A well-designed internship programme benefits the stakeholders of a B-school

Premier B-schools are done with their summer placements for this season. At these schools, unlike final placements that start in February, summer placements (internships) typically, conducted as an on-campus event, end by December. Such is the importance placed on this key practical learning component of management education by the top 12 B-schools in India.

However, in stark contrast, for the ‘emerging’ and ‘Tier-2’ B-schools ranked between 20 and 70, this process may have barely begun, or worse, such a structured event does not even exist. Therefore, students of such B-schools are either left to fend for themselves or offered a ‘project’ as a last resort by their institutions. It is small wonder then that these students hardly receive any pre-placement offers (PPOs).

But, this can change. And change for the better. A well-designed internship programme benefits major stakeholders of a B-school. Apart from acting as an excellent brand building exercise for the school, it offers much needed consultancy and research opportunities with industry. Corporates can make better hiring decisions as they get a chance to closely assess the performance and suitability of potential employees. Finally, in most cases, the student gets to work in her chosen area of interest and in the preferred company, leading to a possible PPO.

However, for these benefits to accrue, some steps need to be taken. First, the B-school must create and nurture a student-led internship ecosystem. By leveraging student creativity and with judicious use of resources, the programme can be made into a regular on-campus published event. Second, to harness the student potential, corporates should offer clearly scoped work with realistic deliverables. A little planning by the corporates at the time of ‘project’ allocation will help here. Whether it is about assessing the customer satisfaction of a pilot project or measuring the effectiveness of the recently launched balanced score card initiative, conducted the right way internship is indeed a cost effective consultancy for corporates.

Finally, students have to play a major part. Identifying at least three target companies to work with in their chosen functional area will be a good start. Starting early will prove advantageous. But a popular myth among students needs busting. They feel it is impossible, after internship, to pursue a area of specialisation that is different from the one chosen during internship. This leads to anxiety about their specialisation area until weeks before commencement of internship. Students should remember that recruiters look for well-rounded cross-functional experience. Picture a finance major candidate appearing for final placement interview with internship in marketing reinforced by three mini-projects in finance. Won’t it be a unique candidature?

The point is to identify your area of interest and to shortlist companies as early as possible. Next, the target companies have to be closely tracked in business press to identify areas of mutual interest. Then, develop possible internship titles and a 100-word abstract that states your internship research. Managers will appreciate those interns who have not only researched their companies but also identified possible topics of company interest.

(The author teaches at XIME, Bangalore)