My friend and 30/20 Vision radio show co-host Lindsey Pollak and I had the opportunity to contribute to Marci Alboher’s New York Times career coach roundtable on management consulting and investment banking as careers for soon-to-be college grads. Here was the question, as well as highlights from our responses:
“I will be graduating from an Ivy League college this year, and had planned to apply for jobs in investment banking and finance this fall. However, in light of the recent market/economy downturn and massive layoffs, I am becoming disillusioned with the industry. Since my academics are average and I have slimmer chances of being hired at top banks, I am considering seeking an entry-level position in consulting firms instead (which I am also interested in). Do you believe that would be a good idea? Would you advise new graduates to ride out the downturn? How easy would it be to switch fields later on in my career?”
Lindsey: You are smart to consider current economic conditions in your job search, but there is no need to set up an either/or situation. If you really want to build a career in investment banking, then keep those opportunities on your list while also looking elsewhere. Finance is a super-competitive field. So you’ll need to work hard to network within the field and build connections with people who can serve as your advocate. This is especially important when you’re competing against people with better grades. Passion and experience count — sometimes even more than grades — so make up for your average G.P.A. by taking additional finance classes, attending networking events, researching companies online and reading as much as you can about the field and all the companies in it. Be on the lookout for firms that you may not have heard of. You don’t have to work at a top-tier firm to get great experience and connections.
Alex: I like entry-level management consulting gigs for new college graduates, because although stressful, you’ll learn basic business skills like project management, budgeting, client relations and public speaking. As a soon-to-be Ivy League graduate, you will probably have the opportunity to interview on campus with top management consulting firms. Ask your career center if you can talk to some recent graduates currently employed in these firms. Not only will they be able to give you the inside scoop on life as a new management consultant, but they will also offer critical advice for nailing the case interview (your analysis of a real-world business scenario). In general, it’s a good idea to be a bit flexible when seeking a job during periods of economic uncertainty. You can prepare yourself for a possible switch to banking down the line by using your new position to explore the financial aspects of management consulting. Get to know the individuals in the financial divisions, take company-sponsored course work and volunteer for projects with a financial component.
Look for the full text of the article in the Sunday Business section of the Times on August 17th!