Saturday, November 7, 2009

Resisting the Herd in Recruiting

This week I attended one of the most interesting panels I have have come across at Kellogg. The panel, organized by the Career Management Center(CMC) featured three second year students who had resisted the herd (eventually). By resisting the herd, I mean sticking to one's passions and aspirations despite the various other opportunities available at Kellogg which a lot your peers might be pursing i.e. Consulting.

Note - I am calling all panelists as Panelist 1,2 and 3. If you are one of them, and want me to include your real name instead, just email me!


Panelist 1 worked in finance before school, in stock research. She has been focussed on Entrepreneurship from the get go. This summer, she worked with a startup through the Kellogg Entrepreneurship Internship Program (KEIP). Despite a strong focus, she felt sometimes that she should take advantage of all these companies coming to Kellogg and apply. She had to go back to why she wanted to do what she was doing, to resist the temptation.

Panelist 2 loves travel and hotels. She had an internship with a hotel this summer, and is passionate about the industry outside of work. She felt that it would be awesome if she could combine her interests with her work, and so is determined to find a full time position with a hotel, despite the fact that the hotel industry is doing pretty badly today. She did follow the herd in some sense, and started preparing for consulting. During the winter, she was sitting in a hotel room in Miami, and working on her cover letter for one consulting firm. She could not get herself to write why that firm was important to her. Then she realized that to her, all firms were the same, and she wasn't really interested in any of them. She dropped the consulting idea right there and then.

Panelist 3 is interested in healthcare marketing. She was also applying for consulting, and in fact, got interview close list calls to the top 3 firms. She did the whole consulting interview case preparation, an long and very involved process. However one week before the interviews, she withdrew. She knew it that she didn't want to do it.

Advice for 1st year students

1. The internship summer is the only chance you get to try something new and different, completely risk free, for a year. Don't waste it!

2. Think of both Industry and Function that you want to be in. One might be more important than the other, but ultimately both are needed for you to be focused

3. Often jobs that might look very different in title, are really similar to what you are looking for. Do research on the day to day activities, and think of what transferable skills you bring from your past experience and activities at Kellogg.

4. Think of why you want a role - are your reasons externally motivated (e.g. money, proving something to yourself or others) or internally motivated (e.g. Skills you learn, passion for industry/function, location preference). Always decide based on internal motivation.

5. Be really calculated on what you spend time on in Business School. Developing your positioning statement, and stories for interviews takes a lot of time. Spend time on developing these for functions and industries you really want to go into, for the right reasons

6. Do a lot of informational interviews with people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish. Tell them what you like to do.

7. Smaller companies might not have any positions for you. If you tell them what you can do for them, and what you like to do, they might be able to design a position for you

8. Take Careerleader results seriously. There is often a tendency for you to interpret the information selectively. Try to look at it as objectively as possible. Don't anchor yourself

9. Think through projects that you have loved in the past. Tell people about these projects and ask them to listen for themes.

10. The biggest success you will achieve is by strengthening your strengths, not by trying to mitigate your weaknesses.

11. Marketing is much more analytical than people make out to be.

12. Prepare a mission statement before winter break

13. You need a buddy/group that tells you to stick to your guns

14. In the winter quarter, try to avoid Jacobs Hall as much as possible. You will hear of people getting offers, and feel bad.

15. Traingulate your facts. If you hear that consulting is good for getting a jump start in your career, ask people in your industry. Often deep industry knowledge is critical, especially in specialties like healthcare. Try to find someone to talk to for whom it worked, and others for whom it didn't

16. To get a true perspective on the culture of an organization, ask someone who has left there. Ask as specific questions as possible e.g. What happens there on Thursday evening? Do people hang out together, or leave as soon as possible.

14. Make a list of what you enjoy, what magazines you read etc. Use this list to influence your carrer choices


  1. Unfortunately, this line of thought is not valid for internationals who want to work in the US. My education in Singapore, even as an international, gave me access to a wide variety of options after undergrad. i worked the past 5 years in a field completely unrelated to my college major. however - for internationals without work authorization, there seem to be only herd options. ill be interested to hear if any of the panelists were internationals

  2. You are completely right - there are no international non-herd options. Except working for a tech company, which might be a non-her option depending on what your herd option was :)