How to Prepare for an Internship Outside Your Comfort Zone

By Marissa Konstadt, MBA ’21, Spring Core Fellow

Congratulations! You nailed the dream summer internship. Now it’s time to make sure you can actually do what you said you could during the interview…luckily, we’ve got some time to prepare. Consider the following guidelines for the months and days leading up to the job as well as the first few weeks on site.

Last year, I landed a role working in market access for a pharmaceutical company having never worked in the industry before -and I was plenty intimidated! This is what I did to help make it a success, both as a learning experience for me and to add real value for my employer.

A few months before:

Find out which of your classmates have worked in this space. Sloanies helping Sloanies is real! I talked to a number of folks who had worked in Healthcare Consulting, Biotech, and Pharma about their experiences and the nitty gritty, day-to-day. They all offered to be just a phone call away if I needed help building an NPV model or understanding the hierarchy within pharma commercialization. I never had to call, but it was nice knowing they were there.

Additionally, find some good background reading for pockets of downtime. Whether you have a long drive or a few too many hours of family time,, books will come in handy!  For me, I read The Healing of America, The Billion Dollar Molecule, and The Great American Drug Deal. Full disclosure – I did not agree with everything I read, but having those perspectives in my mental arsenal definitely came in handy over the summer. I will even admit that I found myself in a conversation with a company VP who quoted specific passages … (more on that over coffee if you want).

A few weeks before:

I used the weeks leading up to my first day to think specifically about the company and role I was jumping into. Connecting with recent MIT alums and other interns in my program provided some insight into the culture (from when to arrive in the morning, to what to wear). Having a few familiar faces around also took care of some of the first day jitters.

As a side note – I also tested my commute a few times, before we ended up being completely remote.

As you get started:

As obvious as it may seem – communication is going to be your best friend. I started the conversation with my manager right away to better understand his expectations, who to go to for help, and discuss the areas I was most unfamiliar with. It is completely possible to be confident and competent while still admitting that this is new for you and you are here to learn.

One thing my company did that worked very well was assign me a peer mentor. He had been an MBA intern and helped with the questions I was unsure about asking my manager directly. He also gave me a list of people whom he thought would respond positively to a cold introduction and encouraged me to meet as many people as possible. Whether a virtual coffee or in person, as soon as I had my email address, I set up 30 minute calls for every business function within the organization. These chats helped me learn about various roles across the company and provided the necessary path I needed later in the summer, as I got deeper into the project and needed further guidance. I found that busy people were much more likely to squeeze me in knowing that I only had through August to meet them.

Finally, leverage your unique experiences. Remember that diversity of backgrounds can often be a strength. Internship programs are a chance for the company to experiment with you and your skillset too – so take a few chances!

One more secret weapon: I actually filled out a full presentation planner (thanks Professor Shields!) for my final presentation deliverable and then practiced out loud. The preparation made me relax in front of the team of executives and I got excellent feedback…. I guess these tools really work!

Key learning? Remember to have fun and do something you would not be able to do anywhere else. This is your time, and they are lucky to have you!

Thanks for reading, I hope this was helpful. Feel free to reach out if you want to chat!

Marissa Konstadt
MBA 2021

By Marissa Konstadt, MBA '21
Marissa Konstadt, MBA '21 *Spring Fellow