Last Updated: Feb 12, 2014
Millions of American college students are choosing online education, and the number is growing exponentially from year to year. The most popular degree to pursue online is the M.B.A., with over 11,000 people enrolled in more than 200 accredited programs. You probably already know that getting your M.B.A. online can open you up to a global community. But you might not always know where to go to look for those valuable internships that will help you compete in the job market later on. The Internet is full of places to find great internship positions; you just have to know where to look.
Using search engines and virtual job boards
You can find internship ads on most of the major job search sites like Yahoo! or even Craigslist, but you have to know how to use them correctly so you're not left wading through scams and unrelated job postings looking for what you need. You can use sites that are specifically for internships like Internships.com, Intern Sushi, DoInternships.com, or Internships-USA. Monster has a specialized site called Monster College, which is specifically for entry-level jobs and internships. Other sites like Indeed.com are able to search multiple databases at once. While many job search engines can be important M.B.A. resources, you should look around for the one best tailored to your needs.
Just like cold calling, unsolicited e-mails can actually work to land you the internship you're after. Make a list of companies you'd love to intern for and visit their websites. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out many of them actually address prospective interns and offer instructions for how to inquire. If you can't find anything about interning, find the contact information for human resources and send them an e-mail. Be polite but not aggressive and make sure they know when you're willing to start—ideally, immediately. Most companies may accept an internship proposal along with your résumé. You can inquire about potential payment or ask for a stipend, but it’s often helpful to make it clear that you're willing to go unpaid.
Use your school
Many universities maintain their own database of career opportunities for students. They will also offer help and guidance in figuring out what you may want from your internship. If your online M.B.A. program has a strong reputation or is tied to a prestigious university, attending that school will offer a leg up on the competition. Don't be afraid to e-mail professors, counselors, or academic advisors and ask for help and suggestions. The Internet is a big place, and having someone point you in the right direction is never a bad thing.
Consider virtual internships
Internships.com reported a 20% increase in the number of wholly online internships in 2012. These positions offer greater flexibility and a favorable time limit. If all you need is a laptop to work for a global company, you could intern during the academic year and save yourself the trouble of competing with the slew of summer applicants. Who offers virtual jobs? Many employers are large corporations looking to increase their hiring pool and discover new talent. Look for online applications in the winter months, but don't discount the idea that there may be scammers out there. Virtual internships are there to give you a chance to work for a more reputable company, not a less reputable one.
Use social media
Business networking today is all about making and maintaining contacts, and one of the best ways to do that is with social media. If you're pursuing your M.B.A., you probably have a LinkedIn profile. That site offers comprehensive guidance and a world of opportunity to reach out to professionals in many different industries. Perfect your profile and make sure you are updating it three to five times every week. Join relevant LinkedIn groups and don't be afraid to make contact with business people. If they don't have internships available right now, they will probably offer to keep you in mind for the future. Check in with them and be friendly. You can find many small businesses on Facebook and Twitter where some of the same rules apply. Though they're not as business-oriented as LinkedIn, maintaining a social media presence is important for companies, and it should be important for you.
Internships are becoming more and more essential for students, and they can be an amazing chance to get your foot in the door at a company you want to work for. You're lucky to be taking M.B.A. classes in an age where the Internet has made the worldwide business community so accessible. Do yourself a favor and make the most of it.