We love getting daily emails from clients saying, “Your materials were awesome! Your services helped me get my dream job!” Here is one we got recently from John:
Instead of just a written review, we asked John to share his secrets and his process – and were amazed! He has a really cool history – international i-banking, college football, and more – and THEN he spent 2 years networking his way into a consulting job at PwC. Talk about tenacity!
We love his story, and hope you are encouraged by the testimony that anything is possible. If you have your own story to share, make sure you email us – we love to hear from you, and respond personally to every email.
When and how did you decide you were interested in consulting?
I initially started college on the east coast at a school called Stonehill College on a football scholarship. I transferred after my first semester, looking for a more competitive athletic program and a larger university with more opportunities. It helped that I was closer to home as well (originally from Oregon). I attended the University of Oregon and received my degree in Economics and Business.
I played football at U of O for a period of time and ultimately decided I wanted something different from my college experience; I decided to leave the team after my priorities changed. I started participated in clubs in school such as IBEC (international business and economics club). I realized I didn’t have a future in football after college so that prompted me to focus more on my education and gaining experience in internships outside of the classroom.
Internship experience is tough to come by if you want to be a competitive college athlete, especially in a football program like U of O’s. Summers are consumed with training, practice, team building and school, as your class load is lighter through the year to compensate for a demanding training/season schedule. Leaving the program was a tough decision, but my studies needed more attention and I had interests outside of athletics so it was the right choice.
My first internship in college was with Morgan Stanley as an intern/analyst in the local global wealth group in Eugene, OR. The following winter term I took off (junior year), and moved to Vancouver B.C. where I worked for IMG (international Marketing Group) at the Winter Olympics. I landed an internship with IMG through a family member who worked with the firm. I managed a group of 17 brand ambassadors executing an “in-field” activation/marketing campaign for an IMG client, Wrigley Canada (chewing gum). It was an incredible experience and some of the best weeks of my life to this point; however, it taught me that I did not want to work in event management.
I returned back to school and worked as a research assistant for my econometrics professor the following spring term. I then took another internship in finance with Merrill Lynch. This was a more traditional analyst training program located in Merrill’s Portland, OR office. Again, it was an incredible experience, but at the end I determined asset management was not a field I wanted to be in. I really liked aspects of the industry, such as research and analysis; however, the career path was of no interest to me.
My senior year I continued my work as a research assistant. I also explored other areas of finance and ultimately decided that I wanted to give investment banking a shot. This was a pretty ambitious goal considering no banks recruited from my school. I ended up leveraging my family/family friends network pretty aggressively, cold calling boutique banks in SF, LA and Seattle, asking for informational interviews, opportunities, etc. If there is anything I learned through that process, it’s that if you ask for help, and show intent and effort, people are generally willing to help out in some way. It helps to have determination, defined goals, and vision – thick skin is also a plus as there is a lot of rejection involved.
Another aspect of what I wanted for my post-college experience was international business experience. I searched and networked for 8 months until I found an opportunity in Sydney, Australia with a small boutique bank focused on oil and gas private placement, capital raisings, and small cap M&A. I finished school with my degree in economics and business that June, worked a construction job for a month, then flew to Sydney for my new role as a Summer Analyst.
I had an incredible experience working in Sydney. I learned a lot about the industry and got more responsibility than an analyst typically would at a larger bank. Given the size of the firm, there were more opportunities to help with different projects. I was tasked with research duties, creating presentations, working on models in Excel, etc. I also worked very long hours. It was a typical summer analyst experience working in banking, which is exactly what I wanted.
However, I ended up leaving Australia after determining I wanted to work in the U.S. I moved back to Portland and started looking for analyst jobs in banking, consulting, and corporate strategy. All very competitive fields – and increasingly hard to break into given the time frame and condition of the U.S. economy. I started again with informational interviews and more networking.
A friend of mine was working for PwC in pre/post M&A integration management consulting at the time. I had a few conversations about his experience, and we determined it might be a good idea for me to meet his colleagues. I did a lot of my own research regarding PwC and consulting, the Seattle practice, where I saw my career in the future, and which of my strengths best complimented the industry/career path. I then met with a number of consultants from PwC on my own dime for informational interviews and networking purposes. After meeting the group in Seattle, I determined that this was an industry and company I really wanted to work in/for.
I then made a plan of how I would break into the firm, and executed it over the next 1.5+ years while I continued to gain experience in real estate finance and institutional asset management. Here’s the timeline:
- January 2012: Started networking with PwC
- February 2012: Determined I wanted to pursue consulting as a career
- February 2012 – October 2013: Networked within industry PwC/continued to gain experience in real estate finance/institutional asset management
- November 2013: Received offer
- December 2013: Started working for PwC
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What was your networking process like with PwC?
My networking process with PwC entailed:
- Introducing myself to a recruiter on the University of Oregon campus at the end of my senior year, and keeping in contact with her while I was in Australia.
- Networked while in Australia with PwC folks for informational interviews.
- Returned to the U.S. and connected with my friend at the firm; he set up 8 informational interviews with me over the course of a full day in January of 2012. After my interviews, I continued to network and communicate with the core group of individuals I met. I always contacted them with a purpose – I was respectful of their time and would not ping them without good reason. I stayed in consistent contact every 3 months, for about a year.
- Through the networking process, I was introduced to another Director in the Seattle office in July 2012. He and I proceeded to build a good rapport – after about a month, he let me know that he felt I could be a good fit with the firm/management consulting industry. He told me to be patient with the recruiting process and to keep in touch, when the time was right he would reach out to me with details/recruitment information.
- I stayed in touch, periodically updating him once a month (sometimes never hearing back) until July 2013 when he called and asked if I would like to interview with the firm.
- Through the formal recruitment process I was introduced to another Director with whom I stayed in very close contact. In addition, I also updated all of the other PwC consultants I had initially been in contact with, asking them for interview advice/resources to prep for my in person interviews.
- Received an offer in early November, accepted the next day.
Talk about your PwC interviews – how many rounds did you do? What seniority were your interviewers? What did they cover?
I had between 30-40 conversations with PwC consultants over a year and a half. None of those were considered “formal” interviews. However, through that process I was asked many interview-like questions.
The final interview process (when I was formally being considered) consisted of:
- Week 1: One phone interview with the finance team HR recruiter. 30 minutes, questions covering my background, experience, fit, etc.
- Week 2: Phone interview with a Director out of the M&A practice working on a Venture Capital engagement. 30 minutes, questions covering background, fit, cultural fit, education, experience, future goals and plans, etc.
- Week 3: After 2nd call, I had a few exchanges with Directors in the market I was being recruited into, discussing my calls, how I felt about interviews and the opportunity, etc. Informal.
- Week 4/5: Received a call from HR recruiter and Director letting me know they wanted me to meet with the hiring market Partner.
- Week 6: Interviewed in office; 1 hour conversation with Partner covering my experience, opportunity, networking process I went through, story, linking my experience and skills with perceived tasks of role, fit for company, etc. Very conversational – had a great conversation and made a good connection. Was given a tour of office, had a follow up coffee with one of the Directors recruiting me. Same type of conversation as with the Partner.
- Early Week 7: Received a call from Director and Recruiter informing me that I was going to receive an offer and that they wanted to hire me, offer was in the process of being put together. Had a few calls with HR negotiating package and accepted offer at end of week 7.
What do you think were your key factors for success breaking into PwC?
I think many factors played into my success with PwC:
- Having a friend within the team to connect me with coworkers, validate my character, work ethic, etc.
- Prior experience in banking, athlete/leadership background, demonstration of interest in consulting, demonstrated ability to achieve above average + quality work and results, consistency, intelligence (things that are all pre-requisites for the industry/role).
- A determination to break into the industry; self-education on frameworks, PwC as a company, competitors, various lines of service, clients, etc.
- Above all, the biggest factor(s) was my ability to build a network within the firm and sustain those relationships, communicate clearly and concisely how I could add value to PwC and its clients, bring consistency in my brand through multiple conversations, informational interviews and formal interviews.
What are you most excited about as you transition to a job with PwC?
PwC’s greatest differentiator is its people. The level of intelligence, determination, and passion of each individual I have met has been very impressive. We all become better by surrounding ourselves with exceptional people that push us to do our best. Whether it’s on the sports field or in the workplace we all learn by example. I’m excited to learn from my coworkers and to in turn do a better job for the firm and our clients.
I’m also looking forward to working on engagements involving M&A integration, and getting the opportunity to focus my area of expertise as I gain more experience with the firm.
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