Everything Impact Enterprises Need to Know About Hiring an MBA Intern

Molly Tyeryar, class of 2020 MBA candidate during her summer internship

February 2020

McKinsey, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs – these are just a few of the companies that come to mind as those that typically look for MBA interns each summer. However, here at the CASE at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, we believe that MBA candidates should also consider, and be considered for, internships in the social impact sector, which is why we have the Fuqua Summer Internship Fund (SIF).

“Spending my summer with the National Park Service thanks to the SIF allowed me to see that having an impact while working on a project that challenged me is possible,” said Molly Tyeryar, class of 2020 MBA candidate.

The SIF provides current Daytime MBA students with financial assistance to pursue a full-time, minimum eight-week summer internship with an eligible nonprofit organization, government agency, certified B-Corporation or mission-driven business. SIF funding matches employer salary contributions, up to a total maximum salary of $15,000. The SIF’s dual goals are to encourage more MBA students to pursue impact-driven professional opportunities and to help reduce impact enterprise barriers to hiring MBA interns.

In pursuit of these goals, we asked Jess Wingert, Sector Director for Social Impact & Sustainability at Fuqua’s Career Management Center, to share some wisdom with impact employers about hiring and managing an MBA intern:

1. What value does an MBA Intern bring to impact organizations?

Internships are great opportunities to get help on short-term projects that you would like to research, evaluate, begin or scale. Since MBA interns have years of previous work experience, they can also fill a skill gap for a short-term project when it isn’t feasible or desired to create a full-time position. Additionally, from a talent acquisition perspective, internships are a great recruitment tool to test out future employees. Lastly, when MBA interns return to school for their second year, they mentor the first-year class, so awareness of your organization, exposure to your mission and positive brand association are often passed between classes, improving your talent pipeline for years to come.  

2. What is the most important thing that employers need to do before hiring a MBA intern?

You must provide your interns with meaningful work assignments. The project doesn’t have to be perfectly defined – in fact, many MBA students like to work through ambiguity. However, setting a goal or desired outcome will help you and the intern stay focused and on track. Students elect into social and environmental organizations because they have mission alignment with the cause, so help them understand how their work impacts the organization and mission as a whole.

3. What should employers consider when evaluating potential MBA interns?

Know that the majority of students coming to an MBA program are looking to make a career shift, so their experience may be in a different industry or different function. Evaluate the candidate based on what they are studying while at business school, their extracurriculars, their mission alignment and their past performance in their respective field.

4. What is one myth about MBA interns in the impact space? 

Many employers feel pressure to make a full-time employment offer to interns at the end of the summer, but that is not necessary to find strong internship talent. While students would be happy to have that conversation at the end of the summer, more often than not, we find our impact employers stay engaged with interns during their second year at Fuqua and re-engage in full-time hiring discussions nearer to graduation when hiring needs are more definitive. Similarly, impact employers are hesitant to engage if they can’t hire an intern every year. While frequency helps build awareness and reputation, ad hoc internships are welcomed both by students and the career office.

5. Why do you think an impact employer should consider an MBA intern from Fuqua?

With CASE and the Center for Energy, Development and the Global Environment (EDGE), Fuqua uniquely attracts many high-performing students who want to use their business skills to make a social or environmental impact. Today’s MBA students are often looking for jobs that combine their professional skills and their passions. Many core skills developed during an MBA program are valued in organizations across the impact space, such as robust communication skills, a strong emotional intelligence, the ability to drive change, the ability to manage through ambiguity and the ability to understand and address complex problems.

6. What else does Fuqua do to engage with impact employers looking to hire MBAs? 

The Career Management Center facilitates employer presentations, both virtual and in-person, so impact employers can get in front of students to share information about the organizations and career opportunities. Employers can access our career management platform to post jobs, review student resumes, collect applications and even interview on campus. Employers can also attend Networking Nights to reach a broader group of students, as well as participate in Spring-time Interview Forums locations around the country. Through our experiential learning programs, impact organizations can bring on individuals or teams of students for mentored study or consulting projects. Lastly, we can connect impact employers to relevant student clubs for speaking opportunities and promote events. Interested organizations can reach out to cmc-info@duke.edu for more information.

If you would like to learn more about becoming an employer through the SIF, please visit the website or contact Fuqua-SIF@duke.edu.