Advice from MBA Summer Interns Working in Impact

Paige Johnson during her internship with the National Park Service

September 2020

CASE supports the Fuqua Summer Internship Fund (SIF), which enables students to learn about the rewards and challenges of social sector management without making a significant financial sacrifice, while simultaneously enabling organizations who otherwise could not afford MBA interns to benefit from their experience.

This year, we asked some of the SIF interns to provide advice to others who are interested in working or interning in the impact space – read their seven of their tips and insights below and learn more about our SIF program here

“I think the best piece of advice for recruiting in impact is to not shy away from randomly reaching out to distant connections or people on LinkedIn. Many people, myself included, have a natural reticence to do anything resembling cold-calling, but most people in social impact have a generous nature and are absolutely willing to spend fifteen minutes chatting with a stranger about how to break into the industry. These sort of personal connections are essential for finding opportunities in what can be a fragmented and protracted recruiting experience, but like anything, they get easier with practice.” – Mike Shearer II, intern at the Environmental Law and Policy Center

“My advice for your internship would be to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and continue to challenge you. While it is scary at the time, having a moment in your first few days where you think, ‘Oh no, what have I gotten myself into…I’m not sure I can do this’ is a good thing—it means you are in for growth. Raise your hand to try new things and don’t be afraid to fail. Your summer internship is a time to test things out and build new skills. That being said, also make sure the organization you are joining has a supportive culture and your team is going to be willing to help you learn!” – Kathleen O’Shea, intern at Social Finance

“Be up for the challenge! Many impact projects are similar to for-profit projects, but add layers of complexity by applying their overarching mission. For me, this multi-dimensionality made my project substantially more interesting and, ultimately, more rewarding.” – Paige Johnson, intern at the National Park Service

“I came into my first year at Fuqua with a pretty specific idea of what role I wanted in a summer internship, but I was challenged to think about what learning opportunities I wanted out of the internship rather than what I wanted the title to be throughout the search process. I would encourage anyone looking for an internship in impact to think about what skills you want to hone, what is missing from your resume, and how can you build on the experiences you have had during your first year of business school. Especially in the impact sector, the titles of jobs and internships vary greatly, so being clear on what you want helps you to be flexible and find opportunities that are going to allow you to grow and to build your skill set.” – Lee Summerell, intern at Self-Help Credit Union

“One piece of advice I would offer is to engage with leadership and colleagues throughout all functions. Working in the impact and sustainability space it is easy to get pigeon-holed with people who share similar values, but an internship in this space is an excellent opportunity to work cross-functionally with all departments. While the internship may be focused within the sustainability team, it is critical to understand how people across all functions operate and see the issues you are working on. This will enhance buy in and ensure projects are implemented sustainably across an organization.” – Cameron Hawkins, sustainability intern at New Balance

“There are a lot of incredible organizations doing meaningful work across the multiple dimensions of the impact space. Figure out what you are passionate about and why, and then pursue organizations that align with that. There is a great fit out there for you!” – Meagan Klebanoff, intern at Apex Clean Energy

“I would advise students to create as much structure for themselves as they need to make sure they accomplish their goals, as the impact sector may have less defined internship experiences. I found that I kept getting distracted from my main objectives by projects or tasks that would come up.” – Elizabeth Towell, intern at Duke World Food Policy Center