How MBA students can ensure effective internships at all times


Learning itself is a big art and the maximum learning for any human being happens only through experiences in formal settings. For any MBA student, and particularly for University affiliated college MBA students, the internship can be a superb learning experience, provided certain steps are taken by the MBA student. We will discuss these vital steps in some detail in this article.

Introduction

Given the fact that every MBA student needs to compulsorily undergo an internship for a period of time as specified by the University regulations, it becomes imperative that the MBA student should take it very seriously and not seem it as just an experience. The process of learning is never an unplanned experience and the wider canvas of learning has different facets to it, in any given situation. While the nitty-gritty of this learning is context-specific, the general template for learning is not. Much would actually depend on what the MBA student's initiative.

In the main, the MBA student will do well to a) Totally understand the Organizational Culture on several dimensions b) Talk to workmen or contractors or end customers c) Take initiative to work far beyond office hours d) Grab all organizing opportunities e) Talk to as many functional managers as possible and f) Thoroughly analyze the business context of the organization.

Totally understand the Organizational Culture on several dimensions

The term organizational culture refers to all informal and formal norms of behavior as seen in the real-world context. For example, the TVS group has a formalized culture of giving a small snack that is carried home by every employee. This is a formal aspect of the culture. The informal aspect can have several dimensions. For example, in the same group, the personal care that is extended by the organization for the health of family members of the employees is very good. Hence, if the student specializes in HR, he or she will do well to understand the entire culture across all dimensions. Of course, this learning is as relevant to the MBA who specializes in other functional areas such as Marketing or Finance, or Operations.

Talk to workmen or contractors or end customers

Picture this situation. You are lucky to get an internship to work for a company that produces and markets a fairly successful range of cool drinks. The brands of the company include variants to suit local tastes. Sales figures indicate that the brand is very successful in such variants in South India. If the internship is in Marketing, the MBA student will do well to understand what end customers think on an everyday basis. They should get across to such customers in markets spread over a radius of one hundred kilometers.

Furthermore, the MBA student has to virtually go after the local distributors to learn the challenges involved. The parent company will have a payment circle, with a period of sixty days in most cases. Since the product is a Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) product, in the normal routine, the cash flow will be good and the distributor will be able to repay the short-term working capital loans. Any learning in this regard is very important.

The MBA student of Marketing will do well to understand every nitty-gritty and then note down each of these points in his or her notebook. Even within the same family, someone may have only the "panner/" variant, for example. This could happen because of the perceived medicinal benefits of this offering. All such minute details should be noted.

Some years ago, I had literally driven one MBA student of Marketing, of a very ordinary Madurai-Kamaraj University, to learn all the aforesaid points. Today, the same person works for a leading Chennai-based FMCG that gives the likes of Hindustan Unilever a run for their money, in many product categories.

The MBA (Finance) student should even volunteer to go to the bank and get to work on all the minor work areas, without grumbling at all. For example, in a factory setting, there are always suppliers who would be asked to come after a few days or check their bank accounts. This is deliberately done as the accumulated dues are pumped into some liquid fund of any good Mutual Fund, to the benefit of the organization. The MBA student will do well to check on such minute details and note them down in his or her notebook. It also pays to understand the organizational hierarchy for financial sanction -- big or small. Every item of expenditure needs to be accounted for and also the rationale for spending needs to be minutely understood. All these are superb learning points for the individual.

The MBA(Operations) MBA student needs to compulsorily talk to the seniormost workmen to know the intimate details of the operations. Such workmen are highly knowledgeable and do know what to do and when. These workmen are always those who have a lot of native intelligence as far as operations of various types of equipment and machinery involved. The MBA student also needs to volunteer to input production data into the computerized system, which is a routine in every modern organization. He or she also needs to note down in full detail, the entire details of what is called "Kaizen" or continuous improvement. This becomes all the more essential in any environment where the production managers will inevitably look for any improvement opportunity.

Take initiative to work far beyond office hours

The MBA students ought to understand the value of every single minute that they spend in the organization. It is not possible to learn anything if the MBA student sticks to the eight-hour schedule only. The organization will simply give up on the MBA student and not take any interest either.

Grab all organizing opportunities

If the internship is in HR, in a factory environment. there are too many chances to learn everything about organizing. For example, the organization needs to organize the official cars for any company executive proceeding on official trips. MBA students should volunteer to chip in. Even small reminders like the time when the car is ready to the concerned executives will come in handy and the MBA students just need to introduce themselves. Preventive maintenance of the company-operated and maintained ambulances is extremely essential. If there is no schedule, the MBA student can even draw up a schedule and get this organized through organizational sanction and support. There are instances where the ambulances are not operated for weeks and suddenly do not start during an emergency.

Every single learning opportunity is important in this regard. It is but essential that every MBA student understands this reality. Such experiences will help the student in a big way when he or she embarks on a career.

Talk to as many functional managers as possible

This might seem deceptively simple. It is not. The MBA student needs to take proper permission and appointment before meeting anyone who is important in the managerial hierarchy. It is not so easy to get appointments at all. And if given, the MBA student should be crystal clear as to what he is going to ask and why. Once the required information is obtained, notes have to be taken after the conversation and not during the conversation. No practicing manager likes to be disturbed at all; he or she will be normally very busy; their time is precious and the MBA student needs to understand this vital fact. When he or she utilizes such opportunities wisely, the student will also learn the art of effective time management.

Thoroughly analyze the business context of the organization

Who are the major competitors of the organization in the domestic and global markets? Who are the customers? What is the profit percentage and how is it placed in a particular industry? What is the major cost of the organization?

Let us take cost which is very important. If the organization is into manufacturing caustic soda, for example, which is a heavy chemical, the organization would require a massive amount of power. This is a major cost and hence there will be a massive amount of initiatives to somehow control this cost. The MBA student needs to take down all the full details of such initiatives. Once this is done, he or she will be able to learn a lot. This is relevant to any organization. In any FMCG organization, the marketing costs that will include the advertisement costs will play a major role. The MBA student needs to gather all the relevant data about such costs. The balance sheet of the organization can also reveal several details needed.

Answers to each of the questions listed above, among such other questions will form the business context of the organization.

Conclusion

There is no free lunch anywhere in the world. The real-world of business, in the form of business organizations, is the ultimate litmus test that gets tested out for the effectiveness of whatever the MBA student gets to learn in theory. The practical application of any concept has to be thoroughly understood and appreciated by the MBA student and the internship opportunity is one big opportunity that should be effectively used. The steps outlined above will stand the MBA student in good stead in the learning process.


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