on issues regarding efficiency and manufacturability. Regarding procurement roles, I emphasized that I had often worked with suppliers, negotiating engineering specs and completing projects to decrease cost. The point is, I pinpointed the general experiences that were useful for a variety of roles and I made sure I catered my message to each company.

Think about skills you possess that can take you to the next level, whatever the job.

Think about skills you possess that can take you to the next level, whatever the job.

This exercise of making a list of jobs that interest you and what skills you already have that translate to those roles does a couple of things. First, you start to convince yourself that you are a strong candidate. Confidence is key when you only have a few minutes to make an impression in a Meet-n-Greet or crop circle and when you eventually interview. Second, the exercise helps you start to frame how each role fits into your own career trajectory and what you are really hoping to get out of an internship. You may begin to form a broader view regarding what you might target in full-time recruiting.

So browse job postings and campus interviews in GTS, add the ones that catch your eye to your Hotlist, and skim the job descriptions. You likely already have a few of the critical skills companies are looking for. Then go on a long walk and think about how great you are. And when you start meeting with company representatives at recruiting events, you’ll be armed with insight and confidence that any recruiter will be sure to notice.

While Amy is skilled at all things green paint, she is a master at resume reviews and mock interviews! Make an appointment with a Career Advisor to help you craft your story.

Making Networking Work for You

By S. Abigail Adams, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

By S. Abigail Adams, Class of 2017 Career Advisor

Networking. If the word has begun to induce symptoms of anxiety, you are not alone. While it’s obvious networking is important, it’s not always obvious how to do it right: when and with whom should these interactions take place, and what should they look like?

The key to demystifying networking is to approach it as a tool rather than a task. Consider where you are in the internship search process: what are your current goals, what information do you need to achieve them, and who is best equipped to provide those insights? Grounding the conversations you have through the course of your search in this kind of framework will transform the vague directive to network into organic relationship-building and information gathering.

Right now, you are likely building your resume and considering your recruiting strategy. Your task is to align your interests, experiences, and goals with a directional focus on particular roles and/or industries. You will want to understand, for example, what skills are needed to succeed in a particular kind of role and whether the environment of a given function/industry is consistent with your working style and personal values. Programming during orientation and ongoing deep dives are designed to identify and provide access to the people and resources you need to answer these questions.

Booth students hard at work crossing the “to-dos” off their lists.   Courtesy of Chicago Booth Image Library  .

Booth students hard at work crossing the “to-dos” off their lists. Courtesy of Chicago Booth Image Library.

When companies start coming on campus and you begin pursuing outside opportunities, your focus shifts to developing a target list. And yes, you are supposed to start “networking.” The key here is to avoid the perspective that networking is a goal in itself. Try not to let the “need” to linger for questions after a presentation, to ask a memorable question in a crop circle, or to reach out to an alumni for a coffee chat distract you from the real purpose of these opportunities--which is ultimately to help you decide which particular companies and roles may be right for you. Depending on what you value most in your search, that might be how a role will offer opportunities to develop and work towards your longer term goals or whether the way a company’s employees interact will make you feel engaged and motivated. This isn’t a new process; it’s just gathering company- and role- specific information from those best equipped to provide it.

As interview season approaches, you will want to continue to develop and maintain your network. How many times should you reach out, and to how many people? Again, you can ground these follow-on conversations in the goals at hand in your search process: writing cover letters and preparing for interviews, which require identifying and communicating the qualities and skills that will make you successful in a role. Perspectives from more tenured employees and more personal conversations with existing contacts can help you do just that.

In the midst of the frenzy, try to remember: networking should help you cross the to-dos off your list, not make it longer.

S. Abigail, a second year Career Adviser, is a happy to be lending a hand to first-year students during the recruiting process.