Op-eds

Seo ’18: The hidden joy of consulting recruiting

By
Op-Ed Contributor
Wednesday, November 9, 2016

“Do one thing a day that scares you.” This sentence was written over a Lululemon bag that I had when I was 12 years old. At the time, I thought the saying was ridiculous. After all, why would anyone do something that scared them once a day? Would that really make life more fulfilling?

I didn’t think about this advice much again until I began the consulting recruiting process this fall. A few weeks ago, I woke up with a pit in my stomach, realizing that every day I was doing something that made me feel uncomfortable, nervous or flat-out scared. Whether this involved recording my weird self for a video interview or practicing a case with a stranger, I felt butterflies in my stomach at every step. I wanted to forget everything I was scheduled to do and just stay in bed. But I kept going nevertheless.

Compared to other recruiting processes, the consulting route is notorious for requiring intensive preparation for case interviews. Choosing to take part in the consulting recruiting process can feel like taking an additional course. There are various ways of approaching the process, but the typical method includes buying and reading “Case in Point,” reaching out to anyone and everyone for case practice and building relationships with people in the industry. It’s an add-on to the already heavy academic workload at Brown and can be more than stressful at times — especially when midterms build up.

So what’s the point of all the anxiety and stress that comes with consulting recruiting? Well, there are the typical appeals of consulting: the amazing travel points and perks, the two- to three-year skill set development and the exposure to diverse industries. For me, the final point was what hooked me: Consulting genuinely appealed to my sense of wonderment. I wanted to do everything and learn everything; that’s what the industry meant to me.

Now that we are approaching the end of the consulting recruiting season for juniors, my anxiety has diminished, and my interest in the industry has only developed further. And thus far, all of the recruiting season cliches have definitely come true for me: I’ve learned more about myself, figured out which companies best fit my personality and realized how unpredictable the process can really be. This has been one of the most grueling semesters of my college career, but it’s also been one of the most maturing and humbling experiences of my life.

When I first began case preparation, I felt lost in the process. There were so many things to learn and remember, and I felt swamped by the amount of material I had yet to cover. Not only did I feel overwhelmed by the cases themselves, but I also felt disheartened by my inevitable failure in the first few cases. As I progressed to doing cases in person, I remember the slight but sharp anxiety I felt walking to the location. I didn’t want to waste the other person’s time by failing at the case and feeling inadequate. But I swallowed my pride and continued doing live practice cases. After my second in-person case, the anxiety was gone, and I actually started enjoying them.

Here’s why: First, I learned something new with every case. It didn’t matter whether I was familiar with the industry in the question or not, or whether the case was straightforward or challenging. I was learning so much about the intricacies of the different businesses and my own thought process tackling the problems. I found new confidence in the lead-up and aftermath of these cases — but also in other aspects of my life.

Secondly, as I navigated the process, I constantly reached out to new people for help. The consulting recruiting process prompted me to meet a diverse range of people at different points in their lives, from senior consultants looking to transition to new opportunities to underclassmen trying to understand the industry. Talking to people has opened up more doors and catalyzed deeper conversations with people outside of my immediate circle, helping me mature and understand the dynamics of the world outside College Hill.

And I’m realizing more and more that there is a common thread of motivation and hard work that underlies this process and connects us together. By making these remarkable connections with so many role models, I’ve realized that the highs and lows of this period are not just felt by me, but all those involved. In the process, I’ve learned to depend more on those around me. From conversations with both new and old friends, to short emails and long texts, to spontaneous phone calls and meals, I’ve been blessed to find support wherever I’ve searched for it, and I’ve been constantly surprised by the encouragement I’ve received each time.

Regardless of what happens in the next few weeks, I have been truly inspired by the people I’ve encountered during the process. As closed off as you might want to be during this soul-searching journey called recruiting, you’ll soon realize that you can’t be a hermit in this venture. For me, the process has very much been about putting myself out there and learning to rely more on others.

Consulting is, after all, a people business.

Minah Seo ’18 can be found procrastinating by doing practice cases. She can be reached at minah_seo@brown.edu.

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