Top consultants advise students on job hunt

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A panel of experts told a group of aspiring consultants at the School of Business Friday that with the right skills, attitude and preparation, they can still land the job of their dreams in the seemingly-dismal financial market.

The event, titled “Consulting Career Options in a Turbulent Job Market,” consisted of a panel featuring successful consultants in diverse fields like litigation support, market analysis, energy consulting and product marketing. Panelists came from companies ranging from a “boutique firm” of fewer than 50 people to international organizations of more than 100,000.

While tempered with caution about the difficulty of getting a job in the current market, the experts all said that there are advantages as well as disadvantages to the poor economy.

“When times are great, it’s good for consulting. When times are really bad, it’s great for consulting, but when times are really bad, you’d better be really good,” said Andrew Johnson, a GW alumnus and principal in the Washington, D.C. office of CRA International.

In bad economic times, companies want to appear stable to consumers. Bringing in big-name consulting firms can be important, whether to gain credibility or figure out how to free up minimal cash, said Victor Reyes, principal of advisory services at KPMG.

The panelists emphasized the importance of exuding confidence and intelligence in interviews.

“In a lean market, the cream rises to the top. If you can’t look yourself in the mirror and say ‘I’m the cream,’ you’re dead,” Johnson said.

“Flexibility” was also a prominent theme of the discussion.

“Always know your target audience,” advised Deborah Mochwart, director of structured finance at KPMG. She told students to change their resumes for every position they apply for, emphasizing skills they believe the company wants most.

Johnson agreed, “It’s about versatility. How many things can you do?”

Panelists told students that any work or educational experience they have can be an asset on their resumes, whether it be a job, a class or a childhood entrepreneurial venture. Mochwart cited an example of an acquaintance who showed his drive by explaining how he went door-to-door in the Connecticut suburbs asking for returnable bottles.

Reyes listed the four ‘I’s, “intelligence, innovativeness, interest and independence.” He stressed that while a company can train an employee for a certain skill, intelligence is something that cannot be learned and must be conveyed during the interview process.

Although the global financial crisis is without a doubt putting a damper on the consulting business, the business still holds opportunity for aspiring consultants.

“There are jobs out there. So get serious. Get in the game,” Johnson said.

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