Earning Your MBA / March 3, 2021

How To: Land an Internship When You’re an International Student

How To: Land an Internship When You’re an International Student

Internship recruitment – those two words take the utmost priority for MBA students in the fall and spring semester of their first year. From rehearsing the Tell Me About Yourself (TMAY), to fine-tuning résumés and practicing behavioral interview questions, most students find it demanding to balance the internship recruitment process and the program’s rigorous course load.

For international students, there’s an added wrinkle, with the list of U.S. companies willing to offer sponsorships for specific roles being slightly more narrow and, therefore, a bit more competitive.

Ramana Sriwidya understands those pressures. A first-year MBA student and a master’s in marketing analytics candidate, he faced those pressures head-on, and landed a summer internship at GSK Consumer Healthcare.

Sriwidya has a degree in chemical engineering, and has worked as a marketing analyst for a healthcare consulting company in India. Wanting to expand his business skills, he decided to pursue a dual degree here at Smith. “Coming to the Smith School has been one of the greatest stories of my life in the middle of the pandemic.”

He arrived and quickly immersed himself in preparing for the internship search and the networking it would require. “I started networking early on in the semester itself,” he said.The National Black MBA Association Conference helped accelerate his search. The NBMBAA Annual Conference and Career Fair is known to catapult students into the internship recruitment process in September as companies engage with students and share upcoming internship and full-time opportunities.

Before researching, networking and applying, international students typically train their focus on companies that are able to recruit international students for certain summer intern roles. Sriwidya consulted with Smith’s Office of Career Services (OCS), leveraged resources such as myvisajobs.com, and spoke with second-year MBA students to get started with his internship search.

Approaching the recruitment process requires a strategy to land an interview. Sriwidya shares his, saying “My strategy was to apply to positions that require similar skills and experience so that it's easier for me to get that interview.” While this strategy may work for students looking to level up in their career, students looking to pivot to a different industry or job function may need to get creative. During winter break many students tailor their résumés and cover letters for each position they apply for, and work to network with Smith alumni, current employees, second-year MBA students and company recruiters.

“By January, I started getting interview calls,” Sriwidya recalls. “So, I got interview calls for different positions from four different companies, and three out of those were a role similar to the experience that I had, so that my strategy worked out. You don't need to apply for hundreds of jobs. It's just that one particular role that you need to apply to, which you can get. That was my strategy.”

Sriwidya’s advice to international MBA students:

Network: Speak to second-year MBA students and alumni who are working at the companies that appeal to you. Those conversations can help you better understand the company, its culture, and “what works and what does not,” he said.

Start early: Begin networking as early as possible and to put the internship search at the top of your to-do list.

Practice, practice, practice: If networking doesn’t come easily, try practicing by connecting with fellow students, professors, your career coach in preparation for conferences and career fairs, and review past interview questions by company, industry and function posted on the OCS website.

Don’t get discouraged: Rejection is part of the process. “There are ups and downs, and it can be really disappointing sometimes,” Sriwidya said. “Generally, when I feel a little down, I just take a break. If you get a rejection from a company you really like, just take the day off, take a walk, watch a movie, do something that you want to, that you love. And, come back the next day feeling fresh to start the process again. That is something that has helped me.”

And remember: “Everyone has their time, and that time is going to come because everyone in the Smith community has really valid experience, are really smart people and are all deserving. And so, it's just a matter of time when you get an internship.”

By Frances Ampah. Ampah is a 2022 MBA Candidate, Forté Fellow, and a Smith Fellow. Ampah was born and raised in Accra, Ghana, lived in Virginia, and worked for four years as a film producer and content creator in Los Angeles before coming to Maryland Smith.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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