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The consulting phenomenon

What do economics, biochemical engineering and English majors at the University all have in common? In the dawn of their fourth-year, they’re all vying for the same consulting jobs.

The field was one of 28 industries which drew more than five students from the 2012 graduating class according to a University Career Services First Destinations Report.

Though a growing industry, consulting is a field shrouded in mystery. The University Career Services consulting pamphlet says, “a consultant provides professional advice to their clients to help solve specific issues or problems.”

The ambiguity often means students don’t actually know what the job entails, said UCS Career Counselor Elizabeth Duellman.

Despite the job’s lack of clarity, the draw to a career in consulting may be rooted in the financial incentives of the industry: according to the UCS 2012 Final Destination Report, consulting gained one of the top average reported salaries with $57,113 annually.

To Batten students, consulting may be a popular alternative to the public sector, where salaries are typically lower, said James Paradis, the Batten School’s Student and Career Services Coordinator.

Paradis also said the early arrival of recruiters from consulting firms in the fall each year ensures the recruiters “are the first faces the students see on Grounds.”

Solidifying their presence early helps to catch fourth-years who come into their final year with an “I have to have a job before I graduate” mindset, said Alumni Career Services director Emily Bardeen, a former UCS career counselor.

Efforts to reach out to consulting recruiters were unsuccessful, as many were on weeklong absences from the offices, a testament to the heavy outreach efforts of recruiters early in the academic year.

Bardeen said University students are ideal for consulting positions because of their “interest and ability in looking at a lot of information or on seeing how it fits together and arranging it so that you can explain it to others in a simple manner.”

Talia O’Brien, a third-year systems engineering major with a math concentration and a minor in business, said she has an interest in strategy and operations consulting because of the job’s mental exercise.

“The process requires creativity and innovative thinking, which I really appreciate because it invokes both sides of my brain: creativity and math,” she said.

O’Brien is also considering consulting because of the opportunity to travel and work in a collaborative environment rather than an “eight- to 10-hour job in a cubicle without social interaction.”

As a third-year, O’Brien has investigated the consulting industry alongside fourth-years who are just discovering the opportunity.

“My major introduced me to consulting — working on case studies and group projects,” she said.

She has attended several info sessions, career fairs, coffee chats and interviews sponsored by consulting firms recruiting on Grounds. “[The events are] a chance to get your name out early,” O’Brien said, emphasizing the intensive competition among undergraduate students for consulting jobs.

Contrastingly, Michael Chon, a fourth-year environmental science major, is mainly drawn to consulting because it would allow him to work with topics such as groundwater hydrology.

To Chon, consulting is the only alternate to a research-based profession within the environmental science field. Although he hasn’t had time to speak with recruiters, he views consulting as an ideal professional starting point.

“[As an] entry level job, you don’t have to come in with a lot of expertise — you come and learn on the job,” he said.


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