Emily Werner (Fuqua, ’16) entered Fuqua knowing she wanted to enter the world of consulting. Coming from a “non-traditional” background, Emily learned how to use her experience as a strength and how to use business school to develop missing skillsets. Emily shares her recruiting journey and advice that both traditional and non-traditional students can benefit from.
As business schools strive to create more unique and diverse cohorts, what qualifies as a “non-traditional” background anymore? Well, in my case, it was the elite culinary event industry. I was the Director of Catering and Events for Chef Daniel Boulud in New York for nine years prior to attending Fuqua. Chances are, you’re thinking one of two things right now: “wow, that is so cool!” or “I have no idea what that means.”
My purpose coming to business school was to transition into the social impact space. I realized pretty quickly that social impact consulting would be a good fit for my personality and skillset. My strengths stemmed from team-based project management, building client relationships and attention to detail. I found myself in the herd recruiting for a traditional consulting internship – not at all what I had pictured for myself. But, for most of us, there is no “half-way” recruiting for consulting – especially when your prior business experience is rather limited.
A few coffee chats in I realized that I was missing a pretty major piece of the consulting trifecta. I had the project management and team/client relationship skills, but nothing in my background spoke to analytical skills. I had to be intentional about highlighting the more minor parts of my experience that aligned with this core competency that consulting recruiters look for. Extracurricular activities at your school can also be a great way to build out your resume and become a more attractive candidate to the industry of your choice.
In summary, my three tips for MBA recruiting if you happen to have a similarly niche work history:
Don’t forget that having a “non-traditional” background makes you memorable. Use this to your advantage! While you want to make your experience relatable, you should also leverage the chance to make yourself stand out. During the final round interview that landed me my summer internship, the partner interviewing me said: “You know we call you the caterer?” I was thrilled, because not only did this mean that I was a (hopefully good) topic of conversation behind the scenes, but that my background had helped to differentiate me.
Know your story
This advice behooves any MBA candidate, but if your last professional role tends to raise eyebrows, then you need to nail this even more than everyone else. Find threads from your last role that any recruiter can relate to: client relationship management, market analytics, project management. Practice on classmates who don’t know you very well. Can they grasp in 90 seconds the scope of your experience?
Fill in the blanks
As you craft your story, remember that yours needs a bit of extra Velcro. Any recruiter can see the straight line from banking to private equity or consulting to industry management. Take extra care explaining the bridges that brought your to business school, and this recruiting track in particular. Be intentional about your extracurricular activities, to show your commitment to filling in those gaps that will take you from that “non-traditional” background, to MBA grad and total rockstar.