Recruiting for a consulting internship is a rigorous process. Despite that, the real rigor and challenge comes when it’s finally time to start the internship. Meeting the demands of client work while building relationships, travel, and firm activities can be tough to do in a 10 week period, which is why the students who do succeed are set up well to hit the ground running when they return as full-time hires.
One of those individuals is David Kearns, a 2015 graduate of the University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) Last summer, David interned as a Summer Associate at Deloitte Consulting (he’ll be heading back for full-time). David talked to us about his internship, and specifically, around what he did in order to increase his chances of obtaining that final offer.
Make your expectations clear
David knew he wanted a full-time offer, so the single best thing he did was to openly communicate it. David pointed out that in many cases, it’s in a firms best interest for you to get a full-time offer. Companies spend a considerable amount of time and money recruiting students, so if they can convert an intern that means that’s one less person to hire in the full-time process. David said, “You have to keep, and communicate, your hunger and desire for the job.” He went on to add, “In my first meeting with my Counselor for the summer, I explicitly told him that I wanted to earn a full time offer and asked for his help to make sure that I was doing everything that I could towards that end. I was similarly direct with my project team about my desire to earn a full-time offer.” By being open and up front about his expectations, people around David were now willing to help him achieve his goal.
Everyone in business school hears the networking message non-stop and it doesn’t end with the internship. David said, “One of the best ways to continue learning about the company is to talk to as many people as possible and ask about their experiences. It is important to build, maintain, and leverage an internal network. Simply put, the more potential advocates and resources you have the better.”
In terms “how” he network, David sought out colleagues who could provide an interesting perspective, e.g. those who worked in an industry or service line that I was interested in, those in a similar role or a level of two above to share perspective on the career path, those with a similar personal situation (married with kids), etc. By relying on his counselor along with contacts he met in the recruiting process David was able to meet a diverse group of people.
Interestingly enough, David actually said if he could do it over again, he would do more networking. “My approach was to be fairly targeted – I would try to cast a wider net. The reasoning is to address the “unknown unknowns” and perhaps learn about industries, service lines, or other things that I might not have known to ask about or explore.”
Focus on the basics
As a Summer Associate, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed when everyone else on your team is fairly experienced or if you’re working in an industry or function you’ve never worked in before. David recommended to start with the little things – have a great attitude, say yes, and ask good questions.
David said, “No one expects interns to be experts. An intern should at a minimum say “yes” to tasks they are asked to do, but should also seek out other areas and opportunities to help and contribute”
One small thing David did to help ensure he was trending in the right direction was he setup a weekly meeting with his direct manager on his project team. Every Thursday, he’d meet with his manager for coffee to make sure he was doing the right things.
Internships are a two way street – David needed to prove to Deloitte that he should get a full-time offer, but just as much, Deloitte needed to prove to David that this was a good fit for him. One way David was able to evaluate on how good his fit was with Deloitte and consulting was by being realistic about expectations, specifically around the lifestyle. Travel is a huge component of the job, and David made sure he got the true experience by working on a travel project to make sure it worked for him and his family. “One important aspect of this is to avoid a mindset of “it’s only 10 weeks, I can bear the travel for the summer.” The summer is (hopefully) just the first 10 weeks of your consulting career, so the lifestyle has to be sustainable for you over a longer term.
Internships are short and tend to fly by quickly, but by being open about your expectations, communicating effectively, networking, and doing whatever it takes to add value you have plenty of opportunities to showcase to your consulting firm that you’re more than worthy of obtaining that full-time offer.