Backpack to BriefcaseAlexis Bohonnon, Business Transformation Consultant, IBM
My interest in consulting started with an internship during the summer between my sophomore and junior year in college, and continued to grow as I sorted through endless amounts of job listings, descriptions. As a Sociology major at a small liberal arts school, with literally no business classes on my resume, I was somewhat nervous about my chances at even getting an interview for one of these positions. Although I thought I knew I had what it took to be successful as a hard-working, motivated, well-spoken individual, these days (as I’m sure you know) the hardest part is shaping your resume to be convincing enough to get in front of the interviewers.
My quest to become a consultant started towards the end of the summer going in to my senior year. I began my daily search of the Career Center job listing site and started reaching out to family friends in the field to get a better idea of what the road ahead might look like. In the past, all I really cared about was getting some sort of job… that paid, that wasn’t in the middle of nowhere. Now the stakes were higher, this was my first CAREER move.
Classes started and more companies began posting openings each day, many of them financially focused jobs that I had zero interest in. One day I came across an opening at one of the top consulting firms in the world, with no major or minor requirements (my sociology major wasn’t going to work against me….I hoped), my 3.75 GPA was above the required level, and the job was in D.C... Sounded pretty good to me! I spent the next few days hammering out my resume, meeting with college counselors, bouncing versions off of friends and family, and ultimately submitting my resume and cover letter for the position. Luckily for me, this firm had recruited at my college for many years, and sees the value in a liberal arts education.
Sure enough, I got an interview. All those hours of prep were worth it! In my opinion, the resume is more important than the cover letter. While it is important to communicate your passion and interest for the opportunity and the company within the cover letter, it is more difficult to differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicants. Focus on the resume: Stick to a clean, classy format that clearly communicates what you want the reader to remember; Structure the “meat” of your experience strategically to align with the requirements of the position and the company; Stay away from stuffy/complicated language; Tell the truth – avoid inflating the facts/figures, you will inevitably have to explain them and you want to avoid stumbling in an interview.
I was one of ten to get an interview, and the only female of the group – and wasn’t sure if this was a reason to be more confident or more nervous. Historically the company had been dominated by males, but I wanted to believe that the gender balance had evened out. Unsure of what to expect, I was constantly asking myself several questions… How could I explain that my sociology degree would make me a good Supply Chain Consultant? What were some relevant classes I had taken…umm….War and Warfare? Marx and Marxist Philosophy? Seemed like a stretch.
It was crunch time, I had a week to prepare for a day of three interviews, and I was warned to be ready for a “case”. My strategy was to know my resume cold, like the back of my hand. I came up with five different experiences I had in my lifetime that could answer any possible question I was asked, a few athletic experiences, a few internship experiences, and one academic one. This was by far the best preparation I did. I was confident, calm, and able to pull from those experiences to answer all of the questions I was asked. From, what was your experience like working at one of the largest media production companies in the world….to, you are one of thirty here today, how can you differentiate yourself as an individual from the rest of the pack? Some of the best advice I was given before interviewing was to be myself. Forget the “typical” responses or the advice you might get from a peer – go with your gut, that way you ensure your responses are unique and will differentiate you from the rest of the group. The easiest answer is the “right” answer – take the risk and be yourself.
This strategy must have worked for me in my interviews, because a few weeks later I got the offer email. There was no opportunity for me to negotiate a salary, the offer was made - and, with times the way they were and continue to be, I naturally took the offer. Ok, so I know my experience was a little rare, I submitted my resume for one job, had one round of interviews, and got an offer, by October of my Senior year. But I think what made that all possible for me was the fact that I chose, unlike so many college seniors, to face the “job search” head on, instead of spending the Fall in denial hoping that an offer would magically appear in my mailbox. It’s not easy, you have to put in the time to research and prepare, but the key is definitely start early.