Students get serious about management consulting

15 Sep 2017

Representatives of eight leading management consulting firms were wowed by some of The University of Queensland’s top student talent at a networking breakfast last week.

The breakfast was the highlight of the BEL Student Employability Team’s annual Management Consultancy Challenge.

BEL and EAIT students connected with eight leading firms at the breakfast
BEL and EAIT students connected with eight leading firms at the breakfast

Over 70 students from UQ’s Faculties of Business, Economics and Law (BEL) and Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (EAIT) mingled with prospective employers from AECOM, Accenture, Aurecon, EY Advisory, McKinsey & Company, Nous Group, SMS, and Strategy&.

BEL SET Employability Specialist (Business) Ryan Webb said the challenge had two aims: to connect penultimate year BEL and EAIT students with management consultancy firms, and to help students prepare for the busy 2018 graduate application process.   

“The challenge as a whole introduces students to the management consultancy sector,” he said.

“Successful applicants go through a three step process; a networking workshop with our MBA students, a practical application and research workshop, and the network breakfast where they meet potential employers.  

“All of this culminates in students getting unprecedented access to top-tier firms about six months prior to sending in their applications.

“They receive inside knowledge of what the firms are looking for and build a rapport with partners, senior managers, consultants and recruiters.

“As for the firms, they have the opportunity to meet BEL and EAIT’s top talent – the main study areas they recruit from – six months before potential competitors see them.”

At the breakfast, industry representatives have ten minutes to pitch their firm and chat to each group of students, followed by breaks for networking.

All firms receive ‘talent reports’ containing student résumés and cover letters to help identify prospective recruits at the event.

“Although it’s not a recruitment event, the breakfast creates strong links between employers and students,” Mr Webb said.

“For example, following the 2016 breakfast, 10 students were fast-tracked to the final stages of a graduate recruitment process and six were hired by a participating firm.”

EY Advisory Campus Recruitment Senior Consultant, Rebecca Weidner
EY Advisory Campus Recruitment Senior Consultant Rebecca Weidner was impressed with the professionalism shown by UQ students

EY Advisory Campus Recruitment Senior Consultant Rebecca Weidner said she was impressed with the commitment and professionalism shown by this year’s crop of talent. 

“Despite the early start, many students approached me and were very well-prepared,” she said.

“It was funny because when the students introduced themselves and spoke about their skills and passions, I had already started to place them into teams in my mind.”

Ms Weidner said she much preferred meeting potential employees in person.

“Everyone looks great on paper but it’s important for me to put a face to the name,” she said.

“One piece of advice I would give to anyone starting the challenge next year: remember that industry representatives are just normal people and we don’t expect the world from you.

“Focus on being authentic and don’t overthink it; talk to us normally.

“Most of all, make sure you turn up! You have to be proactive and create your own career.”

 After learning the ropes at the inaugural challenge in 2016, Bachelor of Economics/Bachelor of Business Management student Jarrod McComas said he was eager to participate again this year.

“I wasn’t sure of my career path at this time last year,” he said.

“This event opened my eyes to the value of a career in management consulting and helped me build a promising relationship with a leading firm.

“My advice to students who are considering the challenge is, ‘why are you not already doing it?’ I think you’re missing out on opportunities you don’t even know exist.”

Mr McComas said he liked that the challenge was open to students with a GPA of 4.8 and above – not the typical 5.5 required by many graduate recruitment programs.

“My GPA isn’t phenomenal but how you look on paper isn’t everything,” he said.

“This time last year I was below a 5 and most of the time I’d get overlooked in recruiting processes, but because of this event, I was able to demonstrate my people skills and my EQ.

“In management consulting, the most important thing is how you engage with people. This type of event, or in fact any networking opportunity, allows you to show off who you really are, what you’re passionate about and how you stand out among other students.”

The Management Consultancy Challenge was first offered in 2016 in conjunction with the EAIT Student Employability Team. It has since become a runaway success, with plans to expand the program to include all UQ faculties in 2018.

“Within 12 months, the program has doubled in size in terms of employers at the breakfast,” Mr Webb said.

“All participating firms want to be involved again in 2018.

“We’ve also had student feedback saying the event has changed their career direction and they now have a clear pathway. A number of students commented on firms they either weren’t aware of or that aligned with their own ambitions.

“I call this ‘the light bulb moment’.”

Mr Webb said he would encourage all penultimate year students to apply for the challenge in 2018.

“If you want a job that matters, one that allows you to create real change while working with some of the biggest brands globally, please sign up,” he said.

“The breakfast is also a UQ Employability Award-approved event; if you participate, you’ll receive credit towards your award and come away with skills and experience to boost your employability.”

Applications for the 2018 Management Consultancy Challenge will open in February 2018. For more information, ‘like’ the BEL SET Facebook page and keep an eye on the website.

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