Intersections: Why I chose a full-time consulting job.

I am a public relations major. I have never held a consulting internship. How does a public relations major end up accepting a full-time offer with a huge consulting firm?

You can ask anyone around me and they’ll tell you that being around me made them more nervous about the job hunt than they probably needed to be. Even while I was finishing up my internship with Amazon this summer, I was already reaching out to potential companies I could see myself working for. I started writing down what I wanted in a company culture, what benefits I needed, a salary range that was livable for the areas I wanted to move to, and the skills I could bring to the table.

I set up coffee meetings, drove to Silicon Valley and San Francisco tech companies to meet recruiters for coffee – I just wanted to know what I was getting myself into. I knew I wanted to pursue the tech industry, but I didn’t know when to apply or how to throw myself in for consideration. Never once did consulting actually cross my mind. I kept looking for “marketing specialist” or “public relations associate” positions.

Then, the school year started and job postings started to roll in the on the college career services website. I applied to anything I could get my hands on. I saw a posting for a full-time management consultant. I figured it couldn’t hurt to look. I read through the description and realized I had the skills listed. While it didn’t have the marketing/PR title I thought I wanted, it had what I wanted as far as development.

After long rounds of interviews, meet and greets, and “researching” my interviewers on LinkedIn – I got an offer. So now what?

I would be blantantly lying if I said I wasn’t nervous – I’m incredibly nervous, scared out of my mind actually. There’s a part of me that still wonders if this is the right decision. Am I giving up the dream of eventually becoming a product marketing manager of an enterprise software company? Not entirely. Because my goal from the moment I started college was always to work with tech companies to some capacity and apply the skills I had as a non-technical within the technical word.

From the age of 18, I knew I wanted to play the role of being the intersection between technology and communication.

Upon utter panic of making the wrong decision, I spoke to my recruiter and found myself placed in the heart of technology – San Francisco, exactly where I wanted to be. Additionally, I discussed options on the types of projects. While there is no guarantee that I’ll be placed with my dream project, there’s a higher chance of communication, media and technology projects – woo!

The lesson of the story? Don’t confine yourself to what the title of a job. It sounds beyond cliche, but what I’ve learned from the job hunt is that the skills learned in one area can easily be applied to another.

To answer the question I’ll be asked throughout the holidays by my relatives: yes, I’m excited and terrified all at the same time, but I can’t wait for this new adventure.

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A Letter to My Freshman Self.

I recently changed my profile picture on my Facebook page to one of my mother and me during Christmas of my freshman year of college, which got me thinking about how it seemed like just yesterday I was a freshman and now…I’m not.

The first semester of my junior year is coming to a close and finals are just around the corner. The weather is chilly in Austin and I’m getting rather…nostalgic to say the least. I’m not even a senior yet, but just knowing that the school year will soon end in a few months and I will be entering the last year as a college student terrifies me.

So here’s a tribute to the lessons I have learned so far that I wish my freshman self knew when I first stepped foot on the Forty Acres.

The Boys.

But really. There was a point during freshman year where I thought every guy who wanted to kiss me was somewhat interested. It’s crazy to think about it now because I’ve learned to be smarter. Don’t cry over the first college boyfriend. Don’t assume that the fraternity brother who you made out with and called you “beautiful,” is actually interested, and whatever you do, do not make out with the boy who’s visiting from another school who won’t remember your name the next time you see him.

Academics.

Don’t take a course load of every single challenging class you can possibly think of – have a combination of different types of classes if you can. Learn the names of the people in your classes and be their friend, not just the person who you go to for notes. Most importantly: actually go to office hours, not just TA office hours, but professor ones too.

Friends. 

I know you like meeting everything and anything, but really, figure out who your group of friends is. You will meet your best friends and your worst frenemies this year. Love your close friends unconditionally.

Professionally.

Networking will always be key and those handwritten notes do matter. Don’t stop meeting smart people who want to teach you.

Student Organizations.

Stop spreading yourself so thin you can barely move. Join the ones that matter and be involved in them. Joining 100 organizations and being a crappy member won’t do you any good.

Rantings of a 20-year-old

hot_coffeeIt’s 15 minutes until midnight and I’m sitting here listening to a TED talk titled “Why 30 is not the new 20” and reading Levo League’s “Stop Listening: You Define Your Twenties.” Why? Because ever since I turned 20, I started to see advice for being “in my twenties” everywhere I went. In Meg Jay’s TED talk, she focuses on telling 20-somethings to not throw away their 20s. Although Jay’s argument has some high points that I agree with, there were a few points I’d rather roll my eyes after hearing. When it comes to using the next ten years of my life as an investment for my future, I like to think I have it planned out fairly well, but with room for spontaneity.

“Do something that adds value to who you are…identity capital begets identity capital.”

I agree with this statement, but this is true for anything someone does, regardless of age. Why would anyone ever purposely do something that would destroy their value? Every decision a person makes at any age is a reflection of their value. Being in my twenties does not mean that I should pay extra attention on how I add value to myself, I have tried to do that in everything I do since day one. Yes, adding value to your life is important, but shouldn’t you do that to begin with?

“The time for picking your family is now.”

Okay, I’m a closeted hopeless romantic who wants to find “the one” too, but it might not happen in my twenties. Here’s the honest truth: I am stubborn and I have accepted the fact that there is a great chance I will not find my future husband within the next ten years. And frankly, I have seen happy couples who found each other well into their later years. The time for picking my family isn’t now; the time for picking my family is when I find the right man who will be a great father to the children I plan to have when I become physically, mentally and financially capable of supporting.

“You’re deciding your life right now.”

This goes back to the first quote and my belief that every decision you make has some sort of influence on your future. The decisions I make today will influence tomorrow, but the decisions I make during my 40s will also influence my 50s. It’s not just now, it’s every day.

I like to think that I have a good chunk of my life outlined for the next decade, but there are still moments that I can’t account for and will never be able to plan ahead. I can acquire internships, but there is still that chance no one will actually want to hire me when I graduate. I can go on dates and there is a great chance no man will want to put up with me for the rest of his life. A plan is never secure and according to Jay’s argument, I might just be another failure of a 20-something that has been thrown into the pool of generation Y’s who some have dubbed to be the “laziest” generation of all.

As I am sitting here today, as a woman in her 20s, I feel like I am being asked more at this age than ever. I am told I need to ask for more in my career, find the perfect man sooner, and am constantly being reminded that my generation is narcissistic and self-centered. Thank you, society.

The next decade of my life as a 20-something can be summed up perfectly: the past makes you stronger, the present might be a battle, but the future is worth fighting for. There is no deadline; just do it and do it at your best, whatever that may be – regardless of what everyone else believes.

The Great Internship Hunt Part 2.

Yesterday, when I described the search for the perfect internship, I did not realize the amount of information I could spill onto the page of one blog post. So today, I present to you Part 2 of the series. I’ll make it brief and concentrate on the interview process and things to do before an interview.

If you have filled out several applications, sent endless amounts of e-mails, and written more cover letters than you can count on two hands, you’re probably in the state of waiting. Waiting for the e-mail response that says something along the lines of “When are you available for an interview?” E-mails will come in their own time, several will come in chunks where you find yourself with an interview one day and then another one the day after. However, some companies, from what I have learned, will also send a generic “we have received your application and are in the process of reviewing it” and then you never hear from them again. Or, some will also respond saying “we’ll look into it and ask for interviews at the end of the month” and then don’t respond for another month. Either way, the hope is that you will receive an e-mail asking for an interview.

So now it’s the night before your interview and you’re a bit nervous and scared. Here are a few things I do before an interview to prepare myself:

1. Have a warm beverage of some sort like decaf coffee or tea; yes, it has to be decaf because you do not want to stay up the night before a big interview stressing out about something
2. Research the company again and note key points
3. If you’re in the PR industry like I am, briefly go over AP/Chicago style and their most basic rules, just in case you’re asked
4. Make sure you have a nice portfolio folder of some sort to hold your resume and samples
5. Make sure you have printed out at least 3 copies of your resume to bring to the interview
6. Double check with the employer the day before (in the morning) about parking and if there’s any extra instruction you need to know about the building
7. Lastly, breathe, and get a good night’s sleep; no one wants to yawn during an interview

Now we move forward to the morning of the interview. I have done my fair share of  “do nots” the morning of an interview. If the interview is not within walking distance, factor in about 30 extra minutes for traffic, trying to find parking, and anything else that could and might go wrong. Also, eat a good breakfast. Once, during an interview, my stomach started growling. The employer didn’t notice because she was in the middle of talking and it wasn’t too loud, but it made me less confident. Side note: I actually got the job during that interview, but seriously, no one wants a growling stomach at a professional setting.

Now you’re at the interview. Smile when you enter the building. If there is a tenant/desk clerk, greet them kindly and ask for the name of the person interviewing you. Wait patiently and don’t play around with your phone; better yet, turn off your phone. When you’re called into the actual interview, smile, have a strong and respectable handshake – don’t give them a pathetic excuse for one and shake their hand like they have a disease. Listen to the questions asked by the employer carefully and have a slight pause before you answer, so you have time to process the question, so there’s no word vomit – this is not Mean Girls, word vomit isn’t acceptable. At the end of every interview I have ever had, I have always been asked “Do you have any questions for us?” This is the part where research comes into play. Mention a project the company has done that you are interested in and ask questions about it; prove that you’re actually curious and interested in the company beyond the typical factors like resume building opportunity or a good wage. Some employers will ask about availability and hours for work around your student schedule. Tell them the honest truth; do not commit to 20 hours when you’re taking 20 hours of coursework – don’t be a hero, be reasonable.

After the interview there is always a moment of “oh my goodness.” and casually waiting. Go home. Login to your e-mail account and compose a new message. Send the main person(s) who interviewed you an e-mail thanking them for taking the time out of their day to interview you. Briefly mention again why you want the job and how you appreciate the opportunity. This is not you kissing up, so don’t ramble; this is you being polite and professional. Besides, thank you e-mails are like virtual warm and fuzzes.

Success! Now repeat these steps to your fitting for various other interviews. Note: I am not a professional, this is just what I personally do during interviews that have worked for me. Tweak it to your own liking; these rituals pre/post interviews do not apply to everyone, this is simply a template.

The Great Internship Hunt.

Some time around mid June, I found myself contemplating on what I was doing with my time outside of classes for the upcoming semester. I told myself that I wouldn’t intern at a company until my sophomore year, just so I could have a strong foundation on my academics and extracurricular involvements. I knew that I wanted to intern, but I didn’t know where to start. I had spent the entire year networking with professionals in the industry and asking them about what they looked for in an intern, why their company was great, and what advice they had to give to someone like me, just starting out in the industry sans a Bachelor’s degree.

So the hunt for a fall internship began. I first narrowed it down to a list of what I wanted out of the internship.

1. The opportunity to learn from (a) supervisor(s) that are willing to allow me to do more than clerical work
2. Decent pay, or at least a gas stipend
3. Not too far from campus
4. Flexible with student interns, as far as work hours go
5. Future opportunities with the company or networking opportunity through company cliental

Narrowing down what you want in an internship is one of the most basic steps that some forget to consider before hysterically applying to every internship. Know your options based on your own experience. I never want to intern for company that only has me getting coffee or doing only clerical work. Yes, I am aware the life of an intern is not glamorous and sometimes it is necessary to do the dirty work. Consider your background; if you have interned previously and have some experience, don’t settle for an unpaid internship. I previously held two internship positions, neither of which were paid, but I did them because I knew I needed a strong foundation. If this is your first internship, considering an unpaid position is just fine if you can at least file for class credit.

With the list of “wants” in mind I went on my hunt for the perfect fall internship. Now, the question was where to look first to find adequate internships that actually want college sophomore level interns. There is a misconception at the university that the only career service office that offers phenomenal career searches is the one through the business school that is exclusive to declared business majors. However, I have found that regardless of the college, one should stop the complaining and utilize one’s own college services first. I headed straight to the online Career Source website for the College of Communication and began browsing.

Key words I looked for: public relations, marketing, advertising, communications, branding, business, consumer relations, and anything similar. Basically, I sat down for about an hour simply browsing through the pages of job postings and opening a tab for each one that caught my attention. I then proceeded to read through the descriptions of each of these tabs.

Things to consider while looking at descriptions of job/internship postings:

1. Read the description thoroughly
2. Notice who the key contact in the posting is, this is who you will probably address your Cover Letter to & e-mail
3. Find the actual company website
4. Browse the company website and make sure you actually know what the company does
5. Research their current and a few previous projects that you find interesting – these are good topics to mention in the e-mail/interview
6. Check to see what they require for the application: resume, cover letter, recommendations, design/writing samples, etc.

Whatever you do, don’t just apply for one internship. As the saying goes: do not put all your eggs in one basket; have options.

After hours of researching and narrowing down the companies I could actually see myself working for and promoting, I began filling out the applications. The application process varies depending on the job posting. Some will require only a resume, some a resume and cover letter, some will want samples. Regardless of the combination, double check to see how they want it presents; the majority will for it via e-mail.

The cover letter was by far the most difficult aspect about the application process in my opinion. I never fully learned how to write a cover letter, and I basically “wing it” every time. But the following format has seemed to work pretty well for me so far:

Paragraph I: Introduce yourself, who you are, why you’re writing the letter, and how you found this job posting. This is a great place to “name drop” if you know anyone in the company of pertinence or a former intern that enjoyed working for the company. Note: make sure the former intern was actually liked by the company.

Paragraph 2: State your credentials, briefly. Do not go into too much detail, that’s what your resume is for and you don’t want to simply repeat yourself. State why you want to work for the company and how you would grow from having the internship.

Paragraph 3: Inform that you would like the opportunity to interview for the position. Usually this is where I state when I want to intern – i.e. fall 2012, spring 2013, etc. Then I end it by saying I will gladly provide any additional documents needed such as writing samples, design samples, recommendations, etc.

After the cover letter, we have the resume. The one thing I have learned about resumes in this industry is that it does not necessarily have to be black and white. However, one must consider the type of company applying to. For example, when applying to an agency (generally), overly creative resumes are praised. The majority of companies I applied for were technology companies, so I kept my resume slightly creative to show my personality, but still professional with easy-to-read bullets and virtually no extra graphics. To make my resume still stand out, I added color.

Now that we have a resume and cover letter, the final step is to send it. Do not, for any reason, only attach your resume and cover letter and then proceed to write an e-mail stating “I have attached my resume and cover letter. Thank you.” An e-mail should read something along the lines of a mini cover letter. Have a greeting, state how you found the internship, briefly say you want an interview whenever the company is available, and what interests you about the company. Then state that your resume and cover letter are attached. End it with something along the lines of “Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!” And a “Sincerely” “Best” or “Thank you” closing. From what I have learned so far, employers will judge your e-mail just as much as your resume and cover letter.

After sending off your information to various companies. Take a deep breath, and wait for them to respond. Some may only take a day or two, others a few weeks, some up to a month. If you haven’t heard from a company after several months, don’t be disappointed. Finding a great internship is like finding your significant other – there are plenty of fish in the sea.