Our Entry Level Consultant graduated from a small liberal arts college, Class of 2012, and is now working in New York. Here’s his take on how he got to where he is; where he sees himself going; and how he thinks he might get there.
ZD: Why consulting?
A: Coming from a liberal arts background, I always wanted to continue my career as a generalist. I found consulting the best approach because I will have the opportunity to learn about various challenges companies are facing and think creatively to solve them. Also, when I participated in the Summer Venture in Management Program at Harvard Business School my junior year summer, I found my passion in general management. We studied cases focused on many topics: ranging from entrepreneurship to sports management. I loved the idea of thinking like a business owner. Since consultants serve as a trusted advisor to clients, we get to assume temporal ownership of certain business processes and think from their perspective.
ZD: Tell us about the “process” - your résumé, the interview.
A: My interview for this particular position (an entry level consultant job) was very standard: behavioral questions and my interests in the industry. Though, I did get a brain-teaser at the end of one of my interviews. One of the most memorable interview questions actually came from a different company. I was asked to come up solutions to mitigate inflation, and I had to discuss macroeconomic effects on both monetary and fiscal policy tools. I could not believe a job interview would be so focused on academic theories.
ZD: How did you land your job?
A: I met an alumna from my college who works at my firm during a college function my sophomore year. I had mentioned that I was interested in consulting back then and kept in touch with her since. During my senior year, I emailed her and asked if she could refer my résumé. I started my process with my firm from there.
ZD: How would you describe your transition from college to career?
A: It is definitely not easy to transition from having 100% control over your time in college to having to be in the office during certain hours. In school, you can totally go for a run at 3 pm and start your paper at 10 pm. That just does not exist at work. Even when you are losing focus at work, you have to do your best and produce high quality work. I would not say it’s difficult, but one just needs a little bit of time to adjust.
ZD: Your biggest surprise?
A: Well, everything was a surprise at the job. Lol. The biggest surprise probably was the amount of responsibility I was given as an entry-level consultant. My first engagement was a large national commercial bank, and we were validating their credit model on commercial lending. I was given a sub-portfolio to work on, and I initially thought that my job was to summarize documents and the model. It turned out that my manager asked me to come up with potential findings and document gaps to discuss with the client. In fact, he rarely looked at what’s in the model. With this much responsibility, I studied extra hard not only on the model but also industry guidelines.
ZD: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
A: I see myself in business school, becoming an entrepreneur, or in general management. It is hard to answer this question because I only know that I want to get into a role where I can drive business strategy and growth. In terms of what medium that will get me there, it is still a question.
ZD: Your hobbies?
A: I read a lot of tech blogs and successful stories about entrepreneurs. They inspire me and get me going every day. I am also a huge fan of trying out different restaurants in New York. That’s the benefit of living in the city, right? On weekends, I often go for a jog in Central Park then make my way to a nice brunch place downtown.
ZD: Two tips (Do's and Don'ts)?
A: Do use your Q&A at the end of an interview strategically. I think, first you may not have said something that is really important about your candidacy during the interview, and you should ask a related question at the end so that you can respond accordingly. Second, regardless how much you prepare for an interview, there is nothing better than getting to know the interviewer on the spot. Thus, you want to use you're Q&A time to further connect.
Don't eliminate yourself from great opportunities. Many of us will look at the job requirement and think that we are not qualified. Try applying. You never know what’s going to happen.
ZD: Your résumé.
ZD: What do you think shines in your résumé?
A: My commitment to leadership. I was recruited to attend my college by the Posse Foundation for academic merit and leadership excellence. I have always challenged myself to take on a role that I am not quite ready for and develop new skills. For example, I managed both our college student investment club and our entrepreneurship club. They attract different personalities on the board and thus require distinct leadership styles. I also focus a lot on fostering leadership from people that I work with. The director of our career center once said that I created a wildly sustainable model for the entrepreneurship club.