I graduated from Northwestern University in June 2011. I double majored in Economics and Communication Studies to both get a quantitative and qualitative academic experience, which I believe helped me later on in my job search in consulting.
Since graduation, I have been working at a top management consulting firm. The work is very challenging and has given me opportunities to work in different fields and functions. I would definitely suggest consulting to anyone who wants a fast-paced learning environment and the opportunity to work with smart and driven people.
As a recent alum, I am happy to share my experiences that helped me find my full-time position in consulting. Furthermore, being an international student, this may also help those who find themselves unable to find a summer internship in the US due to lack of work authorization off-campus.
Freshman year: Work Abroad
In my first year, I was primarily interested in advertising. I began looking online for summer internship opportunities, but many of them were targeted towards students in their junior year. I eventually started reaching out to advertising agencies abroad and found a summer internship with a top advertising agency. International experience can be beneficial at any company you’ll work at because it shows that you are culturally diverse and are able to adapt to new places and surroundings quickly. For consulting specifically, a second language is useful to have since you may be working with clients in other parts of the world.
Sophomore year: INSIDER TIP: Consulting internships will put you ahead of the curve
After the summer, I realized that perhaps advertising wasn’t right for me. I looked into consulting as that is a common path for economics majors. I did some research on the industry and found that it offered opportunities that I was looking for, such as a fast-paced work environment, steep learning curve and work with motivated people. I set out to look for a summer internship and ran into the same road blocks as I did with my advertising internship search. Most positions were targeted towards juniors, as firms use internships as a recruiting tool—converting summer interns into full time hires. Thus, looking outside the US for an internship is also a smart idea, since many internships won’t have the junior-year requirement. ANY experience in consulting is beneficial and will put you ahead of the curve.
Junior year: Go Big or Go Boutique
After going through the firm websites I found only about 10 firms or so that would sponsor me as an international student. The thing about consulting firms is that if they are not willing to sponsor you for an H-1b visa after graduation, it is unlikely that they are willing to sponsor you as a summer intern, since they use the internship as their main tool for recruiting.
Furthermore, most consulting firms only hire about 1 or 2 summer analysts per office, so the process is extremely competitive. Over the years I’ve seen people become extremely stressed out about this. I always tell them that they’ll probably have a higher chance of landing a full-time consulting job at a top firm than a summer internship and not to be discouraged.
I decided to look at boutique consulting firms, since they are a great way to gain more responsibilities early on due to the size of the firm; you can also learn a lot about how smaller firms function.
I began reaching out to Northwestern alumni by looking through the Northwestern Alumni Association website. One of the alums that I communicated with offered me a position after speaking with me and reviewing my credentials.
Senior Year: SOCIALIZE…seriously!
One of the most important things you can do during the senior year recruiting season is socialize. At this point there isn’t much more you can do to improve the candidacy of your resume, but showing interest in the firms you apply to is the best way to increase your chances of getting a first round interview. All consulting firms host social events within the month of September and October. Sign-ups are usually through the CareerCat system, but sometimes firms may reach out individually via email. In addition, it is important to read through the firm’s website and understand what they do and what their main focus is. It definitely impresses the firm when students have done more research than just what was written on the CareerCat page and it shows us that the student knows what they’re applying for and how much they want to work with us.
I know that I have started the internship experiences fairly early in college. That is definitely NOT the only way to get a job in consulting. I have many friends that have only done one internship throughout their entire college career and they have landed very good jobs in the industry as well. I know strong consultants who have chosen to take volunteer trips during the summer or worked as a camp site leader. The point is to do something productive and meaningful (to you) with your summer and gain experiences that are easily transferable.
About Where The Wildcats Are
University Career Services’ alumni blog series “Where The Wildcats Are” features the career experiences and advice from Northwestern University alumni of all ages and stages. Learn where your fellow Wildcats are post-graduation and how they reached their career goals. Are you a Northwestern alumni interested in sharing your career development process with current students? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Alum blogger” in the subject line.