Advice on landing that study abroad acceptance every time.
Having studied abroad on four separate occasions, I have written my fair share of study abroad applications. These applications only got easier the more applications I wrote and, undeniably, with more travel abroad experience. Wanting to mentor other college students interested in study abroad, I became an Education Abroad Peer Advisor after returning from three months studying abroad in Russia, India, and China in my junior year. One repeated question I got from prospective study abroad students was “can you read and edit my application?” Having read, edited, and advised many students on applications, I thought it would be helpful to compile my suggestions along with the advice of my friend Alex, who is a Senior Program Manager for college short term study abroad programs- an expert to say the least!
I am a big fan of the concept of backward design. In order to write a good application, you need to start at the beginning. What are your personal, professional, and academic goals and objectives? How will this particular program help you to get there? If you find that it’s a hard sell to connect these two, then you may want to revisit your program choice and apply for a program that will help you achieve your goals.
Let me give you an example. At the end of my final year of high school, I took a road trip to Austria (I was living in Switzerland at the time, so it wasn’t that far) and loved it there! I decided that I would learn German and move to Austria one day. So naturally, when I came to the U.S. for college and began taking German classes, I told all of my classmates that I was going to study abroad in Vienna. My overarching goal though was to become fluent in German. When I talked with my education abroad advisor, I learned that most people in Vienna spoke English and that if I wanted to be forced to work on my language skills, I should consider another program in a small town. Ultimately that is what I did and my German language skills dramatically improved!
Once you know what you want and have found a program that will help you get there, make sure to spell it out in your application. At the end of the day, faculty members and education abroad advisors want to help you achieve your dreams!
Here are a few other tips to help you as you compile your application:
Be honest and authentic in your application. Tell YOUR story. I meet with students who are afraid to tell their story, because they don’t think it’s compelling enough, or they think it might disqualify them from a program. Part of telling your story is helping the person reading your application to assess whether this is a good fit for you and the program.
Tailor your application to the program. Please please please do not submit a generic education abroad application! This goes for any job search as well. Research the program online and make sure that your application is tailored specifically to this particular program. Cite particular aspects of the program that are referenced in the online material. This demonstrates that you have done your research and will make your application stand out from the crowd.
Reach out to the faculty member or education abroad advisor. Go to the faculty member’s office hours, get to know them, and share your passion for the program! Faculty members want to know that you are excited about their course, especially if they may be spending several weeks with you.
Remember education abroad programs are competitive. If you don’t get in the first time you apply, ask for feedback, and see how you can improve your application for the future. Your desire to grow and learn will only make you an even more attractive candidate for the future.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received on writing applications is the following:
“The application viewer should be able to pick up your application from the pile, read it, and be able to identify it as being yours.”
In other words, make sure to make your application so unique to yourself, that no one else could pass it as their own. The examples you use, your writing style, and the sentiments within your application should be personal and specific to you.
Pick a specific and location and program, then do your homework. There are two reasons why this is important for you as an applicant. Firstly, wherever you are studying abroad, you will be spending a significant amount of time there. You want to make sure that this location and type of study abroad program is right for you. For example, many study abroad programs offer homestays, for language immersion this is ideal. When I studied in Frankfurt, Germany my senior year in high school this was the perfect opportunity for me to hone my German language skills and also learn more about the culture and German lifestyle first hand. Other study abroad opportunities require that you find your own housing within the school’s area If you are looking for greater independence and to take initiative on where you would like to live and who you would like to live with, this is a great opportunity to take ownership of your experience. Secondly, you want to communicate to your application reviewer that you understand the program’s offerings fully and that you would, specifically, benefit from this program and all that it has to provide. In knowing all about the program, you will be able to pick out specific aspects of the program and why you are the perfect fit.
Utilize your core competencies and personal unique experiences to stand out amongst the crowd. In a study abroad application, you really want to play up your strengths and emphasize how you will be the one to capitalize on this amazing opportunity because of similar instances where you did the same. For example, when I applied to go on Babson’s Dubai Elective Abroad program, I emphasized how much I wanted to learn, firsthand, about the culture that my friends come from. Here is an excerpt from my application that highlights this:
“At Babson, having such exposure to such diversity has encouraged me to explore the world and travel to the native countries of my classmates I have heard such fondness about. Specifically, I have formed friendships with many individuals from the Middle East. I have been able to learn about Kuwait, Bahrain, Beirut, and Tunisia through the personal stories, experiences, food, and culture these friends have shared with me. However, I aspire to go deeper, and to learn more, I have too many unanswered questions. I am eager to experience, first hand, authentic machos and look up at the Burj Khalifa. I want to know what drives the Emirati people’s decision making and how their ethics are developed.”
Lastly, show a genuine desire to grow and learn through studying abroad. Some of the best applications I have seen have been from students who have never traveled outside of the United States before. The eagerness that they exhibit in their applications is sincere, genuine, and authentic. They articulate what they want to learn and how they think that studying abroad will help them develop a global mindset both as individuals and students. In the end, those who are reviewing your application want to make sure that you will be taking advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity and that you will be up for the challenge.
Anyone can become a good leader, it’s up to you to take the first step!
When it comes to leadership, it is always best to talk to an expert, that expert being Marie Dye. Marie is a part-time lecturer and a licensed coach, with experience teaching courses at Rutgers University, Kean University, Montclair State University and Union County College. Her courses revolve around leadership, interpersonal communication, group communication, and public speaking. Marie has earned an International Coach Federation (ICF) certification in Leadership Coaching for Organizational Performance from Rutgers University; a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership from Seton Hall University, a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Kean University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It is clear, Marie is passionate about both education and leadership!
Marie fell into this line of work from her desire to help both herself and other people communicate better, at work and within their personal relationships. In her early career, Marie’s work had been in a variety of different roles where she was serving and connecting with people, whether it be in customer service, banking, or social work. Marie quickly discovered that she wanted to learn how to communicate better, capture a person’s attention, and clearly get her message across. This was especially tied to her work at Bank of New York, when she was tasked with leading and navigating difficult conversations with those much older than herself. Specifically, Marie was asked to terminate someone, an experience that taught her the power of leadership and the responsibilities that follow suit. To Marie, good leaders are self aware, they understand the importance of perception management, and identify the needs of the people around them. “We communicate to get our needs met,” says Marie, whose passion for understanding the subject has been the pursuit of her career.
Marie breaks down four important factors that contribute to effective leadership that everyone can benefit from, including servant leadership, having a compelling vision, cultivating a positive organizational culture, and embracing individual identity. If you are interested in becoming an effective compelling leader, keep reading!
Marie notes that it wasn’t until her time at Seton Hall University that she really began to understand that leadership is not just about your name and title, but rather what you do to develop others. This is better known as servant leadership, an important aspect of effective leadership. Marie says that it is important for good leaders to be curious about the people they are leading in order to support them as they work towards mobilizing the team to achieve their goals. There is no trickery or manipulation necessary. The overarching goal is to lead others so that they grow and develop as individuals and emerging leaders. Marie believes it is important that everyone feels seen, valued and heard, because this creates a culture where everyone wants to bring their best to the table.
Bottom line:You have to value the people around you. Be genuinely interested in who they are and what they care about. Supporting them to be their best. Building a strong community will gain their respect and their commitment to your compelling vision. Remember a worker bee won’t go the extra mile for you or your company, but the soldier in the trenches will when their captain believes in them and is right beside them.
This brings us to Marie’s second point in being a good leader, which is having and communicating a compelling vision. Leadership is about influence and people follow those who influence them, whether it be a pastor, social media influencer, or sports superstar. The leader’s job is to understand what the people value so they know what motivates them. It is also in the best interest of the leader to communicate their own beliefs, values and goals. A leader’s vision becomes compelling when it aligns with their followers values and beliefs. Followers need to understand their leader’s motivations and how their efforts play a part in achieving the leader’s goals and the overall vision. Part of achieving a compelling vision is treating people equally and creating partnerships in leadership and the outcome.
Bottom Line: Leadership is not about telling someone what to do, it is more about being in community with the people you lead and creating a vision that people feel aligned with.
Positive Organizational Culture
Almost one hundred percent of the time, culture is determined by who is leading it. It is the leader’s fault if the organizational culture is bad- to put a fine point on it. The culture determines how people feel, if they are heard, and if they feel valued.
Here are some examples:
In a negative or toxic culture, everyone is fearful, everyone watches their own back, secretly wishing the organization or leadership will fail. There is a distaste for change and no innovation, new ideas, or growth occur.
On the other hand, when you have a good culture, there is an overwhelming feeling of safety, innovation is welcome from everyone down to the janitor, and everyone brings value. No one desires to leave, people are growing and getting better positions- hey, they even want to work late! These people will carry you through the crisis, they will not abandon or sell you out because there is a tremendous sense of community.
Bottom Line: The leader affects the culture and the culture affects the people. Leaders are at the heart of employee motivation and the dependency of company or team success.
Embracing Individual Identity
Research shows that there are certain attributes that effective leaders have, yet there is also substantial evidence that leadership can be taught to anyone; everyone has the potential to become an effective leader. The first step in becoming a leader is knowing who you are and discovering your individual style of leadership- there is no one size fits all! Servant leadership is the basic premise, but your own style of leadership is based on your specific personality, skills, and qualities.
A trend that Marie sees in those she coaches on how to lead are that they are trying to lead in a way that they think people are supposed to act or behave. Most people aren’t clear about who they are and what their leadership style is. It all starts with the most simple, yet complex questions. Who am I?
Bottom Line:Developing and nurturing your leadership style is something most people have never had to think about before. Leadership is not what you see on television, it’s see inside! Marie emphasizes the fact that leaders must be transparent and honest about who they are on the inside.
So what is your style of leadership and how can you develop it?
You can start by asking yourself these questions and jotting down your responses as a quick start:
What are your objectives and goals?
We communicate to meet our needs, consider what your needs are and how do you feel most comfortable communicating them?
When have you communicated effectively in the past? Why were you successful? When have you communicated and it hasn’t worked? Why were you not successful?
Think about a time when you did not communicate effectively. Why were you not successful? What would you change?
Review your communication style and remember listening is part of communication! Are you a listener or talker, how do you process information? How do the people that you lead communicate and process information?
Taking it a step further? There is also a series of personality tests that you can take, such as 360 leadership assessment, Myers Briggs, and Strengths Finder. Marie recommends, however, to layer these assessments and take more than one. Basically, build a file on yourself! Take the assessment on your own or find a certified coach to work with.
Bottom Line: Find your strengths and capitalize on them when practicing leadership.
You never know, you might even be surprised about what you learn about yourself as you lead others.
Well, a year it has been; one year since graduating from Babson College and an unexpected one to say the least! I celebrated by final graduation virtually last weekend, despite having grander plans to celebrate in-person. Although the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way of an in-person celebration for me, I realized the importance of reflecting on this important event and why celebrating it in an alternative way shouldn’t detract from any feeling of achievement. In fact, staying home for graduation made me realize such a critical lesson: the importance of gratefulness.
If you would have told me a year and a half ago that I wouldn’t be attending my graduation, a global pandemic interfering would have been the least likely scenario I would have dreamt of hindering me from graduating at Babson. When times were challenging working on my honors thesis, I thought about walking across the stage with my honors peers. When I spent hours on the weekends studying for exams and writing papers, I thought about how much it would mean to receive a latin honors- how proud my family would be. My whole primary school education, I worked tirelessly towards graduating from college. A formal graduation to celebrate it all.
Yet, in reflecting back, I am reminded of how much more important the journey is than the destination. So much in life, I have a tendency to focus all of my energy on thinking about the end game. The final grade, landing the job, the next trip, or the end of the movie. I even distinctly remember how eager I was for the second semester of senior year to come, thinking that the celebrations around graduating that semester would be even better than the first semester. Parties would be better, classes would be better, the list goes on forever. Now, what I would do to go back! To relive those moments and to savor the, what seemed to be at the time, mundane events.
To truly be content in every circumstance comes with gratitude for the provisions of that day. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught me how much I have taken for granted and I am grateful for this newfound perspective of looking at the everyday with fresh eyes. I have a newfound gratefulness for the little things.
Graduation, however, was a big thing! But what I really realized I missed the most about being there wasn’t the pom and circumstance, but the people. My best friends, acquaintances, library co-workers, professor, and everyone in between.
My international friends and I were able to bond on the day of graduation over the fact that we were not able to attend in-person. I took so much comfort in knowing that we had each other and that, if we did, we would be ok. That any disappointment, challenge, or obstacle that got in our way we could tackle because we would be there for each other. College does that to people. It binds them.
My friends, professors, and faculty members made my experience at Babson what it was. And my friends are the ones that I know I will take with me throughout my entire life. My chapter in college may have closed, but the door will always remain open as long as I have those around me, who made my college experience what it was, to remind me of the memories and to inspire me to continue being the curious, adventurous, excitable person that I was and continue to be.
I am forever grateful for the privilege to have attended college, for the incredible people that I have met, and the for professors who helped me grow along the way.
If I remind myself of these things every day, I know that I will be ok.
Despite being so young, Julian Parra has a life’s worth of experience learning about how to discover your passion, navigate the job market, and land your dream job.
Born and raised in Hawthorne, New Jersey, Julian attended Babson College in 2016, where he quickly became interested in career development, when he became a career ambassador for the college’s Center for Career Development (CCD). As a career ambassador, Julian met with hundreds of undergraduate students a semester to help them with anything and everything career related. Julian’s experience working at CCD helped to shape his own career path as well, as he learned an incredible amount from mentoring others as well as interacting with the career advisors within the office.
Julian’s first internship was with Ernst and Young, where he interned within the tax and audit department. Through this experience, Julian learned that he was more interested in finance than accounting, yet he used this newfound knowledge to pivot, taking more finance classes the semester after. In doing so, however, Julian found that he compared himself to the other finance students in his classes, who were more passionate than he was. That same semester, Julian was also living in Babson’s computer science and coding community, which got him interested in working within business and tech.
The next summer, Julian had the opportunity to be a part of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, a program that helps minorities connect with fortune 500 companies. Through this program, Julian was able to connect with IBM and got offered an internship working for their enterprise performance management team. After his internship, Julian was offered a full time position and gladly accepted.
During quarantine last year, Julian found himself with a bit of free time between graduation and starting his full-time job. This time got him to reflect on the skills and knowledge that he learned both at CCD and through his job search. During quarantine is also when the popular social media and content creation app TikTok began to flourish. Julian has always been interested in content creation, having started a YouTube channel and Instagram account in which he provided professional advice and motivational content before. What captured Julian’s attention about the algorithm being used by TikTok is that anyone can have a piece of content go viral as long as they optimize watch time and shares, among many other tactics. Soon, Julian’s TikTok account @youknowitjulian, offering professional advice to young adults, was formed within a perfect storm.
Julian quickly started noticing his videos and TikTok content going viral, confirming his hypothesis that there was a real need for an end-to-end resource for navigating the job market that was digestible and provided advice on a high level. Julian recently formalized this content into a course that takes individuals through every phase of the job search process, from realizing their passion to salary negotiation. Julian took inspiration from his own experiences as well as his TikTok and Instagram audiences when developing the program.
Julian notes that young professionals, current college students, or even those who recently graduated and are interested in landing their first job or internship are perfect candidates for the course. Julian also sees those who are feeling lost, especially in terms of how to navigate the uncertain job market, or those whose employment status has been affected by COVID-19, really benefiting from his program.
When making this course, Julian emphasized his desire to be value-first in the course, highlighting only the useful facts, as well as making the content interactive. For example, Julian hosts a resume walkthrough, getting specific with what should go in each section and how this information should be formatted to maximize efficiency and readability. Julian does the same with both cover letters and your LinkedIn profile. Additionally, taking a popular segment from his TikTok channel, Julian has an interview role playing segment where students can get practice answering tough job interview questions.
In paying for the course, job seekers also gain access to resume, cover letter, and email response templates- really everything you need to network and nail an interview. Through the program, members even get access to an exclusive professional community, which Julian is also an active participant of, to debrief any content from the course or answer any questions members might have.
When asked about what his favorite aspects of the program are, Julian responded that it was hard to pick just one, but, if he had to, it would be the personal branding section. Julian views personal branding as being an important step to establishing your own personal identity that sets you apart from others in the job market. It is also an opportunity to be creative.
“You just need one person to look at your content to give you the opportunity of a lifetime,” says Julian.
When asked why should someone take this course and what Julian hopes his students will walk away with? Julian noted that he hopes his program will help job seekers view the employment process as not being as overwhelming and as intimidating as it often does. Julian hopes that those who take his course are able to navigate the market with ease and have an open space to have their questions answered. The overarching goals is to inspire confidence and better clarity on where seekers see their career trajectory going.
Whether it be related to their career, goals, or life aspirations, the world is any job seeker’s oyster and Julian’s program is the sand that generates the pearl!
If you give a student an avocado, there’s no telling what they will do with it!
Sean Holland is someone with a great passion for public service, which began at a very young age. Since second grade, Sean believed that he would go to law school and become a lawyer or diplomat. This interest manifested itself in participating in Model United Nations when Sean was in high school and attending George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in 2016, majoring in Political Science. After Freshman year, however, Sean discovered his love for economics and statistics and their application to real world problems.
Returning from his study abroad in Vienna his Junior year, Sean decided to apply for management consulting internships, as he knew many friends who were interested in the same field and felt that this unique opportunity could challenge and excite him. Sean did alright during the behavioral interview portion of his management consulting interviews, but fell short during the case interview process and did not receive an offer that summer. Going into Junior year with no summer internship, Sean knew that he would have to be productive somehow and took the summer to explore his interests and write about them. Sean learned how to code in R and wrote articles for Medium focused on statistics and analytics. Sean further differentiated himself by adding a comical undertone within his writings. Over the summer, Sean even had one of his articles on forecasting avocado prices published on Medium’s Towards Data Science site, which gained an incredible readership.
Armed with a summer of self-study and a portfolio of impressive research, Sean went through the Fall recruiting process his Senior year, and landed a Business Analyst position at Deloitte Consulting, specializing in government and public sector work. Sean credits landing the job to owning some of the best advice he received from his career counselor. Sean’s counselor told him to never underplay his achievements and to always convey his experiences in a positive light. To go into his interviews not with the perspective of having a summer with no internship, but a summer filled with enriched learning.
Sean adeptly describes a consultant’s role as providing subject matter expertise and a specific know-how to provide solutions to problems. Government consulting, specifically, aims to help a government agency create a vision for where they want their agency to be and works to create a roadmap for how the agency can achieve this. Although government agencies might have an in-house IT shop or finance department, these agencies often don’t have specific strategic departments that have a broad overview of all departments. As a consultant coming in, they would have the comparative advantage of working across multiple divisions and having a particular expertise that is missing. Government engagements also tend to be longer than commercial ones — often lasting several years — as consultants help along the journey from formulating strategies to advising on implementation.
Sean’s current project involves transforming budget management processes and best practices in a new defense agency. His day-to-day, like every consultant, varies greatly. On any particular Monday morning, Sean sits in on a “Stand Up” call with task leads to go over project details and developments. Afterward, he might meet with his team’s client to review some data that he has analyzed in a deck, take notes during a team brief, or help his team and project leads keep track of a lot of moving pieces related to the project. Sean would describe his work as a balance between both project management and strategy work for his team. As an analyst, his role is to mainly observe and support the vision Deloitte aims to create. Sean makes a point of mentioning that, although consulting can be high stress, he feels reassured that his work doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, but he has to show signs of improvement in what he does- advice every perfectionist should take to heart.
Sean notes that the most compelling part of his work is getting to interact with people who are on top of their game in terms of expertise. He goes further by mentioning that consulting attracts people who are used to working in teams and comfortable with hard work- those who are smart and comfortable working in teams naturally gravitating to the work. At Deloitte, Sean has met consultants who come from every background, from MBA grads to mathematicians to even former WNBA players.
In relation to challenges, Sean admits that consulting in the virtual world can be difficult in terms of feeling like you belong with a team you have never met before. Additionally, the learning curve can be pretty steep in terms of creating decks or analyzing data with expert precision. It is easy to get overwhelmed, yet the remedy for this is to realize that everyone has been in the same position at some point and that it is expected that you will need some time to learn; the benefits of hiring someone young is in being able to shape that person’s development to fill a special skill.
Looking towards the future, Sean is excited by the prospect of employing rigorous statistical methods to solve policy questions and aid in better decision-making within his work. Sean believes that work similar to this is the next frontier for consulting, where data is the most critical driver in supporting decision making.
For Sean, it seems that personal future possibilities are endless, as he continues to become persuaded by a variety of opportunities. Looking into the distance, Sean can see his life going in many different directions including attending law school and fulfilling his childhood dream, getting his MBA and working at Google, or maybe even staying at Deloitte forever!
“There are so many experiences to be had and so many opportunities out there. It’s hard to say what the future really holds.”
Kristin Watson and Julia Dean had only been friends a short while before teaming up last summer to change the lives of students and recent graduates during the peak of the COVID pandemic.
After graduating in December of 2019 with a degree in Graphic Communications from Clemson University, Kristin found herself navigating the challenging job search process in early 2020. The resource that Kristin found extremely beneficial at the time was a strong mentor, pushing and leading her through the process. It was this mentor who ultimately helped her land a job at the Trade Desk. Having a mentor namely helped Kristin learn the ins and outs of the industry which ultimately shifted her focus from wanting to work in the agency side of advertising to ad tech.
On the other hand, Julia was locked-in with a position at Deloitte Consulting as a Human Capital Analyst, one she’d secured before graduating from Babson College in 2019. Still, Julia felt compelled to help those struggling with employment during COVID after seeing so many students and young adults on LinkedIn who had lost their jobs, internships, or were simply looking for work.
The Adobe conference where Julia and Kristin first met
Kristin and Julia met at an Adobe conference in 2018 and, being adamant about maintaining their network, stayed in touch. during quarantine, the two put their heads and past/ professional experiences together to come up with an idea: connecting mentors and mentees to ease current job woes. Given that her mentor was her main cheerleader, Kristin remembered how integral a mentor was to her job search process. Similarly, Julia recalled her providing mentorship as a resource for others, whether it was advising them on applying for the Fulbright Program, breaking into consulting or general career advice. It was a match made in heaven.
Their plan was to match students with mentors who were working in their field of interest so they could provide insights, advice, case prep, and even review resumes. The two began by informally naming the program “Let’s Get This Bread” and blasting out an interest form on LinkedIn. The name was splashy, the logo engaging, and the overall messaging resonated with the targeted age group, who were looking for a genuine and unintimidating approach to career help. What happened next wasn’t what either of them were expecting. The two estimated they might garner the interest of less than 30 young professionals , yet ended up engaging over 70 mentees (including myself!) and a little over 50 mentors.
Let’s Get This Bread Launch Video
After manually pairing the mentors and mentees, Kristin and Julia let all the participants structure their mentorship in the way that they wanted, enabling the pairings to choose the pace and frequency of meetings that were best for them. Six weeks later, the two sent an email to participants asking how the program went so they could evaluate how to define success for the program in the future.
The founders then launched a second version of their program with a new cohort of mentors and mentees after collecting feedback from the first group of participants. Through focus groups and feedback forms, Kristin and Julia realized they had a small but mighty group of members who really valued the platform the two were able to build for them. Asking for a mentor is incredibly daunting and it is difficult to find someone willing and able to speak with you on a consistent basis. This form of structured peer mentoring was more approachable to those who needed help and encouragement during the quarantine.
So, what ultimately makes a good mentee? Honesty, both founders said:
“You need to be honest about what you need help with; that’s how you will best use your time with your mentor.”
And for a mentor? It would have to be honesty and approachability. “There is nothing harder than having a mentor relationship that doesn’t feel like a safe place to be raw and candid,” says Kristin.
Kristin and Julia cite the time they started the program as being pivotal to the success of the rebranded “GTB Mentorship Program”. “A lot of people wanted to help out and a lot needed that help,” mentions Julia, who sees entrepreneurship as being instrumental to solving community-focused needs. The founders also note that the program was incredibly helpful to participants because mentors were only 1 to 3 years older than those they were mentoring, mimicking a peer-on-peer help model.
Julia and Kristin mentioned many positive stories that resulted from the program and I’d like to cite mine as being one of them! When I came across the program and its catchy title, I knew I had to be a part of something that was uplifting, encouraging, and helpful during the challenging time I was going through. Having lost multiple job opportunities due to the COVID pandemic, I was desperately seeking help to break into the consulting industry. I felt helpless and confused and thought it couldn’t hurt to seek some outside guidance. My mentor Sean turned out to be one of the most instrumental people throughout my job search process, case prepping with me, editing my resume, providing continual guidance, and inspiring me to create this very blog – thanks Kristin and Julia!
When I asked them why they thought they were the best people to run the GTB Mentorship Program, Kristin and Julia jointly replied that they didn’t consider themselves to be the right people to start the program. They explained it was their passion and commitment to following through on their idea that made them become the right people.
Although GTB shut down after its second cohort, I feel confident that there will be so many more amazing programs and businesses created by these intelligent women. What does that mean for the rest of us? If the future is anything like Kristin and Julia’s entrepreneurial past, help is on the way!
Learn all about work in the Talent and Organization / Human Potential practice.
Aline Kolankowski is a woman of many talents and persuasions. She is a hot sauce and pickle maker as well as a Peloton rider in her spare time and, from a work perspective, a management consultant at Accenture. Needless to say, Aline succeeds at whatever she puts her mind to.
Aline graduated from Gettysburg College with a concentration in computer science and a major in biology, yet entered the workforce working as a systems manager at American Express, where she worked for 13 years. From there, Aline worked at both Honeywell and CBS in Human Resources, before getting let go from her job in 2009.
Aline took this time to step back and re-evaluate her life trajectory – she even had a brief stint as a realtor, yet quickly realized this wasn’t a good fit. It was during this period that Aline pivoted to doing contract consulting and instantly fell in love with the type of work. After blindly applying online through Accenture’s job portal, she landed a job there as a management consultant manager working within the Talent and Organization / Human Potential practice. Through her work at Accenture, Aline has learned an incredible amount, including everything from cyber security and Salesforce to what the workforce of the future will look like.
Aline describes her work as building and managing relationships with her clients, vendors, and team in order to facilitate achieving goals. A day of work for Aline is dynamic- right now she is working through “hyper care” or post go-live support for her project at a large pharmaceutical company. Her objective is to ensure that their client hits all of their targets and she ensures this by having regular calls with them to go through open issues to get things resolved. Aline also meets with her business and technical teams, developing business requirements and solutions for her clients. Overall, Aline works to manage risks and juggle priorities, all while updating her clients on all of the above. When there is even a brief period in her day, Aline tries to fit in training and skill-building to keep herself sharp. Accenture consultants are encouraged to work on “plus one” projects that can help them gain experience and exposure to the extensive Accenture network.
Aline notes that the most compelling aspect of her work is the relationships she is able to build with her clients and team. She mentions a specific change management project she worked on with a Mid-Western technology company. Through this project, Aline was personally able to widen the depth and breadth of her knowledge, while making a significant impact on the company she was working with. She learned how to get employees engaged and involved as well as how to motivate people to see a different perspective through communication, tools, training, and interventions. Achieving the outcome doesn’t always come easy, however. Relationship building and aligning everyone in the right direction are some of the biggest challenges that Aline faces in her work, especially when she feels that everything is moving in the right direction until everything quickly begins to unravel again. Nevertheless, getting to see the outcome of her work – changing the way people do things – is what fascinates Aline and keeps her motivated in what she does.
Not only her clients do her clients motivate her, but the opportunity to step into a senior management position is also what engages Aline, as she is excited by the prospect of being able to lead more projects and take on more responsibility.
When asked about the best professional advice someone has ever given to her, Aline recalls a time when she had to speak to all of her American Express HR colleagues, yet was anxious to do so. Aline remembers one of her colleagues reassuring her not to be nervous because she was the only person in the room that knew what she was talking about at the level of expertise.
Her biggest takeaway- be confident in your own knowledge.
Aline’s advice for those looking to pursue a profession in consulting is to realize that it often seems glamorous, however, it’s much more work than glamour overall. Yet, despite the sleepless nights, there are so many opportunities to learn and grow, that if it’s something you are interested in, go for it and try it out. When it really comes down to it, finding meaningful work is about finding good people that you trust and value around you. Aline is eager to return to those people she has found at Accenture very soon, once face-to-face interactions and in-person client meetings are back on. In the meantime, she knows that those she needs are just a phone call away.
Want to learn quick and effective problem solving? Casing is the way to go.
Part II, here we go! If you are looking to go into consulting, case prepping, or just you’re here out of sheer curiosity as to what case prepping is, you’re in the right place! Johnny Bui and I have done our fair share of case prepping before becoming full-time consultants and we are here to give you all of the tips and tricks that we have picked up along our journeys. If you thought our case prep advice was helpful in Part I, get ready for more helpful insights right now!
General advice you would give to others on case prep?
If you don’t enjoy doing cases, this probably isn’t for you! I practiced live 10 cases a week for 3 months and loved every minute of it but I only did it because I enjoyed the challenge and relationship building part of it. Keep that in mind! Practice hard and practice often with as many different people as possible, consistently, so you learn different styles of communication, successful habits, and perspective. Even if you’ve never done a case before, you need to practice live ASAP. You don’t have to be great to start but you need to start to be great!
Here are some suggestions of how to do so:
Make a post on LinkedIn requesting for case partners and really demonstrate your competence in cases on the post so they would be compelled to work with you
If your career services on campus offers case prep, take advantage of that!
Join consulting clubs on campus to get even more experience
Do one market sizing case a day
So many people on LinkedIn want to give back after going through consulting case interviews: do a LinkedIn search for consulting content and scroll through to see what people have to offer. Usually it’s their consulting case books that they used! Feel free to reach out to me (Johnny Bui) as well. I have a ton. Also, reach out to alumni working in consulting for advice and resources!
When you first start out, it might be helpful to watch someone else who is proficient at “casing” first. From these videos, you can get a very good understanding of the strict methodology that you must follow in order to arrive at your conclusions. It also helps to learn from proficient casers, as you are able to pick up on the nuances they incorporate to execute a case well.
Our Recommended Key Resources:
Your college’s career services
LinkedIn community of people looking for case partners to break into consulting
What process did you use in order to get better at cases?
I made a post looking for case partners that did very well on Linkedin and proceeded to make a GroupMe with almost everyone that expressed interest. I set up 10 case sessions a week over the course of 3 months and consistently showed up to each session even if I got ripped apart in previous sessions. I also kept a spreadsheet with every case I had done detailing my lessons learned, what worked, what didn’t work, and areas of improvement
Johnny did such an amazing job gathering together resources and like minded individuals who were interested in pursuing a career in consulting. I was fortunate enough to be apart of this group, which helped me to find partners to case with. Make sure to create a group or join one in order to be apart of a supportive and engaged community, it will make the process all the better! Also, it’s really a numbers game. The more cases you do, the better you will become, so keep at it!
Do you have a favorite case and, if so, could you share the prompt?
Cases are definitely not hard to come by- tons of cases a google or a page turn in your consulting book away- however, I have found these ones from Deloitte to be particularly helpful to work on, as they are tailored specifically to what you are interested in practicing.
Personally, what was the most challenging part about case prepping?
The most challenging part is starting your first live case with someone. You might feel like trash and that you’d rather practice more before you (inevitably) embarrass yourself but it is the first step to greatness. The second most important part is creating accountability for yourself. You need to schedule weekly cases and show up. Finally, once you are in the motion of practicing cases consistently, it’s understanding how companies in different industries generate revenue, how their business models work, asking the right questions, and following the right clues. What’s great about consulting is that every day is different. This translates into cases.
Couldn’t agree more with Johnny on these! I would also say… the shorthand math. I definitely had to brush up on my multiplication tables. I also did my research on the best methods in doing this. Just make sure to take a deep breath and count your zeros!
Was there ever a point at which you felt like you were comfortable doing cases and, if so, what did that look like for you?
Once I eventually mastered the basics, I knew that so long as I followed them, I would be in a good place if I trusted my business intuition upon understanding the prompt. After identifying the type of case and understanding what they want me to do – I could generally rely on my experiences with this type of case and this type of industry to guide me. But there would always be something different about the case. You have to learn to pay attention to detail and count every hair to see if one is out of place. Details can be tedious to sift through but you’ll learn to think fast and perceive when something is wrong.
There is a point in time where you have this strange feeling intuitively. There is a very powerful feeling that comes along with knowing that whatever comes your way, you have a process, a procedure, and you can rely on yourself to come to a reasonable conclusion. It’s a really proud moment too. You will know when you have done enough cases. It will just feel right. If you don’t know what I am talking about, then you probably should keep prepping!
Things that you wish you would have done differently in regards to case prep?
I wish I started sooner and did not allow my fear of underperforming hinder my confidence to take consulting seriously. I was self-conscious about what my performance would say about what I knew about business and delayed taking case prepping seriously.
Agreeing with Johnny- just start. You will be amazed how incrementally better you get with each case. Always ask for feedback at the end and keep a running list of what you did well and what you can improve upon. It’s easy to let your ego get in the way, but one of the biggest lessons that I learned from the whole process is to be comfortable with failing, so fail fast and hard, and to not let a poor math calculation or wrong answer change the way you see yourself in regards to your intelligence.
Men’s shoes, J.Crew work culture, and so much more.
Marsalis Pearce, better known as Marz, is a Harlem native who is all about retail. Having graduated from Babson College with a concentration in retail supply chain management, Marz has always had his sights set on working in the industry. Marz’s passion for the fashion industry originated during high school, at a time when he was interested in design and had sights on starting his own clothing line. Over the years, Marz worked in sales at The Foundation Showroom in New York City and had the opportunity to work with men’s apparel and footwear brands. Marz also interned at Ross before his last semester of college, where he took a deep dive into merchandising, the opposite side of the coin from sales. Now, Marz has found his place at J.Crew, working as an Associate Merchant, managing the men’s footwear business both online and in-store.
Leading up to working at J.Crew, Marz had a list of companies that he was interested in working for, J.Crew being on the list because of its cool aesthetic of classic American style. When he checked out the career opportunities at there, Marz stumbled on the Assistant Merchant role and applied. Soon after he heard back, Marz had an interview, and got an offer the next day! Marz credits the timing of everything, his prior experience in retail, and his ability to communicate authentically in telling his story in helping him land this dream job.
Marz credits culture as being one of the biggest things that has kept him working for the company for three years now. From his very first encounter interviewing for the company, Marz knew that J.Crew was a place that he wanted to work, the employees all being incredibly friendly and inviting. Within the first few months of working at J.Crew, Marz was encouraged by the fact that no matter what your position, your perspective matters and your opinion is valued. Marz is always encouraged to share his point of view, not only on his business but other businesses within the company as well.
“There is nothing that you are going to do here that is going to burn down the building,” says Marz, a piece of advice that he was given from a co-worker, which has helped him adopt a healthier mindset towards work.
During J.Crew’s recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which the company recovered from, Marz also felt that the transparency that J.Crew offered during this time was extremely refreshing and reassuring. Marz specifically credit’s J.Crew’s leadership in helping their employees stay motivated during a really tough time.
As an Associate Merchant at J.Crew, Marz is responsible for managing the full product lifecycle within men’s footwear, which includes shoes, boots, sneakers, flip-flops, and slippers. Marz partners with design, production, planning, allocation, stores, marketing, and brand creative to ensure he’s delivering the right assortment, at the right price, at the right place, at the right time, and to the right customer, all while meeting the financial goals of the company. His job involves a significant amount of cross-functional interaction, his role really sitting at the heart of the company. His division ultimately is in charge of brainstorming the needs of the company and customer to deliver the most value. Within the footwear department, there is also a high penetration of third party brands, as J.Crew works in close partnership with New Balance, Adidas, Sperry, and Reebok to name a few.
Marz has had a passion for footwear for over six years now, considering Adidas Sambas and a classic white Nike court sneaker to be some of his go-tos. Marz considers his style to be a mix between Americana with a hint of streetwear. Although he has had a huge passion for streetwear since he was little, Marz mentions that J.Crew has unlocked another level of style for him. Some days Marz likes to throw on loafers and jeans, while others he dawns chinos and sneakers. “I always choose the shoe first and dress from the bottom up.”
A day at work for Marz is super fast-paced, especially at the peak of the pandemic in Spring, Summer of 2020, as Marz was having to react to the pandemic’s effect on the economy. When stores were quickly closing, Marz was forced to rethink incoming orders and pulling goods forward. It was an intense but insightful process, Marz notes, as it enabled him to understand how to read and react to supply and demand. In the mornings, Marz has a touchbase with his manager to review expectations for the week, month, and quarter. Marz then could be reviewing previous or future budgets and having meetings with production and design team to review upcoming products. The end the day could look like another team meeting with the marketing division about a sneaker launch and the needs associated in order to promote the style. Despite working from home, Marz is able to work pretty efficiently, but also goes into the office in person to review products with his teams.
“Day to day really varies. It’s a perfect balance of rhythm and chaos,” says Marz.
Marz’s favorite aspect of the job is the road mapping stage, when he plans for the future of J.Crew Men’s footwear retail will look like. Currently, Marz is working on Spring 2022, considering the company’s needs, looking back at previous seasons, and accessing what opportunities or misses that he has had- buy less, more, or not at all. The job’s analytical and creative requirements is also an aspect of the job that Marz appreciates.That being said, Marz typically works on 5 seasons at a time:
Liquidating holiday 2020
Preparing to launch spring 2021
Putting finishes on summer 2021
About to place fall 2021 orders
Having conversations about holiday 2021
Looking towards the future of fashion, Marz predicts that the industry will change in a number of ways. “As technology changes and as we get older and our needs change, our buying decisions change as well,” notes Marz. Marz regards the recent increase in consumer spending and pent up demand for certain products ironic in some regards, since we are all working from home and limit leaving the house. With the pandemic having an impact on special events, such as weddings, as well as office culture changing, Marz sees a shift towards more casual styling, especially in the suiting world. The pandemic has also resulted in a segment of consumers reevaluating what they are buying and the value and quality of those items. Overall, there seems to be a lot of introspection happening that hasn’t happened for a while, as people have more time to stop and reflect.
What excites Marz about his own future? The opportunity for him to learn more about himself- his interests, strengths, and areas of growth. Marz’s resolution for 2021 is to get to know himself more and to leave behind any baggage, which has led him to a positive direction in life and work. Marz is filled with a lot of hope this year and- you know- so are we.
Want to learn quick problem solving? Casing is the way to go.
Like many of you reading this article, Johnny Bui and I have done our fair share of consulting case prep. We have read Case and Point by Marc Consantino, have kept an archive of cases in a folder on our desktop, and have a spreadsheet of case notes that we swear by. We know where you are coming from and we are here to help.
So, here is a little bit about Johnny and I, two consultants, who have recently entered into the field.
Johnny is a recent graduate from Babson College and a current Analyst in the consulting division at Kalypso, a professional services firm. Johnny’s other accolades include being a real estate agent in Boston, Massachusetts and a recently published book author. His goals outside of college now include becoming an expert in personal finance, getting into real estate investing, and competing on American Ninja Warrior.
My name is Ursula and I am also a recent Babson College graduate. I am currently an Associate Consultant in Strategy and Technology at Konrad Group in New York City. I am a passionate blogger and enjoy reading Malcolm Gladwell, playing with my neighbor’s puppy Ruth, and singing in the shower.
Ok! Now, let’s get into the good stuff! Answering the most pressing consulting prep questions!
What is the most valuable lesson that you have learned from doing consulting case prep?
A consulting case isn’t a complete replication of what an actual client project looks like. The case is fixed, meaning there is a predetermined answer and a zone of acceptable answers for the candidate. The reason why I say it’s not a complete replication is because the answers you seek can be given to you immediately, and the interviewer wants to give them to you – you just have to ask the right questions. Because this isn’t like an actual project, I’ve learned to take advantage of the format of casing and it simply comes down to mastering the basics.
That’s the lesson: master the basics.
There are strategies that I’ve leveraged to get me as close as possible into that margin of error. For instance:
Learn to take good notes, fast. Circle areas of the recap that raise red flags so you can then ask clarifying questions about it. (they’re there for a reason!)
Always recap the case and ask if you missed anything.
The sweet spot for clarifying questions are 3, depending on how much information they give you. Don’t ask questions if you don’t need to.
A good question to ask if you can’t think of anything is always about the goal or timeline of the client
Put together your structure and try to make the titles of your buckets as tailored to the case as possible.
When stuck, always recap *out loud* what you have learned to this point in the case. More often than not, saying it out loud will reveal where the case is going and what you should do next.
If you’re really proactive, keep a key insights section blocked off on your paper so you can record relevant information shared with you.
Practice doing quick math (division, multiplication, addition, subtraction) and learn tricks! This will cut down time in your interview and impress the interviewer.
At the end of the case you must deliver the recommendation, followed by risks and next steps in under a minute. You’ll typically hear the prompt say: “The CEO has just entered the room, what is your recommendation?” If you have been taking physical (or mental notes) throughout the case, this should be a breeze. But you must be concise, the CEO doesn’t have a lot of time!
These are more of the technical skills you need to master. Here are some soft skills:
When the interviewer points out that you made a mistake, always acknowledge it. This is an opportunity to show your character.
Always lead the case and offer suggestions as to what you think you should do next. Whether it be a candidate-led or interviewer-led case, it’s always better to demonstrate initiative.
When given an exhibit, always ask for a moment before you dive head first into to interpreting it.
Given a long math problem, always ask for a minute to solve the problem because the last thing you want to do is lose the interviewer in your calculations.
Always check in with the interviewer to see if they’re following especially when you’re walking them through your thinking process.
When asked to brainstorm, don’t give a laundry list. Structure your answer by categories/themes and then begin listing.
The consulting case is like a rubik’s cube – it’s essentially a puzzle but the answers lie within it. You start out with some relevant information which represents the specific color that you’re trying to get on that side. The rest of the case has to do with you getting as close to getting all of the colors on one side.
It may not necessarily be a lesson, but I definitely learned the power of being able to attack a problem and needing only a paper and pen to do so. There is something so incredible about relying on your own problem solving abilities in order to achieve something. Learning just that was enough to get me onboard in learning how to case. Johnny touches on many important learning points, so as to not duplicate, here are some additional…
Learning how to ask good questions. When you are given so little time, you learn to prioritize what information is critical to drawing conclusions within the case. Be clear with your questions and make sure they they are exhaustive and not redundant.
Learning how to think extremely generally and very specifically at the same time. Casing is all about learning what is important, what is relevant, and what is additional peripheral information. Your casing framework will help you in your discovery, but the wrong framework can lead you astray. Choose wisely!
Being able to overcome nerves and anxiety in order to think clearly. Casing in front of a professional- or even a friend- can be very nerve racking! With enough practice and a little bit of courage, you can make it through! When the time comes for your interview, just remember that your brain is a muscle that has muscle memory too! If you get nervous, rely on your hard work and preparation to get you through it.
Why do you think case prep is valuable for future consultants to learn?
It’s important to learn how to apply business concepts and how they play a role in real scenarios. It’s equally important to learn to ask the right questions when you’re in the field solving them as a professional. We can’t ask every question, and through case prep, we learn to prioritize good vs better questions. Future consultants must also learn how to communicate their thought process to the interviewer. Clients won’t accept your recommendations just because you say so – your credibility is paramount to the project and future clients referrals.
In my work, I find that it’s important to look at problems holistically, then break them down, and, finally, tackle the most critical issues, which will hopefully have a trickle down effect in solving some of the smaller ones. This applies to every type of consulting- it’s essentially what consulting is! Casing allows you to adopt the mindset of always asking questions to search for the root of the problem which will lead to developing recommendations and solutions. It might be on a very small scale, but there is something to be said for someone’s ability to ace a case! Those skills apply in many different settings.
What is the best piece(s) of advice someone has given you around case prep?
You’re droning on for too long
Don’t be afraid to ask for a moment
You weren’t walking me through your math
There will be a moment when you realize that you are ready. You’ll just feel it. When starting out, I thought that this would never be the case, but trust the process. Your time will come! Someone admitting to me that failure is part of the process of casing and that going through casing exercises is just awkward were also two extremely valuable statements made to me by case prep alumni. Sometimes outlining the basics can be incredibly reassuring.
You got this!
Want to be the first to know when part II comes out? Sign up for my weekly mailing list!
Success! You're on the list.
Whoops! There was an error and we couldn't process your subscription. Please reload the page and try again.