Like many other MBA students, I came to the Ross School of Business with the hope of making a career change. I hoped to switch from my original career in the sciences to becoming a consultant. In my case, I want to become a healthcare and life sciences consultant.
Prior to starting my MBA, I had heard a lot about the rigors of consulting recruiting, but I did not expect it to live up to the hype. Sure, the process was challenging at times. In the end, recruiting for consulting helped me learn to become a better interviewee, a better MBA student, and an overall better leader.
THE PROCESS STARTS FAST
Recruiting kicked off almost immediately after I arrived in Ann Arbor. By the second week of classes, we were expected to have had our resumes edited by a consulting-specific peer coach and our “Tell me about yourself” elevator pitch prepared. In addition, we were told to start learning how to practice business casing both with peer coaches and with each other.
Doing all this was overwhelming, especially when combined with a rigorous academic course load in subjects that were entirely new to me given my background as a healthcare researcher. I often found myself questioning if it was even worth going into consulting – no other industry seemed to dive into recruiting so quickly. Worse yet, it seemed like everyone else had more time for social activities and relaxing than I did. Still, the lure of impacting so many client companies convinced me to continue and not give up the dream.
Once I decided to continue, I knew I had to become more organized and learn to balance recruiting, coursework, social activities, club responsibilities, and my personal life. I started with the timeline that was provided by the Career Development Office (CDO) at Michigan Ross. I blocked off an hour every day to focus solely on recruiting activities. I then turned to the actual actions I needed to successfully recruit for consulting: setting up my resume and cover letter, practicing casing, and networking.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
The Consulting Club at Ross and peer and staff coaches from the CDO helped me learn how to case (identifying the type of case, setting up a framework, distinguishing between brainstorming-heavy, and quantitative-heavy situations), and I joined a group of fellow MBA1s to case each other and practice these skills.
This regular practice with my peers was invaluable. We would meet weekly to discuss our individual strengths and weaknesses. Based on that, we would pair up to do practice cases that helped with skill-building for that skillset. Weekly rotations also allowed us to practice with different people and become accustomed to different casing styles. Here’s an example of a skill that I was able to develop through these weekly sessions: I learned to stay structured while brainstorming and thinking through non-quantitative situations in a structured manner. Through constructive feedback and regular practice with brainstorming-heavy cases, I was able to develop frameworks, such as numbering and bucketing concepts, to help me succeed.
I also networked fiercely and used conferences on campus and networking events arranged by various clubs on campus to set up coffee chats with people from each of my target firms. I had formal coffee chats sand informal interactions at events such as the Women in Leadership Conference, the Healthcare & Life Sciences Symposium, and the Community Consulting Club PwC mentor program. Through these, I was able to develop an understanding of what each firm was looking for and get a feel for the company culture. To further cement these relationships and get a look into the company culture, I made sure to follow up and ask to speak to additional people within the firm. In particular, I asked to speak to those who aligned with affinity groups such as the women’s network or the Asian/South Asian network to better understand what I could expect if I were to join the firm. These secondary conversations were the best indicators of company culture for me, and I was able to hear authentic reviews of the company.
ADVANTAGES OF A NON-TRADITIONAL BACKGROUND
By the time consulting interviews rolled around, I was doing six-to-seven cases every week. The sheer number of cases I did prepared me for the variety of cases I would receive in my actual interviews and allowed me to be confident and calm as I gave my recommendations. Through the entire process, the coaches, the CDO staff, and my peers were there for support and assistance.
My non-traditional background in the sciences also helped me succeed in cases. My previous work was often in new fields with many unknowns. As such, I had to learn to stay focused on my particular research question and not get sidetracked. This skill was incredibly useful as many of the cases I did presented opportunities to explore related topics, but ultimately led away from the solution to the case.
For example, there were cases that focused of optimizing costs. While the case sought a solution to rising costs, it presented misleading information on revenue growth. Although in a proper business situation both costs and revenue would be considered, this was extraneous information for the case and only served to distract from the case answer.
Through the entire grueling recruiting process, the most important thing I learned was how to stay structured and confident in unfamiliar and high-pressure situations. Consistent practice, emphasis on bulleting and bucketing answers, and a laser focus on the question at hand all proved invaluable. These were invaluable skills which helped me succeed in the recruiting process for both my consulting and my healthcare jobs. I was also able to use these skills in my classes and internship over the summer where my team developed a strategic plan to upgrade the core ERP system for a large medical device provider. I strongly believe that going through the recruiting process helped me become a more successful Rosser and future business leader, and I know I will continue to grow these skills as I enter the consulting world full-time after Michigan Ross.
Bio: My name is Vaishnavi Sitarama and I am a second-year MBA student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. A Californian and Silicon Valley native, I received my degrees in Molecular Biology and Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley. With prior experience in metastatic breast cancer research and afterwards in artificial DNA design, I am now pursuing my MBA to gain knowledge in scientific management and the business of healthcare. This past summer, I interned with Strategy& (part of the PwC network) as a Strategy Consultant in their Healthcare vertical. Aside from work, I am a flautist (I even played with Beyonce, Coldplay, and Bruno Mars in the 2016 Halftime Show!), an avid reader, and an amateur DIY crafter. Follow my Linkedin and Instagram to learn more about me and my time at Ross!