A few weeks ago, I sat on a panel discussion in the Mendoza College of Business for Consulting Week. The week previous I had just finished my summer internship with Accenture as a technology consulting analyst, and was asked to speak to a room full of graduate and undergraduate students interested in consulting. Being that I only had 2-3 months of experience in the consulting world, I found myself prefacing my responses with “I can only speak from my experience,” as so, I did my best to give the most authentic answer I could.
One question that I received was from an underclassmen asking what he should do at Notre Dame in order to prepare him for consulting. I’m sure there were other people in the room that wanted to know what activities/involvements look good to a recruiter on a resume, but I didn’t want to answer it from that perspective considering it would just be nothing more than an educated guess coming from me.
Instead, I wanted to think about what I’ve done while in school that I could sense truly had groomed me to be successful in my internship. Beware – these won’t seem remotely related to technology consulting! I've tried to think of the things that aren't immediately obvious, but still had a huge impact on my internship success.
Notre Dame Baraka Bouts Women’s Boxing
Just step in the ring.
This is what I tell myself through right before every adrenaline-filled spar or fight. Boxing has taught me to focus on moving forward in high pressure or even simply unfamiliar situations. I’ve learned how to quickly and effectively recognize and implement a strategy change mid-fight as well as take in critical instruction from coaches. Something about dodging and blocking hits to avoid pain causes a person to really learn these skills fast!
Notre Dame Study Abroad & Personal Travel
I’ve studied abroad with Notre Dame as well as traveled by myself. I feel as though the solo trips have turned me into more of a go-getter – if I didn’t get up and initiate conversations or write my own itinerary every day, then I would’ve just sat around in a hostel. I’m not going to lie – putting myself out there in a new city and new language is incredibly nerve-wracking. I’ve learned how to think ahead 5 steps ahead and think about different possible scenarios or risks when planning logistics of getting around a foreign country. That being said, the most valuable skill I’ve learned is how to develop rapport quickly with new people, and especially those from completely different cultures.
Introduction to Philosophy
This connection might be the most radical, but I’m going to throw it out there anyways. For my internship this summer, I was writing VBA code and couldn't help but realize how the thought process was similar to writing an argument in philosophy (i.e. If "this", then "that"). Working through logical and consistent systems of thought in philosophy prepared me to understand and use a programming language in my internship.
What's mildy funny about this is that I remember thinking, "Philosophy? What a waste of time!" So thanks, Notre Dame, for making me take this liberal arts course I would've never looked at otherwise.
Reading and Experiencing
Another consulting intern answered the same question by telling him he should read as much as he can and keep up with what’s going on in the world. I couldn’t agree more. I think someday, when I’m making higher-level decisions, this practice will work greatly to my advantage. Even at a lower level though, I found that being knowledgable about the world and having diverse experiences helped me to build connections with people I worked with. I was able to engage in lunch time conversations and find common ground with someone I just met at a company event. This is important to me because the work I'm doing relies heavily on personal skills and the ability to build relationships in the workplace.
For this reason, I would advise underclassmen to follow as many of their interests and actively seek out new experiences just for the sake of having a handbasket of experiences. Even if an activity or interest doesn’t seem like a resume builder, it can still be valuable as a connection builder, especially if you become very involved in it. It could be a critical first step to really getting to know some awesome people to add to your network.
I would like to say never underestimate the value of a passion or active hobby. In high school, I was worried my "addiction" to designing and running websites was getting in the way of what was really important – physics, chemistry, calculus, etc. I was going to be a chemical engineer after all, right? But, oh, how majors change! I shouldn't be spending so much time in Adobe Creative Suite, or sweating over code, or thinking of revenue strategies, right? No. Incorrect. In fact, my first job is going to be what I used to think of as my stupid, time-wasting hobby (or at least heavily related). It’s funny how I didn’t even know I was developing skills through a hobby, but my passion (+10,000 hours) for it made it impossible not to.
Even if it doesn’t directly become my life’s work, I’m still going allow myself to pursue any hobby or passion that I can’t let go of. Somewhere in my dedication to an interest, I believe I am building a skillset that is valuable in work, whether that be creativity, organization, comprehension, communication, or any other crtical skill.
I spent so much time thinking about the question of “what would you do to prepare yourself for your future work?” that I started having conversations with my other senior friends as well. In an upcoming post, I’ll show you what they had to say about how their Notre Dame experience prepared them for their internships as well. Maybe I'm biased because they're my friends, but I'm really looking forward to sharing their great insights!