Thursday, November 6, 2014

You Are Not Alone: My Journey from Soccer Player to Career Advisor


Fall has finally arrived, which means that football dominates SportsCenter, pumpkins fill the huge flower pots on Michigan Ave, and the first-year class at Booth is just starting to get a taste of what business school internship recruiting is all about. Companies from every industry have begun to take over the Harper Center this week for “Breakfast-n-Learns,” “Lunch-n-Learns,” and “Corporate Conversations,” where you can learn more about what each company really does and chat with associates, partners, and Booth alums. It’s a lot to take in at once.

As a career switcher from a non-traditional background (I played professional soccer before coming to Booth) I can remember feeling excited and sometimes overwhelmed by the all things going on at Booth. At the same time I was learning totally new frameworks and concepts in Competitive Strategy and Decision Modeling I was setting up “coffee chats” with second-years and going to Management Consulting Group events and Soccer Club practices with the dozens of new friends I had just met. While I felt excited I also felt slightly unsure whether my background would be valued by the firms coming to campus, and whether I’d be able to make the leap into an entirely different career path so quickly. I knew that I had a lot of transferable skills but I sometimes joke that my resume may as well have been written in crayon when I first arrived at Booth, because that’s how much help it needed. But any fears or doubts I may have had were quickly dispelled.

It was support from my second-year peers that really made a difference for me. Unlike many other business schools, Booth has not only an amazing full-time Career Services staff but also an army of second-year Career Advisors (representing every major industry) who help students through every step of the process. And refining your resume is just the beginning; advisors discuss career paths and help you when researching different firms to target.  Then you really learn how to navigate the recruiting process with a slew of helpful and informative events including, but not limited to:

  • “Mocktail”—a mock recruiting event where second-years act as recruiters so that you can practice gracefully entering and exiting group conversations. I learned it’s best to enter the dreaded recruiting “crop circles” (where a recruiter or associate from a firm gets surrounded by students who pepper them with questions) with friends so that you can talk about each other’s background and accomplishments.
  • The Cover Letter Seminar where I learned how to convey my skills and interest in a firm, and tailor my message to the specific firm. The one-size-fits-all approach, unfortunately does not work.   
  • Tell You Story Workshop where we practiced giving our “elevator pitch” and answering the “tell me about yourself” question. I had no idea that the best stories followed a similar framework and that giving a lot of background detail actually didn’t make my stories any better. 
  • An entire weekend of “wInterview” practice, where firms came to campus and I got to see first-hand what a consulting case interview really entails. It was terrifying and motivating at the same time. But my classmates devoted their time and effort to make sure that I was ready when the time came for real interviews.

 
After going through this process last year, I gained so much from the second-year class that I’ve chosen to give back by serving as a Career Advisor to first-year students this year. Though I would never pretend to have all the answers, or even most of the answers, as a Career Advisor this year I’m at least able to share my knowledge and experience and help provide some of the guidance, mentorship, and feedback that helped me switch careers from soccer to consulting.

At Booth, we’re told that “You own your job search – but by no means are you alone in it” and that’s true even if your resume is written in crayon.

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