Interviewing, Summer Internships, Uncategorized

My Experience with Pre-MBA Summer Opportunities

What are “pre-MBA summer opportunities,” you ask? Yeah, I wondered the same thing.

I first read about them in Poets and Quants – and promptly freaked out. Was EVERYONE doing these things? Why hadn’t I heard about them earlier!?

Thankfully, Emily and NextStep Careers were on the case. She helped me to narrow my focus to what really interested me – opportunities to work in market strategy, either for a consultancy or in-house.

Here’s an overview of my experience with the companies I chose to apply with, including BCG, McKinsey, Procter and Gamble, and Amazon.

shutterstock_351007148BCG Fellows
I was fortunate to be selected as a 2018 BCG Fellow. (And am psyched about it!)

The interview process was straightforward. I sent in my resume and answered a few short answer questions. Once I was selected for an interview, I spoke with BCG’s Booth recruiter for a half hour. I prepped with my NextStep coach beforehand so I felt ready for a whole range of behavioral questions.

At the start of my interview, the recruiter and I talked a little bit about our backgrounds (think “Walk me through your resume…”) and then she asked questions about why I was interested in consulting, why I wanted to participate in the BCG Fellows program, and what industries or functions I wanted to learn more about within BCG. That was it! The next week, I found out that I’d been selected.

So far, the experience has been great. I have an amazing mentor who works in the People and Organization Practice. Like me, she is passionate about developing and coaching people, advancing women in business, and exploring the outdoors.

McKinsey_Quarterly_logoMcKinsey Emerging Scholars
I also was thrilled to be selected as a 2018 McKinsey Emerging Scholar. The McKinsey Emerging Scholars experience was a little more intense, which meant that it took more preparation, but it also gave me a better idea of what being a consultant would be like.

It started with a resume drop. After I submitted my resume, I was told that I’d been selected for the next round and was asked to set aside 2.5 hours for interviews. These consisted of a half hour video screen with a recruiter and two hour-long video interviews with current consultants, half focused on behavioral questions, half focused on case questions.

I worked with my NextStep coach to prepare for my conversation with McKinsey’s Booth recruiter, which involved creating a slide that answered one of several prompts. I chose “What did you want to do when you were seven years old and why?” We worked together to make my slide shine and I practiced telling the story behind it. We also prepped answers to standard interview questions. In the end, I found the interview fun and conversational.

My slide for McKinsey

Then, my NextStep coach and I practiced a few cases to get used to the structured way that McKinsey likes to approach business problems. We ran through some common business issues, like profitability problems, launching a new product, and mergers. We discussed some frameworks to know what types of issues were important to consider.

That preparation made me feel less nervous going into the case portion of the interviews. For both case questions I was asked, I wasn’t familiar with the industries, so I wasn’t 100% sure I’d thought of all the important issues. The cases involved some basic math, which went fine on one…but on the other, I got nervous and somehow ended up off by a factor of 1000! When my interviewer told me that I’d lost her, I had to take a deep breath and start over, but eventually was able to spot and fix my mistake.

At the end of this month, all of McKinsey’s Emerging Scholars will be flown out to meet one another, our school recruiters, and consultants from various offices. Like the BCG Fellows program, McKinsey Emerging Scholars also offers a year-long mentorship, where you’re matched with someone with your same interests. I’m excited to meet everyone – based on our GroupMe conversations, they’re a really interesting bunch. (One woman is an ex-Black Hawk pilot – how cool is that?)

procter_and_gamble_P&G_stock_image_2Procter and Gamble MBA Brand Camp
I will be attending P&G’s MBA Brand Camp in Cincinnati later this summer and am looking forward to learning more about how the company regarded as “the gold standard in marketing” approaches problems and structures its thinking. The application process for P&G was unusual – it stretched over a few months, since they require several assessments.

First, I sent in my resume. Then, I was selected to do a psych and reasoning screen. This screen consisted of three parts. The first part posed hypothetical business situations focused on interpersonal relationships. For example, I was asked what I would do if I needed to buy office supplies with company money. The second part had a bunch of sliding scale questions where I said whether a statement like, “I often lie to coworkers to make my job easier,” sounded very unlike me, unlike me, like me, or very like me. (Very unlike me.)

The third part of the screen was a figural reasoning test. It presented me with a series of figures and I had to determine the pattern in order to identify the next figure in the series. As far as I could tell, it was a lot of color/shading, rotations, and adding or subtracting elements, like adding a dot every time, or subtracting a side from a polygon every time. It was like a brainteaser, but you only got two minutes to figure out each pattern and predict the next shape, and I timed out on some of the questions.

After I passed the screen, I had to take a proctored exam in a testing center. That exam covered math word problems, logic, and figural reasoning. The test lasted just over an hour.

Next, there was a two month wait until I got invited to interview. My interview ended up scheduled the same day that I was notified, which was a little stressful. However, I was able to text my NextStep coach and she found an hour right before my interview to practice with me.

We went over common behavioral questions and P&G’s “situational questions,” which are hypothetical interpersonal situations. Then we went over several marketing specific questions, like which P&G product was my favorite or what I felt were well-marketed products.

I’m excited to see some of those P&G products firsthand (and their famous archive of past iterations of those products) when I travel to the week-long brand camp in Cincinnati.

Jump_Start_Diversity_forumJumpStart Diversity Forum
JumpStart offers diversity programming focused on a range of industries (financial services, consulting, marketing). I went to the one focused on Brand Management.

The application process was simple – just a resume submission plus a few short answers. I found out almost immediately after I applied that I’d been accepted along with sixty other students to travel to Philadelphia for a two-day conference. Unlike the other pre-MBA programs, this one was self-financed.

Four companies came to JumpStart this year to recruit – General Mills, Danone, ConAgra, and Johnson & Johnson. The companies picked only a few candidates to interview. Some were selected before everyone arrived at the forum and others were selected after the case discussions and networking event.

I was nervous coming into JumpStart because I hadn’t been invited to interview anywhere. However, after talking to the recruiters at the networking event and participating in the case discussions, I was invited to interview with both Johnson & Johnson, as well as Danone (owner of Dannon yogurt and Silk Soymilk). I made it to the next round with Danone, which involved being flown out to their Broomfield, Colorado office for two days of meeting their team and interviewing for next summer’s internship. (We also got to see a Rockies game!)

Amazon_stock_photoAmazon Pre-MBA Summit
Because I signed a confidentiality agreement, I’m not allowed to give as many specific details about the Amazon pre-MBA summit application process. However, I can give you a broad strokes overview of what I experienced.

First, I sent in my resume, and found out quickly that I’d been invited to participate in their online assessment. The online assessment, in their words, is meant to simulate common situations that you might encounter as an MBA working at Amazon. A lot of people at my school opted not to participate because if you fail the online assessment, you’re not allowed to interview with Amazon during the normal recruiting season. However, after discussing it with my NextStep coach, we decided that I should still go for it because I was prepared from doing my other interviews.

The Amazon online assessment is broken into two parts. The major part is timed and runs for 90 minutes. You have five modules to complete and they cover various business situations where you’re making decisions on all the things you’d expect to have to think about as an MBA. They do not require specific functional knowledge or Amazon knowledge because you’re provided with context and data for each question. The next part is a short survey about your work interests, attitudes, and preferences. I can’t say much more, but it definitely reminded me a lot of P&G’s psych screen.

I’m still waiting on the results for Amazon, but if I’m accepted, I already know of one big perk – I won’t have to travel at all because I already live in Seattle!



Madeline Vuong is a guest writer for NextStep. She is currently attending Chicago Booth for her MBA.


Pros and Cons of a Pre-MBA Internship


Considering a pre-MBA internship? Here are a few things to consider…


1. A pre-MBA internship is ideal for career switchers – and the majority of full-time MBAs are career switchers. An internship can help bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in December and January before you start submitting summer internship applications. Consider a pre-MBA internship if you’re trying to change two or more of the following factors: industry, function, or geography (especially if you’re an international student trying to work in the US).

girl_internship_stock_photo2. A pre-MBA internship is a great if you have an interest in a particular career path and want to try it out before business school in a low-risk setting. It gives you the opportunity to test out a career to see if you like the work and want to invest energy into recruiting for that career path in the fall. At the same time, it’s super low risk because if you don’t like the work, you can leave it off your resume without anyone questioning the gap.

3. Another big advantage of the pre-MBA internship is that it offers a quick way to recalibrate your resume. You can add a new job title to the top of your work experience – the most visible real estate on your resume. This is especially important if you’re looking at a career switch where the skills needed are markedly different, like finance into marketing, or military to private sector, engineering to human resources, or PR into consulting.

4. A pre-MBA internship is a great way to upskill, helping you to gain experience that employers value. Perhaps you want to learn Google Analytics or make pitch decks or do budget management. A pre-MBA internship allows you the opportunity to practice these skills in the real world – not just learn them in theory. Then you can have them in your back pocket (and on your resume and LinkedIn) for recruiting.

5. Finally, a pre-MBA internship will expand your network, which is super important given that the #1 way that MBAs get jobs is through networking. In addition, you may gain valuable mentors, who will help you through business school and beyond.


guy_internship_struggle_stock_photo1. Pre-MBA internships can be tricky to find. You’re not going to LinkedIn, typing, “Pre-MBA internships,” and finding thousands of results. Instead, most pre-MBA internships are scored through your personal network, whether that’s your college classmates, family, or former clients. You have to hustle to make it happen.

2. Pre-MBA internships tend to be really unstructured. You’re not going to get extensive orientation training, mixers, or any of the other curated experiences you’d get if you were going to a Fortune 500 company with a year of school under your belt. Instead, you have to be the driver of your internship, pitching projects, setting objectives, and measuring your own success.

3. Most business schools have both career and academic prep work for you to complete over the summer. If you take a pre-MBA internship and are working up until the day school starts, you may end up short changing that prep work, and scrambling during the first weeks of school.

4. Pre-MBA internships don’t usually pay well. They’re typically with a startup that needs talented, but cheap labor. If your focus is on saving money to finance your b-school education, your best bet is to stay at your current job and pitch a stretch project to your boss to help you to build your transferrable skills.

5. There’s an opportunity cost. The beauty of the summer before your MBA is that it’s one of the few times in your career that nobody expects you to be working. You can leave your job, relax, travel, and visit with friends and family. If you take a pre-MBA internship, you’re committing to working for the summer, which means you don’t get to enjoy that break.  And no need for FOMO – you can still take an academic internship during the school year to gain experience.

Finally, if you’re thinking about a pre-MBA internship but are feeling stuck, check out this decision tree:













Need help deciding what to do with your summer or finding the perfect pre-MBA internship? Shoot us an email.


10 Exercises to Find Your Career Path

Career_paths_venture_marketing_consultingChoosing a career path is one of the most important decisions that you will make in your lifetime. If you’re like most people and you work from the time you graduate college until you reach retirement age, you’ll be working for more than 80,000 hours – that’s twice the number of hours it would take to watch EVERYTHING on Netflix! Given that, it makes a lot of sense to choose a career that is a good match to your interests and strengths.

NextStep has developed a proprietary process that has helped thousands of students to figure out what they want to do – and how to get there. Here are just ten of the activities that I did when I went through NextStep’s Career Visioning program. I hope they help you as much as they helped me!

woman_reading_book_stock_photo1. Flow Moments. My NextStep career coach had me reflect on times when I was involved in something so deeply that I lost track of time. Then, my coach looked for patterns, helping me to see the activities or environments that brought out the best in me.

2. Leisure Reading. My coach had me think about what blogs, magazines, and newspaper sections I read voluntarily, and looked for common themes that could help me decide what topics I was most interested in.

3. Social media. My coach also had me consider who I liked to follow on social media and why, to see if there were particular subjects or personalities that I was drawn to.

4. Free time. I was asked to make a list of how I like to spend my free time, thinking about what careers could let me get paid for what I already like to do.

5. Hiring Demand. NextStep gave me information about what industries were growing fastest and where there would be the most job openings. I looked through a list of growth industries and identified areas where I might like to work, knowing that they were also areas where I would have an easier time finding work.

6. Group Projects. My coach had me reflect on the roles I most liked taking on in group projects – whether it was organizing people and divvying up tasks, or making the powerpoint presentations. This helped me to understand the different job functions out there and which ones would be a good match for me.

7. Surveyed Friends. Another really helpful activity was NextStep’s survey that I sent out to my friends. It asked about my strengths, weaknesses, and any careers they might suggest. Surprisingly, there was consensus – my friends all said that I would be good at the same three careers!

HiredPrepPhotos-10848. 100 Jobs. NextStep provided me with a carefully curated list of 100 jobs. I combed through that list and ranked my top choices exclusively based on what interested me (ignoring qualifications). Then my coach helped me to see the common themes and activities in the jobs I picked.

9. Career Crush. My coach asked me who I knew that had a really cool job. Then I asked myself what I had in common with that person and what internships/post-grad jobs they had taken to get where they had gotten. That helped me to see what steps I might take to end up in a job like theirs.

10. Informational Interviews. Finally, my NextStep coach helped me to set up a bunch of informational interviews to learn about the career paths that interested me from people who were actually in those jobs. It was incredibly helpful to hear what people liked and disliked about their careers, and it made it easier to narrow down which ones might be a good fit for me.

Deciding on your career path is a big deal, which is why I’m so grateful that I had help in the process. I recommend doing these ten activities, but even more than that, I recommend getting a career coach to help you interpret your results. Having that outside perspective can make this big decision feel a lot easier.


Madeline Vuong is a guest writer for NextStep. She is currently attending Chicago Booth for her MBA.