How MBA internships at Fortune 500 companies can lead to full-time jobs

BY Nicole Gull McElroyJanuary 27, 2022, 2:44 PM
An athlete runs past a sign for the Whirlpool Global Headquarters as he competes during the run portion of the IRONMAN 70.3 Steelhead, as seen in June 2021. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

When Adam Fasher was an MBA student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, he completed an internship in the summer of 2019 at Whirlpool Corp. in St. Joseph, Michigan. Many of his friends were scattered around the country doing the same, but not all of them had the experience he did.

“I was told to find ways of reducing freight and warehouse spend at the company,” recalls Fasher, who called the project “tangible, important and impactful,” He now works full-time as a consumer services manager at Whirlpool. “It was a really challenging project.” 

While Fasher admits he was thrown right into an elbow-deep directive, he was also given an incredible amount of support. He was paired with a mentor—in his case, the chief operating officer of the business—and reported to a steering committee composed of the president and members of his group’s top brass. “On one hand you have to be an autonomous thinker, but on the other you never feel alone or not supported.” 

Jacob Albert was an MBA student at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business when he interned at Whirlpool in summer 2020, and now works full time as a project manager in the company’s business to consumer global information systems group. “The thing that really took me aback was how much access I had to senior leadership. It didn’t feel like just an internship.”

Interns as brand builders for companies

An internship can be incredibly valuable for MBA students—among the myriad reasons, it serves as an opportunity to put your new skills to work and extend your network to advance your career. The notion that an internship class can serve as a farm team for a company’s future leaders isn’t new. Many Fortune 500 companies have long-standing, well-oiled programs that often funnel into post-grad development and leadership programs or full-time jobs, including: Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Whirlpool, Target, Boston Scientific, and Procter & Gamble.

The structure of these internships is generally project-based and completed in the summer between the first and second years of the MBA program. Recruitment for these internships is taken seriously and often involves assessments and a handful of interviews. For students, the vetting process can be equally discerning, especially if they’re hoping to secure a job offer with a Fortune 500 company after graduation.

Whirlpool hires up to 15 MBA interns each year, according to Annie Rudisill, the company’s university relations lead. “Whirlpool’s goal is always to hire full-time candidates from the intern pool, and all three of our MBA internships offer a full-time rotational program post-internship.”

“We hope our interns will help us solve real-life, complex problems relating to their project,” Rudisill adds. “We also hope they will have a great experience in our internship, so we can not only bring them back full-time, but so they can also serve as ambassadors for Whirlpool and our internship program, building our employer brand.”

That MBA interns can serve as an extension of a company’s brand is incredibly powerful, and something both Fasher and Albert seemed to notice as they shared stories with their business school classmates. “When I talked to my buddies in my MBA program, they felt they had throwaway work in their internships,” Albert recalls. “I never had that feeling. I was part of the team.”

An opportunity to learn by doing

At Intuit, there are between 30 and 50 MBA interns annually, spread throughout different business units across the globe. “When we are looking for interns, we are looking for best in class,” says Kellie Nickovich, senior university talent acquisition manager at Intuit. “We put them through different types of assessments. They have a chance to share with us their work on some real-world problems and we have a panel that observes and assesses. We put a high investment in bringing interns into the organization.”

Similarly, Goldman Sachs hires MBA interns who have a wide array of skills, not just finance, a company spokesperson tells Fortune. Resilience, tenacity, strong communication skills, nontraditional backgrounds, and creative thinking are all very attractive draws and the company integrates interns into the business, to add maximum value for both the business and the intern class, a spokesperson for the firm says. 

Once interns are on-site at Intuit, personalization is also a top priority, says Nickovich. The company wants to meet interns’ needs, pay them fairly (Intuit does annual market research to ensure pay is competitive), give them time off, and other benefits. “It’s a niche approach,” says Nickovich. “It’s more specialized and more of a one-to-one approach. We do a lot of work with hand holding, in a sense, to make sure their experience is as exceptional as it can be.”

Company fit matters

At Procter & Gamble, leaders aim to place 20 MBA interns each year in groups that align with their individual areas of interest to maximize growth opportunities and overall happiness. “Our MBA interns provide an important pipeline to full-time hires,” says Christine Wever, communications director. 

Amazon also has a robust program, but the number of interns it hires each year varies, depending on business demands. While not required, an interest in technology is a big win for any intern applicant. The internships mirror a full-time job, says one company spokesperson, and the projects interns complete during the program have a big impact on the business.

Allie Glans completed her internship at Amazon in the summer of 2021 while studying at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. Once she graduates in May 2022, she’ll be back at Amazon full time. Her time was spent in Alexa finance, specifically in hospitality. “I built financial models to improve hotel owners’ experiences with Alexa,” says Glans. “I got to work with a lot of internal stakeholders, interview current customers and understand how they use devices as well as what they want to see.”

Glans’ experience was focused on finance as much as strategy, and helped her develop a sense of autonomy in the organization, often working in lockstep with leadership, she says. “Those relationships will stay with me and help me in my future career at Amazon.”

For Lauren Nakamura, her internship at Boston Scientific changed the course of her career, entirely. Prior to entering her MBA program at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, Nakamura worked for eight years at a nonprofit in the education sector. “I had never worked at a for-profit organization, so working at a Fortune 500 company was foreign to me,” she says. “What really mattered was: Could I see myself doing work every day that was intellectually driven, but also meaningful?”

The summer Nakamura spent at Boston Scientific not only gave her a realistic taste of the sorts of projects she’d be on as a full-time employee on a marketing team, but also the confidence and reassurance that the company was a fit. 

In fact, when she joined the company full-time in October 2020, the pandemic was in full swing and Nakamura had a four-month-old child. She and her husband ended up relocating to her hometown of Honolulu for five months to have family help with childcare so they could work. The company fully supported the Hawaii stint and worked with Nakamura to make sure she could work remotely even with the dramatic time change. 

“It was part of my opening conversations with them,” she says. “I felt lucky.”

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