Archive for 2010
Only months after seeing the worst of the financial crisis and watching professionals flock back to business and law school, it seems as though people are paying more attention to school rankings than ever before. Even though many still maintain that fit is the most important factor when applying to grad school, it’s undeniable that applicants are shining a bigger spotlight on rankings than usual. While dozens of websites and magazines come out with their version the annual rankings, U.S. News has long been considered the gold standard. And just last week, we finally learned which schools struck gold in 2011.
Last Friday, the U.S. News released its 2011 B-School and Law School rankings. It’s no surprise that as usual, there was very little change at the top of both lists, a fact which was also confirmed by the leaked rankings days before. In the end, my opinion is that these new rankings don’t really change much, because I personally think that there are a lot more things to consider when choosing a school than the school’s ranking. However, most people do factor ranking into their analysis, so it is interesting to see how things shake up from year to year. As such, below I’ve listed the top 15 ranked MBA programs for 2011. You can also click here to see the full list on US News website and click here to see how U.S. News came up with its rankings (i.e. methodology).
1. Harvard Business School
1. Stanford Graduate School of Business
3. MIT Sloan
4. Kellogg / Northwestern
5. Chicago / Booth
5. Wharton / Penn
7. Tuck / Dartmouth
7. Haas / Berkeley
9. Columbia Business School
9. NYU / Stern
11. Yale SOM
12. Ross / Michigan
13. Darden / UVA
14. Fuqua / Duke
15. Anderson / UCLA
Have you ever been at an event and seen someone you really wanted to chat with for some reason or another but didn’t. Perhaps someone you recognized from high school or college; or someone you knew had the insight you needed for work or class; or maybe just someone you thought was interesting, but you never quite found the moment or the courage to go introduce yourself. Well, the good news is that it’s completely normal and that it’s probably happened to all of us. But here’s an interesting question. What if after leaving you found out that the other person was hoping to get the chance to chat with you too?
My question arises having just attended Kellogg’s admit reception last week. It was a two-hour event, organized by Kellogg admissions and hosted by the Chicago offices of Deloitte Consulting here in Chicago. Overall, it was certainly an interesting mix and a good number of people, some who I recognized from previous events and many others who I met for the first time. I always enjoy going to these types of events, as they’re usually a good way to meet new people, which is something I personally enjoy.
The event started at 6:30pm and took place on a Thursday. I walked in with one of my JD-MBA classmates. We were a few minutes late, so I was pretty excited to finally make it to the event. As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I scanned the room to see who was around. Gazing from left to right, I saw a sign-in table to my left, the table of appetizers directly in front of me, and to my right, that’s where the lions share of people were standing, over by the bar. “Can I get you a drink?” was the first thing I heard upon entering the doorway to the room. I figured it was probably going to be an interesting night.
The first thing I did was head over to the sign in table. I figured that would not only allow me to grab my name tag and sign in but also to chat for a few minutes with the admissions team. I’ve gotten to know a few of them over the past year or so at these types of events, since I originally applied last year as a JD-MBA, so I enjoy chatting with them when I can. I also figured that I might some good information about which of the JD-MBAs would be showing up that night, since I had heard from a lot of them earlier in the day.
So I quickly chatted with one or two members of the admissions team and talked about the upcoming admit weekend in late April. I took a look at the list to see which JD-MBAs would likely not be coming out and I concurrently scanned the room to see who was around. And after leaving the check-in table quickly found my way to a few good conversations. The first who actually turned out to be a 2009 alum who worked in marketing in Chicago. I actually saw her in the elevator right up in front of me on the way up to the event, so knew I’d eventually catch up with her. I also ran into an MLT Fellow and a friend who I met in New York City a few weeks back. I enjoyed engaging in conversations and seeing where people where from and what other schools they were considering. Although for some people doing this may be a bit less natural, having food, being admitted to the same school, and having a bar usually helps to mitigate that.
At some point, I finally made my way over to the bar for a glass of wine, but I spent more of my time and energy chatting with people nearby. I did this for about 30 or 45 minutes before we had to head into the adjacent room where Kellogg had set up a 5-person panel of alumni to talk about their experiences. Most people grabbed a drink from the bar on the way into the room and took a seat to see the panel session. Taking my glass of wine with me into the other room as well, I decided to sit at a table where I didn’t know anyone at the time.
The panel was facilitated by Director of Admissions, Beth Flye and led by a panel member who was a partner at Deloitte, and an older Kellogg alum. It was pretty typical panel, though instead of fielding many questions, Kellogg threw them a few underhand softball questions for most of the time. And by the time, they opened it up for Q&A, I think most people were ready to mingle again.
One thing that interested me just before the event ended was that I ran into my friend that I’d met in New York City a second time that night. And he was looking for finance information about Kellogg, specifically alum in the private equity industry. I was surprised he hadn’t bumped into anyone that night, because I found a number of them in the room, including the person I spoke to five minutes before form Madison Dearborn. Although people like to call Kellogg a marketing school, Kellogg usually has more finance majors than marketing, so it tends to attract a lot of people just like this. So I shared the information I found with him, as did a Kellogg professor who was at the event.
And that tends to be my usual mentality at these types of events. Find a way to help someone. Give information, show concern, and connect them with someone else. Because in the end, everyone wins. Someone finds the information they need, and more generally, more connections you established, which pave the way for making new ones and learning new information. It’s also a lot more fun.
In my view, every meeting or conference can be a game changer. You can change the game for someone else, or someone else can change the game for you. In today’s age, where there’s increased pressure to work longer hours in a bad economy and where internet is king, it can be easy to sit back, send emails, and rely on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to make connections. Don’t get me wrong, those can be very useful tools that connect you globally, all across the world. But at the same the Internet connections can’t replace real connections. And while for some people doing that is harder than it is for others, that’s still no reason to stay home. Try doing a bit of research before the event, and think about other ways to help you connect. And when all else fails, ask someone if you can get them a drink. At events like this, most people won’t turn you down.
In my view, nothing is more important for any organization than making the right people decisions. That’s not only true for business, banks, and law firms, but also for graduate schools, including law schools. Most schools go about this differently because different schools value different pieces of the application and so they look for different things from applicants. Ideally, most schools hope that all admits would eventually choose to attend, but realistically they know only some of them will. And that’s why schools have admitted student weekends.
Shortly after I was admitted to Northwestern Law, I came out to Chicago for Day at Northwestern Law (DANL), which is the law school’s version of “Admit Weekend.” When I originally was accepted to various business school and law school programs, I decided it would be beneficial to visit all the campus before actually making my final decision on attending business school. The rewards from visiting schools were numerous. I saw people who might be in my class the next year, met a large number of people, learned more about the individual programs, and ultimately found comfort in my final decision.
In the end, I’m quite happy with my choice to come here to the Northwestern JD-MBA program. It’s been an interesting and challenging experience so far at the law school and it sounds like my time at Kellogg will be just as fun. But I have found the two environments to be quite different. And that difference is also evident in the admissions process.
As it turns out, in law school, the yield rates (i.e. number [those who accept offers] / [total number of offers]) are much lower than business school rate. So there are more people at those weekends that may not be in your class. This has more to do with the application process than anything else. In law school, applicant tend to apply to far more schools. That’s because the applications are more standard, need less personalized information, are often shorter, and even cost less money. So applicants can crank out more applications and usually end up with more choices as a result, which means more schools get “NOs” from students.
As such, it seems as though for some law students, the admit weekends may be pretty important. While some students pick law schools entirely based on ranking, many get comfortable with a certain range of rankings, and after that look more at program, fit, and culture, some of which weigh that more highly than ranking. For the latter group, and hopefully to convince some in the former group, schools have events like DANL.
DANL 2010 just kicked off on Friday. They had a pretty interesting day of events, met alumni, met other admits, and had a few sessions during the day. As part of that, a few students came to my Con Law and Property classes. They also took part in a dinner at a local restaurant “Zoo Life” and came to the annual year end show, put on by a group of law students.
Today, they have a jam-packed schedule since it’s the weekend, where more students can help. Schools usually jam as much into the schedule as possible, and it begins bright and early before 9am. Though it will be interesting to see how many admits make the 9am deadline considering I saw a number of them out pretty late the first night.
These sorts of events are a good way for Northwestern, and all schools, to do some recruiting and increase yield. Given the volume of admits and events though, it’s indeed a group process to make that happen. Conventional human capital theory says that recruitment is most effective as a team sport. As soon as you have one teammate, then the workload splits 50-50. With two teammates, it’s 33-33-33. Then 25-25-25-25. And so on. This is especially important when in admissions recruitment and at events like DANL, where you want to hit a critical mass, reach out to more and more people, give everyone a chances to ask questions and uncover information, and have someone there with experiences in everything NU Law.
I’m personally here helping out this weekend too. I’m doing what I can to help speak to the JD-MBA admits and other admits who want to discuss careers issues. In fact, I’m helping at a careers table today during the fair in just a bit. I personally had a lot of fun at my admit weekends (mostly MBA schools), and I even had a blast going back to DAK (Kellogg admit weekend) this year as a law student. So I guess this is my way of giving back.
Peer support is pretty big at Northwestern, so giving back is pretty easy. And when you have one person who wants to get involved, that mentality often cascades throughout the school, or at least through the club, and in the end you may end up with a lot of people who want to pitch in and help. And at that point, you go from 25-25-25-25, to 1-1-1 … which is ideal. It’s the whole idea that a team working together can accomplish a lot more than the sum of its individual capabilities.
In this case, we can share more information, and help people make more informed choices about coming to Northwestern Law next year. After all, the more committed students we have here the better off we are. We can improve our events, curriculum, and networks, and we can bring the students and alumni more opportunities. In the end, those things are better for everyone.
But as for DANL. We’ve only made it one day so far, so still have a bit more work to do to pull that off. In fact, I have to leave now to help at the activities fair. I’m part of the Careers Committee here and given the economic environment, I suspect we’ll have a good number of admits with questions about recruiting. After that, I plan to sit on a JD-MBA panel. I’ll fill you in on how everything turns out.
There is a lot of talk about how much public company CEO’s make, especially at companies performing poorly, those repaying TARP money, and those handing CEOs large bonuses, while the business is imploding. Every April, the whole world has the chance to shine a spotlight on these CEO paychecks. That’s because spring is the annual proxy statement season, and calendar-year public companies disclose compensation numbers. This means General Counsels work with JDs at law firms and MBAs at consulting firms to do valuations and finalize their SEC filings. It’s interesting to see how pay can swing like a pendulum from one year to the next depending on firm performance. But perhaps more interesting is the fact that levels also happen to change when they are interpreted by a a different valuation firm. Even in the same year.
Just last week, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal published respective lists of the top 200 CEO’s pay packages from last year. But to my immediate surprise, I noticed that each list ended up with pretty different results. Compensation for some CEOs was different on WSJ than on NY Times, and in some cases, the spread was significant. HPQ’s CEO, for example, was paid a total of ~$11MM according to the WSJ though the NY Times reported ~$24MM. But more surprising, and maybe more scary, was that both valuation firms are considered highly-reputable, industry experts when it comes to executive compensation.
Given the resources used for the studies, I didn’t expect to see such inconsistently. In today’s environment, where executive pay is already under scrutiny, and where banks are doing little to help the case, companies have no incentive to make compensation even harder. That said, the herculean task of figuring out executive compensation is critical. Company reputations are at stake and executives will have even less chance in the court of public opinion. And conversely, it would be a real economic breakthrough for economists and businesses to figure out how to balance rewards with incentives.
To that end, below, I’ve provided a few details below about the two studies. I’ve included (A) Links to the studies (B) Information on firms that carried out the studies (WSJ and NYT simply reported the information) (C) A few big picture takeaways (i.e. my opinions)
(B) Firms Behind The Studies
1. The NY Times study was put together by a firm named Equilar. Equilar is the undisputed industry leader in compensation research. Its analysts dig through proxy statement for a living, and they tend to be consistent in their approach. Many top compensation consulting firms utilize services from Equilar, and some use them extensively.
2. The Hay Group put together the WSJ study. Its Compensation Consulting group is very good and competes with top firms for projects. However, in my experience, it does not always hang with Mercer, Towers Perrin, Watson Wyatt, and Aon for top clients. I suspect all of the firms here, including Hay Group use, or have used, Equilar quite a bit.
- Comparisons aside, both firms should have more than enough resources and experience to do this study, and the real challenges are (i) finding all the numbers, (ii) maintaining consistency of methodology of those numbers across the 200 companies, and (iii) using a sensible option pricing model to calculate the expected stock value (i.e. black scholes). Not a cake walk by any means, but doable.
(C) What does this mean? For what it’s worth, here’s my opinion:
- Stock compensation is hard to value. There are a large number of assumptions in every calculation, many of which change depending on the effective date and are subject to late disclosure, non-disclosure, or improper disclosure by the companies. It also depends on all the black-scholes assumptions.
- If these expert firms can’t come up with consistent numbers, then the media definitely has no business putting out numbers in magazines and papers, which influences and persuades the general public.
- Similarly, articles bashing “Pay for Performance” should also be assessed on the merits of the research and experience of the researcher. And to be valid, they should be back with a good data set.
- Governance standards for proxy filings still has room for improvement. I suspect they will continue to refine the rules, come up withe more standard approaches, and further incent companies to follow. In the past few years, they’ve made some progress.
But these are all high level ideas, easier written about in a post than driven forward, and easier discussed than executed. Executive pay analysis is difficult, not only because it’s highly-technical and nearly impossible to interpret inconsistent and non-standardized data, but also because many numbers are never even disclosed and because the rules of the game are continuously changing. The good news is that the U.S. has taken strides over the past few years, and they’ve taken leaps and bounds as compared to the rest of the world.
But now that we’re in a bit of a standstill with the economy and there are so many questions about valuation, how do we know that these plans even work? And what can we do to continue to incent executives to drive companies forward? Well, for one, I suspect companies will eventually figure out a more consistent methodology to use when analyzing CEO pay plans–the SEC can do it’s part by making more targeted rules. But they should also allow the best leaders at companies to continue leading. Not only through developing performance and compensation schemes, but now also by giving them incentive to be creative, innovative and develop as leaders.
That’s because the most successful companies spend more of their time talking about new possibilities and walking down the path of innovation than they do about money. After all look at companies like Google and Apple, where innovation is king! Don’t get me wrong, these guys get paid well and they spend a lot of time coming up with the right pay packages, but that’s not the primary driver. And in the meantime, maybe U.S. companies will finally spend more time thinking about that and eventually find a bit of insight into what really drives CEOs and how to harness that to achieve better results. Some theorists suspect that finding this would lead to even better company performance, suggesting that incentive programs actually destroy intrinsic motivation. It’s an interesting debate.
The US economy added 162,000 jobs in March, the biggest net gain in over three full years. That’s good news right? Well, that depends on who you ask. Some say that it’s clearly good news, and that we’re finally moving in the right direction. But others say that the stats are superficial, and that they don’t address the underlying economic issues. I’m not sure what the real answer is, but one thing is for sure. The job market does seem to have a little bit more life. And sometimes, momentum can be a good thing.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently agreed in an interview with Businessweek and said “there’s a momentum building up” in the U.S. economy and the odds of it faltering have “fallen very significantly.” The Obama administration agreed. White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers said that “job creation will accelerate.” And Christina Roemer, chair of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, said suggested that there’s a “gradual labor market healing.” And so it sounds like there may be a subtle wave of optimism that seems to be lingering.
That is definitely the case at business schools, where although recruiting numbers may be slightly down [(i) I don't know for sure and (ii) It's not over yet], they won’t be down by much. And during recruiting season, the students seemed to be pretty confident about their chances. Some of the ones I know did well. Many will be working at banks, consulting firms, Fortune 500′s, and start-ups. Even at the law school, things seem to be trending upward. It’s harder to tell exactly how things will play out, since law schools tend to do the vast majority of recruiting in the fall. But the message I’ve heard from most firms and organizations is that things will at least be a little better. I look forward to reporting the real news this fall.
That said, I don’t think these stories are necessarily compelling.
1. First, the administration has the herculean task of managing the negative sentiment that came from the past two year and balancing that with a more optimistm to keep people motivated and working hard, all while delivering a message that’s both truthful and transparent.
2. And more importantly, it’s not necessarily compelling because (i) the world of MBAs and JDs headed to become consultants, bankers, lawyers, fund managers, and non-profit leaders doesn’t reflect the overall economy. In fact, it’s really only a small fraction of the economy. The average person doesn’t attend a top 10 law or a premier business school nor do they hunt for six-figure jobs in their mid twenties, if ever. So many times, that person may end up jumping through a lot more hoops to get to the “promise land” of finding employment. (ii) And not only do these individuals represent a small percentage of the overall economy but they also have the advantage of undergoing a highly sophisticated recruiting process that starts well before interview season begins. A process where employers have coffee chats, luncheons, mixers, and receptions months before recruiting ever begins. And a process where hundreds of employers accept resumes, come to campus, and interview dozens of students on campus, all day. And sometimes multiple days. So taking a step back and looking at everything from a 30,000-foot, big picture view, I see that it’s a privilege to have the process in place.
So with a 30,000-foot view in mind, here are the objective arguments about the labor force, from both sides.
1. One on hand, the hard numbers from BLS do suggest improvement. (i) In total, employers added 162,000 jobs in March, the biggest monthly gain in three years. That’s always a good starting point. (ii) Manufacturing payrolls have also reportedly increased. (iii) This story is also true for heath care employers, who added ~27,000 full-time jobs and ~40,000 private-sector temp jobs. (iv) Surprising is that construction field held steady for the first time, after losing nearly ~865,000 last year. (v) Further, sources also suggest that the investment banks are finally starting to breathe again, and that broadening their scopes of services has helped them to decrease risk and squeeze out more revenues. (vi) And finally the unemployment rate is still down to 9.7%.
2. On the other hand, context suggests that the grass may only look greener. (i) I suspect we’re all aware that the number of jobs and hence total payroll numbers continue to skydive in financial industry. Venture capital and entrepreneurship numbers also remain low. (ii) However, even the numbers that are improving, according to US News, may really be more related to a reduction in labor force than an improving economy. (iii) But despite these more nuance calculations, even real growth number, according to some sources, are lower than expected. For example, forecasters expected ~200,000 new jobs in March, not 162,000. And that’s in spite of the fact that BLS reported more census takers this year than usual. Not only does that potentially positively change the accuracy of the reporting of the numbers but it also increases the number of actual jobs created. And coincidentally, these happen to be six-month temporary jobs, not full-time permanent jobs. While adding temp jobs is a good way for businesses to pick up and a good way for folks to earn a bit of cash, it also may not be indicative of any real economic trend.
In a recent post, Former Secretary of Labor said something similar. Rob Reich said “These are six-month temp jobs, and they tell us nothing about underlying trends in the labor market. It’s hard to gauge precisely how many were hired — probably between 100,000 and 140,000, although some estimates put the hiring as low as 48,000. Almost a million census workers will need to be hired over the next few months. Subtract these, and today’s job numbers are good but nothing to write home about.”
Conventional wisdom pinpoints that demand for such temporary employees increases during recessions and during recoveries, so employers can get the help they need, while also shining a spotlight on their budgets and reigning in expenditures. This may mean that we’re still somewhere in the middle. Either way, there’s still a lot of uncertainty and unfortunately, nobody has the million dollar crystal ball to lead us into the future.
In light of that, I think I like some of the positive signs. After all, psychology plays a big part in market movements and perhaps a bigger one in its recoveries. There are a lot of different ideas and competing opinions out there, a few are from experts, a good number from those who have agendas, a lot with a different perspectives than you or I have, and most of them with different levels and sources of research.
And in the end, how you frame the issues will affect [and possibly even change] your viewpoint.
Imagine this. Your company is looking for a new CEO. Finally, after months of rigorous interviews and hours on the phone pouring over candidate resumes with your search firm, two candidates finally made the short-list. But the board is split. One candidate has the background most of us dream of–elite schools, blue chip companies, well-connected, and looks the part. But the other has something different. A spark. An obvious desire to make things happen. He much hungrier to take over the helm and had more creative, actionable ideas in all of his interviews. You also really connected with him during the meeting. But just one problem. He has no proven record at a firm like yours. Which of the two would you choose?
In most cases, it seems likely that the two candidates wouldn’t be quite so different. But even if they were, I suspect that the answer would be “it depends.” It might depend on the board, the other executives, the industry, sector, and stage of the company. There are many factors that go into hiring a CEO and into hiring decisions generally. That’s why in most industries, search firms help facilitate the process. They post jobs, work networks, make calls, screen dozens, and sometimes hundreds of resumes, interview candidates, and work for weeks, even months to fill a single slot. And in a recent message, I received a question from a reader who feared just that. As an applicant to the consulting industry, he feared that his application would be lost in that pile of a hundred resumes and that he’d go weeks, even months with no luck, given he’s the “inexperienced” person in my hypothetical above.
I responded with a few words, which I’ve shared below. But I’ll also note, that my answer only scratches the surface, as there are so many factors that might go into recruiting in the consulting field that it’s impossible to talk about all of them in a single post. Hopefully this post will be helpful as a good start.
THE ORIGINAL MESSAGE
I really enjoy your blog. It’s very well-written and informative! Here’s my story.
I’m an undergraduate student looking to eventually end up in consulting and currently looking for an internship. I’ve found a small firm that I’m really interested in. I sent them a email, got a response, and met with one of the consultants earlier in the week. I had a pretty good experience and think I may have a small shot at getting an internship at the firm.
But I currently go to (state university) and my GPA is a 3.2, which is low for the consulting field, and I don’t have any real finance, accounting, engineering, or even business coursework. But because of my meeting, the consultant said he’s willing to accept my resume during current recruiting cycle. However, because they’re openly targeting a 3.5+ GPA, I don’t know if I have a chance.
At the end of the day, I really want to work in the management consulting industry, but am not sure what to do next. Was wondering if you can help? Do you have any suggestions on how to maximize my chance of getting in the industry.
Thank you in advance,
Thanks so much for your message, and for reading my blog. I appreciate your kind words and hope you continue to read.
So, in general, most experts will tell you that performance always trumps pedigree. And that instead, hard work, intelligence, speed, and raw intellectual capacity is more important. It’s what companies like to call the “meritocracy.” In a sense, meritocracy is part of the “American Dream” where everyone gets a fair shot, where opportunity has no bound, and where climbing the ladder is based on your performance in the workplace. But as nice as that my sound, it has few issues. 1. As a firm manager, how can you measure all of these things from two candidates you don’t know and have never seen perform. 2. And even if you could measure, most people are human, and make decisions based on their experiences, especially when they don’t have a real basis for analysis. 3. Where do things like talent, attitude, future potential, integrity, and ability to lead come into play? 4. And finally, what happens when the decision is ambiguous and multiple people don’t agree. Or worse, if they choose the wrong person.
Which leads me to my point. My point is that, while in an idealistic world, a company based solely on merit (or on future merit) would be great, it’s almost impossible to create that environment. There are too many complex business and political factors, and too much information that can’t be uncovered. This is especially true for new hires, and more specifically for college graduates.
That said, I think your concern i justified, as on average, you probably won’t win too many resume “competitions” in your quest for a management consulting role. That’s because at many of those firms grades are king, and school names, connections, and previous experience are like keys to the treasure chest of employment. But for this firm, you may still have a chance. I’ve laid out a small framework of things you might consider as you think about it.
1. Assess Fit. First, since this firm is a boutique, the firm might interview you in one of two ways. One on hand, it may be highly selective as a small firm, and so those who gain employment may have to fit very strict criteria, and that may be grades, cultural fit, connections, geography, specific expertise, energy, or a combination of those, and maybe other factors. On the other hand, the firm may really need help, and they may be looking now, or may not have a lot of applicants, and so it might prioritize someone who wants to come in and work hard, and choose the applicant who has the most passion to work in the industry. I’ve navigated this process multiple times and in my experience it can be hard to predict. Though I’ll note that many of the most successful boutiques were indeed pretty selective.
For you, having already talked to a consultant, you’re in the drivers seat and have the best view of what’s actually true. If the latter, then you may want to follow through and submit your resume. After all, if he really liked you, he may push for your into the second round. On the other hand, if you’re having doubts and don’t feel comfortable submitting now then you also have the option of rescinding. As a smaller company, they may understand, though you also run the risk of coming off as indecisive, which may not help in your quest to land a role at that company. Before doing that though, you should do a bit more analysis.
2. Look For Other Strengths. First, you should consider your profile as a whole. Although you don’t have an engineering or other traditional “consulting” degree, any quantitative classes, professional exams, certifications, or even regular business classes might help you to stand out. So you should be sure to highlight them. And if not, you might consider taking a few, either now or post-graduation. It often helps to have these because sometimes “perception is more important that reality,” especially for the purposes of finding a job. As such, many places will value your perceived understanding, interpreted through your tangible qualifications, and they’ll value that more than your actual understanding. That’s why things like major and grades become important during interviews. And that’s part of what hinders the pure meritocracy argument at times. In part that’s because firms have limited time to interview and don’t have the resources or information about your college or pre-college experiences. So it’s less risky and it’s also more standardized to use your scores, majors, etc as a proxy. And after that, then merit may come more into play once you get the job. So to the extent you do have other strengths that may not be obvious, be sure to sounds the alarm.
3. Network More. Going forward, considering your stats and experience, you’ll also have the best bet breaking into the industry by finding links and connections, through friends, acquaintances, the career center, or anyone who can figure out how to help you. It would require a lot more networking, reaching out to more and more people, watching for issues in the industry that you can bring up during future conversations, and most importantly seeing if you can make a connection with someone who may be a champion for you when passing your resume along. As I mentioned before, it would also help to get some relevant experience along the way, though under this scenario, it would make you a better networker because you had a better idea of what to say and more experiences to draw from. Though keep in mind, there are quite a few different types of consulting, so be sure you get training that’s relevant to what you’re looking for. And in the end, you could be more qualified and also have more people pulling for you in your next interview. Thee odds could tilt in your favor.
4. More Practical Considerations. Aside from looking at intangible considerations like fit, networking, areas of strength, there are also a few practical things you may want to consider as you think about it from a longer-term perspective. Generally, most people in your shoes consider taking finance classes. Many students also proactively raise their GPAs, some concentrating on their quant GPAs. Other candidates work during the school year, some others at smaller firms trying to build up qualifications. Along those lines, another group might work in some sort of school clinic, some of which may even give credit, or even count it as an internship. Though you’ll have to balance all of that with your grades issue.
5. Go Through The Back Door. Additionally, you may even consider another industry to get started from. One good thing about consulting, which is not as true of banking or the legal profession, is that you don’t need to start there to get there. Good corporate, entrepreneurial, and/or functional experiences are highly valuable and showing impact will go a long way. But depending on the size, prestige, and location of the firm you want to break into, you’ll need to have taken on higher level of responsibility, proven an ability to make impact and drive change, and be able to tell a compelling story before finding a seat at the interview table. At that point, many of the larger consulting firms may also require a case study. For some, that process may be long, so I’ll save it for another post.
6. Think Longer-Term. And so finally, if none of this works or you don’t want to sacrifice that much time to move into consulting now, you could still end up with some pretty good experience. That will not only set you up well in your current career, but it may also set you up well for an MBA program, where you’ll go and have the chance to start all over again. And in the end, you’ll have a chance to give consulting another shot. But who knows, it’s possible that by then, you may not even want to.
Good luck either way!
What if I told you that your stellar professional record, strong academic training, or even esteemed Ivy League school had nothing to do with whether you ended up landing a job? Or conversely, that your glaring lack of experience and the inconsistency on your resume wouldn’t disqualify you? That it all came down to one shot. And the ball was in your court? Well, in this case, that one shot happens to be at law school and it happens to be tomorrow.
I recently received a question from one of my readers. He was notified about his upcoming interview at Northwestern Law School. He was originally placed on the waitlist, but just found out that he now has an interview this week. In fact, it’s tomorrow! I didn’t get much information on his profile, but given he was waitlisted here, I suspect he’s probably pretty qualified. As I may have suggested above, this doesn’t actually mean that his profile is no longer relevant. Instead it was more of an analogy, that the interview is critical and may be the deciding factor in the decision. So now, it will be up to him to close the deal. Take a look below for his question, and for my response. I tried to keep my response brief, so I could send the sooner rather than later.
HIS ORIGINAL MESSAGE
I have an interview for the JD program on (day), (month) (day). I am currently on the waitlist and am looking forward to it. Do you have any suggestions on how I can approach it. Or on how I can maximize my visit?
Thanks so much for the note and for reading my blog. I’m glad that you find the information helpful. As I mentioned, I’m going to keep this response brief given the unfortunate late timing of our discussion. Also, given that I don’t know much about you or your profile, most of this advice will be general, though I’ll try to tailor some of it to Northwestern and to a waitlisted application. I’ll also note that I’m not on the admissions team at NU Law nor did I interview there to get in. As a JD-MBA candidate, I applied and interviewed through Kellogg. And although the law school looked over my application and ultimately had a say in the decision, I did not sit with them for an interview.
OK, so generally, it’s rare that anyone is 100% prepared for an interview, mostly because that’s impossible. So the good news is that there’s usually no need to stress memorizing every detail or stay up all night over-preparing, as it often doesn’t do much good if you invest too much time in areas that never come up. That approach also tends to make interviews sound a bit too formulaic. The bad news is more obvious; that you probably won’t have time to know all the answers, or even most of them, and at points you may not feel prepared. But in my experience that’s OK, because it’s more importantly that you think critically about the issues and provide a thoughtful and authentic response, in place of memorized responses, especially given the short time period left.
To that end, I thought I’d write a couple of things that I like to think about when prepping for an interview. From a 30,000 foot-view, I typically tend to look at four things: research, your application, interview flow, and questions.
1. Research. Research. Research. My opinion is that in any interview, you have to know the organization you’re interviewing for stone cold. You’ll want to know the ins and outs, and not only about the organization but also its industry, top competitors, thought leaders, and future prospects. And you should also be prepared to demonstrate that knowledge by talking about it analytically, not just factually. In your case, that’s Northwestern Law. So you might consider researching programs, people, events, clinics, culture, and recent program changes, and try to uncover all the things that make Northwestern Law stand out, and how that compares to other schools. Find out the nuances that make it unique, both from the perspective of the school (i.e. age, experience, etc) and also why those nuances are important to you specifically.
2. Know Your Application In light of the last sentence, you should also be crystal clear on how all of that comes back to you and your application. Because in the end, Northwestern wants people who want to be there. So it’s often beneficial to remember what your essays said, and be prepared to discuss both the big picture a well as the details. Doing so, it’s often helpful to think about why you said that in your application, and where those decisions stemmed from. Conversely, some interviewers like to see that an applicant has also formulated concrete goals going forward, and demonstrated that they’ve thought about a time frame to achieve them. Sound like a lot of information? That’s because it is. And as such, I often think it’s a good idea to stay on the high-impact issues, unless the interviewer walks you down a different path. High impact issues can often be critical in shorter interviews because time is limited, the stakes are high, and in many cases those issues add deep value to your candidacy. And that’s why it’s important to know your application, both weakness and strengths, so you can invest time appropriately.
3. Interview Flow. On the other hand, I wouldn’t suggest being too robotic in that approach. After all, it’s possible that you and the interview may view “critical” quite differently. But more importantly, in my personal experience, sometimes there’s also a lot of merit in the ebb and flow of a good conversation. And I suspect that in some cases, good conversation will feel more natural, may help you initiate a stronger connection, and ultimately may lead to other important issues. So in the end, you’ll have to feel your way through carefully and think a lot about the “interview flow.” For the most part, it should be natural, but you also may want to pay attention to the details. For example, you have to be sure to listen closely to details, and clarify questions if needed. You should also feel free to take the lead if an important issue arises. Reading the interviewer, you may want to expand on an important point in the discussion, or introduce a new issue that might need addressed. Further, it’s possible the interviewer may want to discuss a singular issue, and talk about substantive issues for 5, 10, or even 20 minutes. Northwestern Law likes older candidates for this very reason. Because older more mature candidates should be able to adapt, and because they suspect an older candidate has more experience to draw from and can talk longer about difficult topics. So it’s up to you to do this, and the flow of the conversation can play a big part.
4. Questions. Last but not least, don’t forget about the questions! This should be an obvious point, but candidates in all types of interviews surprising tend to struggle. And in my opinion, this part is critical. It not only shows that you’re prepared, interested, and that you’re listening but it also shows the level of research you’ve done beforehand and illustrates a bit about your decision-making skills, which are inherent in the actual questions you ask. And my personal opinion is that an interviewer will form opinions based on your questions. Generally, the cardinal rule for school interviews is that you should ask too many questions you can find on the website or that you could have asked a student on way to the admissions office. Which leads me to my final though. Consider the audience. If you want to know about specific career placement rates or stats about where alumni live now, it’s possible that the career center or alumni themselves might be a better resource. So be sure to ask questions that your interviewer will have been exposed to and also enjoy answering.
I’m not surprised that MBA applicants are feeling a little more nervous than usual. Given the uncertain economic times, many experts don’t even know what to expect in the admissions cycle, let alone inexperienced applicants. It doesn’t help that some applicants still rely heavily on too few schools, so the odds are stacked against them. Others have been superstars since graduation, but now fear the prospects of failing. And for a third group, job insecurity reigns. These applicants work at unstable firms and fear being laid off, so they feel the pressure to get in. These and other applicants should strive for nearly perfect applications. That not only includes good scores and a well-written application at fit schools, but it also includes a career roadmap and a compelling story to tell the committee. At least that’s what John Rice came to discuss at MLT’s kick-off seminar in Houston.
At long last, the newest class of MLT’s MBA Prep Program was finally welcomed in person at the 2010 kick-off event. The event took place at Rice University, and the good news was that I was able to get a sneak peak at this year’s new class. Even though I haven’t even finished my first class at Kellogg yet, MLT asked me to volunteer at the event. And I’m sure glad they asked. For one, it allows me to contribute to the MLT community, which is something that’s been on my mind a lot these days, even as a first year law student. It also give me the chance to meet and help current fellows, to re-connect with alumni and with the awesome MLT team, and also gives a chance to become part of a movement that’s much larger than myself.
And so all of that began late Thursday night when my flighted finally landed in Houston around midnight. Interestingly enough is that fact that a current MLT fellow was also in my SuperShuttle, and so that we chatted on the way to the hotel MLT reserved. Like a large number of fellows, she was from New York and also very nice. Arriving at the hotel sometime around 1:00am, I unpacked a few things, took care of a few dozen emails, and prepped for a couple of phone calls and a meeting I had the next morning. Time flew by, and before I knew it, I was hopping in a cab to head over to the conference.
Shortly after entering the building, I joined the current fellows in a session about “MBA, leadership, and success.” As I walked in, a tsunami of laughter went across the room. I suspected that everyone was probably having a good time. Gazing around the auditorium, I noticed the room was jam-packed with over 200 fellows, all intensely concentrating on the guest speaker. I noticed right away that the crowd of fellows was incredibly diverse. It was especially good to see that there was a good mix of women in the room, something I suspect that MLT is keeping in mind. Before entering the room I figured everyone would all be a lot younger than me, but boy was I wrong. Not only did I come to find that the average age was something similar to mine, but I also found a number of students that were older than me, and others who were in my class back at Stanford, including my really good friend Khalilah Karim. (Any current fellows who stumble on this post should definitely take a few minutes to meet her!)
And not only did I catch up with her for a bit, but I also spoke to a number of fellows on Friday. Working with Michael Pages, a friend from my MLT fellowship class (2009), we spoke with a good number of people at lunch, between sessions, and later that night until the wee hours of the morning. Working with a bigger group of MLT alum on Saturday, we discussed application myths and took part in a Q&A, as part of an organized panel. Our approach was to structure part of the initial discussion and then let everyone pick topics based on interests. The session was highly energized, non-stop, and went well.
But more than a single energizing panel, the conference was the combination of lots of interesting sessions led by alumni, staff, and guest speakers, many of which were compelling, especially to the new fellows. Similar to my year, almost every session was informative and interesting, and collectively the sessions began to foster ties between having goals in business and concurrently having goals that improve the community, where that topic pinnacled during John Rice’s session about passion on Friday.
It’s no surprise that the highlight of these weekends often tends to be John Rice’s session, “Defining your passion.” It’s funny, inspiring, insightful, and participatory. John did a similar session my year, which was a big hit, and it seemed like it went over pretty well this year. “Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep in this session” he began, as his session took place right after lunch. And after reeling in a quick laugh from the audience, he moved on to substance and gave a crash course on figuring out your passion and integrating that into your story and essays.
“To have the best chances at admission, you need to have a road map” Rice said. “And to be truly great, your passion has to be part of that road map.” In layman’s terms, applicants should think about passions, goals and other personal issues that are often left out of MBA applications. What an insight for the new class! This isn’t what many us first hear about MBA applications. I sure didn’t. But John emphasized the idea and then illustrated it in a real-time activity in front of the class, keeping the session interactive as possible. In the end, the session was more refined, fun, and compelling than I even remember from my year.
Sitting in the session this weekend also made me think about my conference two years ago and about meeting my cohort for the first time. My group was lucky enough to connect fairly early, which is something I relayed to the new class this weekend. And although a few people in my cohort transitioned slower than others, somewhere along the way we all really jelled. We brainstormed ideas, shared personal stories, provided feedback on career thoughts, and learned from each other in a way that helped us to really grow, both as applicants and personally.
And in the end, we not only became a cohort that worked well together, but also a group that had a stake in each other’s success. And still do. And that’s one of my biggest takeaways from being a fellow—that there’s power in having a small team of people where everyone has a the same specific interests, similar common goals, and everyone is on the same page. And in some sense, I suspect that’s part of why I was excited to head back this weekend, to see that connection again.
And after day one of the session I began thinking. What if all MLT alumni decided to come back? And what if everyone started going to all the big MLT events? And not for the sake of networking or to enhance career opportunities, but instead to work together on bigger issues that impact broader global communities. And what if they worked just as well together, or even better, than my cohort did? Sounds impractical? Maybe. But definitely not a bad idea. Because the best leaders understand that there’s power in teams, that sharing common values harnesses even greater potential, and that having both together can lead to profound impact.
And for the second time in my life, I left the an MLT Kick-Off Seminar with inspiration and a competing need to get back to work. But this time not on applications or in the office. Now, I have to finish up my second semester of law school.
But either way, I still sort of know how the MLT’ers feel, and I encourage the fellows to join forces as you head through the year of MLT together. Good luck!
Many of us fantasize about the day we’ll finally get into business school. We daydream in anticipation of the good news. Of that magical ring on your I-phone or G1. Of the thrill of seeing an incoming call with an area code that couldn’t be anyone else but the school. Of the excitement you feel when the Dean congratulates you on an application well done. For some, it’s finally a way to scale the career ladder. For others it allows a leap of faith to a new field or validation of success in your career. No matter where you fit, it feels good to get the call. But what do you do if you don’t get that call?
For anyone experiencing this, I suspect that the answer is not easy and that it’s rarely the same. This is especially true if you’ve interviewed at the program and thought you submitted a flawless application. So what now? Do you accept a seat at your safety school? Do you scramble to apply in the next round? Do you stick it out another year at work, in a job you were quite happy to be leaving? And what about this year, where for many, making it for another twelve months isn’t guaranteed? or isn’t even an option?
Over the last 72 hours, I’ve gotten a number of emails, IMs, and calls from friends regarding this very topic. Some of the calls were filled with good news, others were not admitted, and another group of applicants have been placed on the waitlist. For many of these folks, Kellogg and Booth have stolen the spotlight, as both schools are currently at the height of decision season. Kellogg has been dishing out decisions over the past week or two, and Booth sent most of its letters out just today.
I’ve been thinking a bit about those who are thinking about what to do next. I suspect that many of you, those who are more seasoned, will pick up the pieces more quickly. You know yourselves and are used to adapting along the way. But for others, likely a larger part of the population, perhaps things are a bit less certain. Unfortunately, I’m not writing this post with any magic formulas. After all, there aren’t many words to cheer up an applicant after a year’s worth of hard work feels for naught. But I’m writing to facilitate discussion about the issue, share a few thoughts, and also share a few resources I’ve come across.
And while inspiring words in emotional times can often empower us to leap tall buildings in a single bound, in this case. most people who’ve contacted me were in search of something more practical. Some advice to help them unpack the unsettling moment. Or perhaps help making a decision for the future. In one example, a friend only got into a safety school but also don’t have bright prospects at work, so they aren’t sure what to decide. In a second example, where a highly accomplished friend did not get into the two schools he applied to. In a third example, I’m planning to chat with someone tomorrow afternoon. This applicant was placed on a waitlist and recently sent me a note to enlist my ideas.
My general piece of advice, is don’t let the situation get you down. Admissions can seem like a black box and many decisions may not make sense to the applicant, as decisions are made holistically and are relative to the rest of the applications and profiles in the class, all things you can’t see. So in many cases you can’t point to a single part of the application that kept you out. And waitlist wise, it’s an even bigger toss up. Perhaps it’s as simple as too many people from your employer or industry applied? Conversely, I personally tend to empathize with those with black marks on their resumes. That scenario can be a tough, not only because it’s hard to overcome, but also because it’s ambiguous to navigate along the way. Best of luck if you’re in this situation.
No matter where you fit, below, I’ve pointed out a couple of web posts that I found interesting. Some are more practical. Others less practical. And all of them a subtle reminder to do your best to bounce back, maintain focus, and figure out what’s next. The first four are blog posts from HBR and the last is a longer article from WSJ.
1. Learning To Deal With Rejection: Last fall, I read a blog post from leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith about dealing with rejection. In one part Goldsmith said “I rarely encounter self-confidence problems in my work with CEOs and potential CEOs. It is almost impossible to make it to the top level in a multi-billion-dollar corporation if you do not believe in yourself.” On the other hand, he also talks about up-and-coming leaders like students, and says “I am frequently asked to speak at business schools about the topic, and I have noticed that students in my seminars often want to talk about it.” Marshall goes on to give pretty good advice about not being perfect and taking the next steps. (Click here)
2. Bouncing Back From Career Setbacks: A year earlier, Goldsmith wrote a similar post, as the economy just began to hit take a few hits. He mentions that “Bill Gates relishes the lessons of failure so much that he purposefully hires people who have failed” and also talks about how to avoid dwelling on situations. (Click here)
3. There’s Value In Not Winning: More recently, I read a blog post from HBS leadership expert Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Here, she discusses the idea of having big winning streaks and the value of finally not winning. Her article revolves around Toyota, but it’s an inspiring piece that discusses motivation and humility after failure. (Click here)
4. Find A New Way To Get There: Just one week after, Kanter wrote a different post about making change in hard times. She says “A wise mentor once explained his strategy for getting things done when faced with an impregnable organizational fortress. He likened it to a medieval castle that doesn’t want you inside and doesn’t want change.” Though she compares the castle to a career, I thought about the castle like business school as I read. The moral of her story is to take action and to think about alternative plans. (Click here)
5. Success Can Follow College Rejection: And last but not least is a more typical article. Written in the Wall Street Journal, this article points out how common it is to be disappointed with school decisions. And that anyone who gets a rejection letter is in pretty good company, joining the ranks of Nobel laureates, billionaires, philanthropists, presidents, and other business, law, and political leaders. As you might suspect, the article highlights Warren Buffet’s rejection form HBS and how that changed his life … for the better. (Click here)
Whether or not you like the articles above, their main takeaway is good. That rejection, whether from a school or another part of your life, isn’t uncommon and sometimes, it’s not even your fault. So the best idea is to use times of rejection as opportunities to learn. And for a small number, these opportunities can even become defining moments which teach you about yourself and help you to assess your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.
That’s because the best leaders not only do well in good times, but they also thrive in hard times. Whether titans of industry or super-leaders in the community, they learn to cope with disappointment and become comfortable with failure, understanding that you can win at everything and that it’s important to learn from experience. And over time, they develop the ability not only to navigate challenging experiences but also the ability to leverage those experiences to gain motivation and expertise to accomplish more than they could have ever done before.
Best of luck everyone in making your next decisions.
Have you ever had the experience of scrambling into a meeting only to find that you could have been a real contributor if you only had five minutes to prepare? Or even worse, that with a few more minutes of prep time, that you could have cut your meeting time in half or maybe even finished the project? I’ve had both experiences, and I suspect you probably have too. Interestingly enough, one of those experiences was last week, just before heading out to a meeting in Chicago.
It was 5:00pm last Wednesday. I was studying with my friend Will when I realized I had 2.5 hours until my 7:30pm dinner. I knew I had to leave the classroom by 7:00pm to make it. But after an interesting couple of hours chatting, blogging and and finalizing a M&A project for class, time flew by, and somehow it was 7:00pm. But I thought to myself, “since I’m usually pretty good at getting around quickly, I’d be fine.” So I kept working. 7:00pm, 7:05pm, 7:10pm, boy was I being productive. I had just put up a post on my website, saved a new version of my paper, and sent off a few important emails. I was getting a lot done. Well everything but one thing, making sure I was ready for my next appointment.
“Oh no!” I thought as I jumped out of my seat. It was 7:12pm, and I hadn’t even figured out what I’d do with my things. By now, it was too late take them home. But I told myself, “I’ll catch up by a few minutes if I take my stuff downstairs instead.” But that wasn’t the case either. I still had to pack up, figure out how to stuff all my stuff into my locker, and make decisions about what to keep with me. Before I knew it, it was 7:25pm, and I hadn’t even left yet.
Fortunately luck was on my side that night. And right before scrambling out the door, I checked my email on my G1, and turned out my counter part sent a note telling me that he was going to be a couple of minutes behind. “Phew” I took a sigh of relief. I was saved. So I sent a reply email, mentioned I was on my way but that I’d come late as well, and so I scrambled to finish packing my things and began walking over.
But once again, time flew by faster than I thought. It was already 7:35pm, so instead of taking a nice relaxing down Michigan Avenue, I had to jump in a cab and pay $5 for less than a miles ride. As short as the drive was, there was still a bit more to my journey. We hit a few lights on Michigan Avenue, got stuck in a traffic jam for a minute or two, and the driver was one of the slowest I’d ever seen. Fortunately, this was just a friendly dinner, so it wasn’t really a big deal.
So instead of getting unnerved, instead I took the time to come up with a few cool topics for dinner, and I appreciated the time to get some AC because I had rushing around for the past twenty minutes. And perhaps more importantly, it was there in the cab, that I had the epiphany that I’m writing about now. That transition time is very important and that making more time to do that often pays off.
And in the end, I found two things interesting. One, despite the fact that my friend was arriving late, he still beat me to dinner. Second, another five or ten minutes would have been critical in making it on time, or at least given me time to do some thinking and brainstorming. But instead I pushed the limits back in the classroom.
Here’s my point. I think that this story here is pretty common for a lot of us, especially for those who lead hectic lives in business school and law school. In business school, student calendars are jam-packed, booked with events, meetings, classes, and recruiting sessions among other things. In law school, there is so much work to do that each minute becomes more and more precious. So in hopes to be efficient and get everything done, many of us work until the last possible second before hurrying over to the next appointment, leaving too little time to prepare for the next session.
But for many of us, allocating more transition time would probably be helpful. At work, it gives us time to come up with more questions, think about the bigger picture, identify issues that need addressed, and formulate our plans, which ultimately will be better for our careers. At least that’s been my experience. And socially, it gives us time to come up with better conversation topics, think about ways to have a better time, and keeps us from showing up late or in a frantic hurry to avoid being late.
In on recent example, last week I had a phone chat with the partner of a law firm in D.C. Although, my day was pretty busy overall, I blocked out a bit of time to do research and write a few notes before the talk. It was a good call. My decision resulted in a really enjoyable conversation, making a good impression on the partner, and a “quick chat” that ended up going for more than an hour. And in the end, blocking out time can end up being really rewarding.
Going forward, leaders in the new age will face more complex challenges and more diverse issues than ever before. As the world becomes more global and technology increases the pace of business, it’s important that we still take time to not stay caught up in the hustle but to reflect on what’s ahead, remembering that preparation is sometimes critical to our success.
That’s because the best leaders are asked not only to show up and be a participant at meetings, but they’re also called to step up and deliver results during meetings. Leaders can’t always depend on an ability to catch up quickly to get things done. Instead the best leaders are able to understand the issues and come up with a framework ahead of time. And in the end, they’ll be able to collaborate more effectively and inspire others along the way.
The number of students taking non-profit and public sector jobs in law school usually inflates in a recessed economy. Many 1Ls this year both here at Northwestern and across the United States are likely going to do that this summer. In my view, sounds like a golden opportunity. In fact, I was interesting in doing the same, especially as I have future interests in public service. However, just recently I got an opportunity that was too good to pass up. And as many of you know from my post here last Friday, that I finally got the call about a week ago.
The call came from Vedder Price, a great law firm based here in Chicago. I had just interviewed with them nearly a week before the call came through, so I knew either a call or an email was eventually on its way. But before that, I had been in close contact with the firm since early first semester not only in hopes to stay on the firm’s radar but also to ensure that there was a really good fit. I called students and alumni who had worked at the firm. I spoke with the people at my career office to get a feel for their unique experiences. I researched various practices, spoke extensively with one or two of the attorneys, and thought about ways I could add value to the firm. Everything I uncovered reinforced that the firm was a good fit.
In general, I found that the firm to have an entrepreneurial environment and highly collaborative approach to projects. I also found it to be strong in a number of the practice areas I’m interested in, including executive compensation and employment, which for me is well aligned with longer-term human capital interests. In fact, the firm is one of the premier executive compensation firms anywhere (by the way have you seen the 2010 Dodd Bill on executive pay introduced just yesterday). Finally, one of the best things is that the summer associate offer is part of a cool scholarship/ fellowship program supporting diversity in the legal field, which is a critical issue that I support.
And in the end, the idea of fit and the eventual prospects of making an impact seemed best there. Far too often in my experience, people assume that all organizations are basically just the same (especially law firms). Others often think that getting hired by a firm speaks for itself. That the task of analyzing fit and making the right employment decision is for recruiters or attorneys to figure out. After all, firms also want to pick the best fit for the organization, right?
Conceptually sure. But in my experience, that’s not always how things turn out. So I personally think there’s value in looking for fit, uncovering shared values, and finding common links and interests. Because in the end, you want to be in a place where you’ll enjoy your time and where you’ll do well.
But there’s just one catch. To do that effectively requires a bit of reflection. You first have to think about your own skills and interests, think deeply about your values and ideals, and then you have to come up with a compelling message for the interview process. At least that’s what I tried to do. Effective or not, I’m just glad things worked out, and I look forward to joining Vedder Price this summer. Click here to learn about the Diversity Scholarship.
Good luck to everyone still in the job search process.
Students are competing for fewer openings at law firms this year than any class ever before. More surprising is the fact that even the top students have begun to express uncertainty about finding a job. With law students more concerned than ever about landing a that coveted associate position, students should make sure to mix it up with employers more often and create a strong presence with firms. And they should especially be sure to attend all the local networking events. At least this is what I was told by a senior partner working at a major law firm here in Chicago.
When possible, most firms would prefer to hire someone that’s not only smart but also a good fit for the firm and who really wants to be there. But more often than not, firms end up choosing students using grades and journals, because that’s all most firms have in front of them. That’s because students often don’t spend enough time getting to know firms and don’t always take advantage of opportunities for networking. In fact, I find this dichotomy with business schools to be quite interesting, though by no means surprising.
About two weeks ago, I attended a similar event right here on campus at Northwestern Law. It was our annual employers reception. The event was set up to be a meet-n-greet. Each employer had its own table, and students were free to walk around and talk to as many employers as they could in the 2-2.5 hours at the event. There was food and drinks for everyone, which helped incent more students out. And the reception was right in the middle of the school, so you couldn’t miss it!
In my personal opinion, these receptions can be a lot of fun if you’re the type who enjoys networking, and even more importantly, if you’re in the market for a legal job. I also think these events are good segways into the professional world, where building a clientele, connecting with others, and growing your network may become more important. I think those instant connections that we find at these events can be really powerful sometimes and occasionally really important. And who better to do that with than an employer. Right?
The reception kicked off around 5:00pm, but because I’m on the careers committee, I arrived early to help set up for the employers. But more important than setting up was that we also were here to make sure the attorneys and recruiters were comfortable and had what they needed. I definitely took advantage of the time to get to know a few of them. I ended up chatting with representatives from a few of the firms for about an hour right up until the event.
In all, more than 50 employers were on the roster including most of the big name firms you might be thinking of as well as a number of medium-sized firms. I’m always curious as to how many people I’ll see at these events that I’ve met before, and at this event there turned out to be a few. Also interestingly was the fact that just a few minutes after getting there, I also stumbled across the firm I had been recruiting with at the time, and I had just met with them at their offices two or three days before. It was good to see them at the event again.
Once the event kicked off, I spoke with Associates and Partners from a good number of firms. They practiced litigation, M&A, Corporate, Securities, Employment, Plaintiff’s Employment, Bankruptcy, and even Life Sciences. I also spoke with the former attorney from SEC for almost 45 minutes. She had a lot of really good insight about student behavior and about a recruiter’s mindset at these events. It was a great talk.
The firms were unanimously enthusiastic about meeting the students and were glad to see the turnout this year was higher than last. Particularly for first years, it’s a good idea “come get to know us and learn more about us, as that will make OCI a bit easier” is a word from one of the firms at the event. As I made the rounds, I made a point to ask all the tables I visited about it’s recruiting outlook for fall 2010. And although none of the firms will be headed back to the hiring numbers of three and four years ago, nearly everyone felt pretty optimistic about hiring more students next year. We’ll see how that actually plays out a few months down the line.
I also made a point to ask a lot of firms about diversity. Diversity definitely seems to be a hot topic in the legal field today, so I thought this was as good a time as any to fire away with a few questions. What’s particularly interesting to me is the difference in perception that the employers have and that of the students. In my experience, there’s a pretty large number of students across all schoosl who in some sense may question an employer’s real dedication to diversity. They often point to the numbers at the firm, specifically the number of firm partners. On the other hand, many firms really make a point to stress how seriously they take it. I do think many firms do value diversity, and it will be interesting to see how this “conversation” plays out and how firms decide to react over the next few years.
At the end of the night, I felt the event went well, not only for me but also for many of my classmates. But this was still a busy week at the law school, so most of the students emptied out pretty quickly after the event. I stayed around for a bit, because the JD-MBAs had a small dinner gathering with administration right afterward, which was a good chance to do a little mingling. But before heading over to the reception, I stopped to say hello one last time to the firm I had been recruiting with. Turns out that this storyline has developed quite a bit since the reception. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you how.
The second semester has been flying by so far. A few of my classes are beginning to wind down, one even ends the week after spring break. I can’t believe they came up so quickly! As a result, the month of April is really going to be crunch time, and students will be working hard again. But fortunately before then, we also have spring break, which for most of us, begins next week. So for the time being we don’t have to stress too much about outlining, hornbooks, or practice exams, and instead we can catch up with friends, relax a bit, or even do some traveling. In fact, I’m even writing this post from NYC tonight. Sounds fun right? Well, this time there’s just one problem. Most of us still have a final CLR (legal writing) paper due Monday morning.
As a first year here at Northwestern, we all take a class called CLR (Critical and Legal Reasoning). One aspect of the course here that’s a bit different from a majority of the other top ranked schools is that our class is graded. And in law school, I’m sure you know what graded means. It means that students work way too hard on that assignment, at times in ways that may not be as productive because of either diminishing returns or bad habits.
With my CLR paper ahead of me this weekend, I did just the opposite and decided to take a quick trip to New York city to attend a networking event with the Toigo Foundation. The daylong event was both insightful and fun. For one, I got the chance mingle with a number of cool employers. I also saw a few familiar faces in the sessions and met a number of new people as well. And last but not least, I also had the good fortune of meeting the Toigo team here, as well as a few alum. I’m glad I came, though unfortunately, the next two days are going to be long, as I have to fly back to the midwest in a few hours and make some real progress on my paper before Monday morning. Should be an interesting 48 hours.
The good news and bad news with CLR is that it’s only two units. On one hand, two units of a class shouldn’t change much if you think about it from the big picture. But on the other hand, the workload for CLR is closer to that of a four unit course, so the time we’ve invested all semester is pretty significant. In fact, ask anyone whose ever taken the class, and they’ll tell you that it’s by far the most time consuming class we have the first year. But from what I hear it’s also one of the most beneficial courses, though I’m not sure that it wouldn’t have that same benefit with more units attached or if were pass/ fail.
But one thing is for sure. In today’s world of growing business risk and legal uncertainty, there’s significant value in being able to think critically about the issues and having the ability to write compelling and persuasive arguments. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that on my last paper. I’ll let you know how it comes out.
Many years ago when I was in grade school, I remember learning that quid pro quo meant “this for that.” When I first learned it, I didn’t think I’d actually end up in law school where the phrase is used more regularly. But I did end up here, and in fact, I just heard the phrase today in my employment law class when we discussed a work-related retaliation case. Similarly, in my contracts class last semester, we used the phrase to actually define a contract, where one party exchanges an item of value for something that the other party values (law students also know this as “consideration”). But my usage here in this post is just a tad bit different, because it’s not academic and it’s more similar to giving than it is to a mere exchange.
Last night, I spoke with admit to the JD-MBA program. The admit originally contacted me through my website, after which we connected at Northwestern during Admit Weekend. Yesterday, I chatted with him on the phone to answer a few of his questions about the program, and somehow our planned 20-30 minute conversation went well over an hour. And during the call, we not only discussed factual information about the schools and the program, but I also tried to share more nuanced information that you can’t always pull down from websites or find on forums or newsletters — perspectives of my classmates, opinions from people I’ve recently spoken with, recruiting in today’s market, and other intangible parts of being here.
For many people, I suspect this may have been a bit burdensome. After all, we’re coming up on the end of the semester, and our final Legal Writing (CLR) paper is due in just a couple of days. And for me, that’s in addition to two projects that are due this week and a two day trip I’m taking out of town tomorrow night in the middle of it all. But as we were chatting, those things really didn’t matter. I spent more time thinking about the fact that I enjoy sharing information with others, especially about the program, and I spent more time reflecting back at how two of the then-2nd year JD-MBA students (now 3rd year JD-MBAs) spent significant time on my calls and emails a year ago when I was accepted. I’m sure they were busy too, but I never knew it. Instead, they always talked as long as I needed and answered whatever questions I had, which was really helpful. And for a second, giving back here felt a bit like quid pro quo.
But not the typical kind of quid pro quo that you might find in a contract where you’re entitled to something in return, or in a negotiation where you analyze the outcome to see who got the best value. Instead I’m thinking about something more generous and altruistic in nature, which probably takes us away from the real “quid pro quo” and more into the realm of paying it forward, or better yet, simply giving or giving back to your community.
Because in the end, most people can’t do everything on their own, but instead could often use a hand getting there, especially when it comes to finding more information. I’m sure you can think of a time when you needed a hand (or a piece of information) but didn’t have one. I sure can. But just imagine–what if everyone did give a hand? And what if everyone openly shared what they knew? Maybe over time, the mentality would be contagious. It could affect everyone around you, maybe even cascade through all your social networks and eventually take off and impact masses and masses of people. I think they call this the network effect. But even if it didn’t, giving back is still more fun and more fulfilling anyways and over time I think it always makes a difference. I’m glad I had the chance to take the call. Hopefully the information was helpful. And hopefully we’ll see him here again next year.
That’s my take on sharing information. What’s your take?
Hey Everyone, I hope you are doing well and that you had a good weekend. My weekend has been busy. That’s because here at Northwestern Law it’s the week before spring break. This means that we have a final paper due in our legal writing class in just about a week. And because the final paper is worth nearly half our grade, everyone is really spending a lot of time on it. Everyone also has lots of other smaller assignments to work on, which vary depending on the course. For example, I have two projects due in my Business Associations class this week: a group M&A timeline project and a country presentation project. I also have to make a personal trip out of town at the end of the week to a meeting in New York City. However, in the midst of all of this chaos, I also found some pretty good news. And this past Friday, I finally got the call.
This Friday I finally got a call from an organization I’ve been pretty interested in all year. And it was good news. Although all of you must be wondering where I’m referring to exactly, I won’t spill the details just yet. But I will at some point after I officially accept on Monday. Considering that this has been such a tough year for legal recruiting and considering first years rarely get such positions anyways, I’m especially excited and grateful that things worked out. Given the good news, I decided to take Friday off, and I went to a Kellogg mixer on Friday evening and then out for a bit with a couple of JD-MBAs afterward. But unfortunately, I don’t have a whole lot of time to celebrate tonight. So back to work it is.
But stay tuned for more details and for a few posts about recruiting at Northwestern Law. Also, best of luck to everyone still finishing up their search.
Perhaps you’ve seen it before. A leader in your organization that can’t bring the team together to work toward a common goal. Well what about the reverse? Someone in your organization without a leadership title, but with a natural ability to persuade others and to really make things happen. I suspect most of us have seen both types. In my opinion, that’s because often times a title doesn’t always mean what it suggests. And because generally you don’t need a title to have an impact. Here’s why I think that’s relevant for some people at Northwestern.
Just last week here at Northwestern Law, many of the school’s organizations began sending mass emails to the Listserve. Be on the board of this club, become the president of that club, join our new committee. These are the slogans that clubs send out, hoping to find a few interested and over-ambitious students to take charge in the club next year. Because Northwestern has a diverse set of student clubs, many of them tend to have a pretty big role on campus and in student life. They put on conferences, bring guest speakers to campus, organize panels and networking events, and often join forces with other clubs to come up with events that are bigger or more innovative. And for a club to pull that off, it needs to an organized group of students that want to both plan and execute all those events for the year.
Well, the good news for schools is that there’s never a shortage of students willing to do that. Many students flock at the chance to sign up for leadership roles, both in clubs that are for leisure and in clubs that aim to have impact. In fact, I’ve even put my name in a for a position or two, including one on the JD-MBA board. I hope I win the vote, because I think I’m a good fit for the role. Similarly, I’ve also done a lot of work already without technically being in the role. It’ll be interesting to see how the results turn out.
But generally, here’s my opinion on club positions. If you’re able to get a lead role in an organization, then you should take it. Landing the role will probably earn you at least a little respect from some of your colleagues, it might also give you more self-confidence as you try to make change, and at times it may give you the status you need to make organizing a bit easier. But at the end of the day, having the title usually doesn’t guarantee any impact. Instead, what guarantees impact is being able to work with other students and finding a way to achieve results together. Because that’s what adds real value to a club and also to any organization.
There’s an old proverb that says: “A good leader is someone who can motivate his colleagues to get things done without making his teammates feel that it was the leader who actually did the work.” What does that mean? Well to me, it means that the best leaders understand the value of teamwork. That a team working together can accomplish more than the sum of its individual parts and that the best teams work well together on a level playing field to achieve their objectives. And in the end, a team is most effective when everyone’s title plays a very small part in that process.
People have been talking a lot more about careers lately. Many business and law school admits are comparing school recruiting stats to make final decisions; many current students are wrapping up the interview process now in hopes for their dream opportunities; and the lucky students have already received offers and are making final decisions for the summer. Given the topic is on everyone’s mind, I thought I’d post a few quick articles that discuss the issue.
See below for the articles. Two come from the WSJ and one is from Forbes.
1) Wall-Street Journal: One from the Wall Street Journal that talks a little about b-school recruiting. While the article focuses more on business school than law school, the theme of recruiting in our new economy and of getting creative in the recruiting process (both students and recruiters) is applicable to us all. The article also gives a quote from Kellogg’s own Sunil Chopra. Click here to read the article.
2) Forbes: Forbes has a interesting article which relates recruiting to dating and talks about themes “like playing hard to get.” Not everyone may agree with all the tactics/advice, but everyone should find it a pretty interesting. Click here to read the article.
3) Wall-Street Journal Blog Post: “Laid Off and Looking” —a WSJ blog — has a good post from someone who had been looking for a job for seven months before landing something. He uses his post to share tips for those who are currently looking. Click here to read his post.
Years ago, when organizations were more dependent on hierarchy and tradition, the good leaders were those who made decisions and demanded that employees follow those decisions. But leading today requires something more. It requires something subtler than the command-and-control style that worked in the past. Instead, modern leaders need to focus on the collective interests of their colleagues.
Embodied in that collective interest is the idea of diversity. Today’s leaders are faced with teams that are becoming more and more diverse. Organizations today are geared a more global culture, and incentives demand innovation without regard for geography or background. Many schools and companies have begun accounting for this trend, recognizing the importance of diverse teams and collaboration, but most still have a long way to go.
Here are Northwestern Law diversity is very important. Not only does Northwestern have one of the most geographically diverse student bodies amongst law schools, but it also has “the highest percentage of racially and ethnically diverse students among top law schools and the JD class is split equally between men and women.”
One reflection of the importance Northwestern places on diversity is Diverse Admit Day. Diverse Admit Day is a two-day event for all admitted diverse students to come check out Northwestern Law. The prospective students attending are usually choosing between Northwestern and other top law schools. This year I happen to know a couple of admits who will be attending. One is a friend from high school in Arizona. He’ll be enrolling in the Accelerated JD (AJD) program. I met another gentleman from California who said he’s be here this weekend. And finally, I’ve traded a few emails with a fellow MLT alum who was admitted into the JD-MBA program here. He found me on my website and I’ll be chatting with him about the program.
I’m glad Northwestern recognizes how important diversity is to America’s long-term success. It’s now time for other schools and for more business and law firms to do the same. In one recent example, Apple — arguably America’s premier company today — is leading that trend, and it recently decided to diversify its Board by naming a woman as its new Lead Director (Click to read). It will be interesting to what other companies will hop on the bandwagon and do the same.
Chicago law firms like Vedder Price, Kirkland & Ellis and Perkins Coie also have a diversity programs in place for students. And banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have the same. I’m a really big fan of the diversity programs, as I think they’re a great ‘first step toward creating more diverse organizations and industries. And just as important, it’s also a way for companies to display it core values as they head into the new decade.
That’s because the best leaders and best companies understand that values are important. These are leaders who understand that long-term results are more important than short term profits and so they steer organizations to think critically about their values before making any business decisions. And in the end, these are the companies that will lead. And not only will they change the industries but they will also change the world.
How bad did law school graduates have it in 2009? This is the question everyone’s been wondering. But now we finally have a little data to shed some light on the situation. The National Law Journal‘s annual Go-To Law School List recently came out with its 2010 rankings of with the highest percentage of law school graduates hired by firms (NLJ 250 law). The bad news is that the No. 1 school sent less than 56% to NLJ 250 law firms (down from 71%). But, for Northwestern, there’s at least a little good news.
Just yesterday at Northwestern, we received an email from Dean Van Zandt. His message was to inform everyone about the survey and about our top spot on the list. Rankings aside, it’s good to know that the Dean and career center are doing there best to do well in today’s tough legal market. I suspect and hope that in 2011, the percentages will be a lot better for everyone. I guess we’ll see how things ultimately play out.
Here is a small piece of the Dean’s message below.
“I am pleased to share that Northwestern Law holds the No. 1 spot. This is the third consecutive year that we have ranked in the top 5 (we were 5th in 2008 and 2nd in 2007).
The list of “go-to” schools was compiled from recruiting information that law firms provided on the 2009 NLJ 250, the National Law Journal’s annual survey of the nation’s largest law firms. As the article indicates, 2009 saw a definite decline in first-year associate employment at the nation’s 250 largest law firms, so the percentages are down across the board this year.
While the difficult economy continues to present immediate challenges to students hitting the job market, our placement in the top spot on this list is a testament to our strong reputation. This is the second time this year that we have been ranked No. 1 in an employment-based ranking. In the fall, Princeton Review ranked Northwestern Law No. 1 for Best Career Prospects.”
For reference, the top 15 law schools are (percent hired by NLJ 250 in parentheses):
1. Northwestern Law (55.9)
2. Columbia Law School (54.4)
3. Stanford Law School (54.1)
4. University of Chicago (53.1)
5. University of Virginia (52.8)
6. University of Michigan (51)
7. University of Pennsylvania (50.8)
8. New York University (50.1)
9. University of California, Berkeley (50)
10. Duke Law School (49.8)
11. Harvard (47.6)
12. Vanderbilt (47.1)
13. Georgetown (42.8)
14. Cornell (41.5)
15. University of Southern California (41.3)
Also for reference, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog makes mention of our ranking. To read the full story, click here”
The MBA admissions process has long been considered by some to be a black box. Some define it that way because of its unpredictability. And others for its perceived inconsistency and secrecy. But despite its mysterious reputation, one thing is pretty certain, there usually isn’t a “right” answer or “single” answer to most questions anyhow. Instead admissions teams look at applications holistically. They seek out nuances most of us don’t consider. They interesting analyze trends and patterns. They can spot inconsistencies from a mile away. And they give credibility to the intangible things that many of us might overlook.
The good news is that things have changed a bit over the past few years. Admissions information has become more accessible and the internet has made it far easier to gain access to critical pieces of admissions statistics that we look for. In less than a second, a well-crafted google search can get you just about anything you need, from past interview questions, to average scores at schools, to employment and pay information. But some questions still remain ambiguous, like the one from my reader who asked whether attending Kellogg’s BMA conference this year would influence her chances of admission. Check out our exchange below!
My question is in reference to the Kellogg BMA conference that is coming up. Do you see attendance to this conference as significantly beneficial to prospective students (looking to apply this fall)?
Thanks so much for your question and for reading my blog. As I mentioned in my introduction above, most questions don’t have a single answer, and I personally think that this question fits into that category. For the benefit of all the readers out there who might be pondering a similar question, I’ll try to break the question down both broadly and specific to your case.
But before I get into the answer, I’d like to point out to all my readers that the BMA Conference is a great event that not only gets a really good turnout every year but also tends to draw some pretty big name speakers and panelists. This year Soledad O’Brien (from CNN) has agreed to head to campus and help kick-off the event by chatting with some students and professors on Wednesday. Click here for the full conference agenda.
Now to respond to your question — On the surface, I’d say a attending conferences here at Kellogg, or at any school for that matter, will not be seen as a significant factor in your application. I can’t speak personally about what goes on in the minds of AdCom members when they’re making final decisions on candidates, but as I’ve alluded to in a number of posts before, admissions decisions are rarely made on the basis of one data point. I suspect this is especially true about data points that don’t give the committees more information about you. So I’d speculate that it’s pretty unlikely that an admissions decision would hinge on your attendance at the conference. You can also think about it numerically — consider the number of admits that get into Kellogg every single year but never come to a conference, and never even considered coming. I suspect that number must be huge. That said, I don’t think you should make up your mind so quickly. My perspective is that the decision is not quite that simple.
I think the real answer to this question is it depends. Because depending on how you’d frame the question of “what is beneficial” to you could easily change your answer. Is it most important for you to visit and learn about Kellogg? Do you want to get a better feel for the culture? Do you want to learn about the curriculum? Or are you looking to show the admissions committee you’re really interested? As I like to emphasize in nearly all of my posts, it’s my opinion that people far too often expect answers to be binary and they hope for solutions that will add tangible value to their profiles. But it often turns out that it’s more important to consider a broader range of possible benefits, some that often pay off in the longer term. I think that this also holds true for your question.
For example, in my opinion these conferences are a great way to meet smart and high-potential people — students and alumni — who were once in your shoes. Consider the possibilities that come with that. It’s quite possible you’ll make a really great connection, maybe a mentor, maybe someone who has good advice about the essays or general process, or maybe just a good friend. Or perhaps you’ll stumble across that one hidden jewel of information you didn’t know you were looking for. The gem that helps your bring your application story together and leads you to the promise land of better articulating your career passion.
A conference might also be the gateway to finally catch a live snapshot of the school’s culture. In fact, I just wrote a post earlier today where I raved for pages about Kellogg’s culture. And while I’d definitely be grateful if you continue to read my posts, there’s definitely no substitute for watching things happen real-time. Another thing I also said in my that post is that the MBA world can start to feel pretty small sometimes. So if you’re definitely set on applying to programs this year, then there’s the chance you may see some of the others again, even if you didn’t end up deciding to come to Kellogg.
To give you a little background about me, I personally made a trip or two to Kellogg while I was applying. And fortunately, I was able to meet a lot of really great people on my trips. On my first trip, I met a second year student — she ironically happened to be my class host — who I connected with right away during class, and it just so happened we kept in touch as I applied. And although she was a couple of years ahead of me, and is currently living the good life out in New York City, we still chat regularly and sometimes meet up when she’s here in the windy city.
That said, I’ll stress that I didn’t visit Kellogg with the singular goal of finding a resource. Instead, I came to experience campus, gather information, and meet lots of people. And that I definitely did. That said, I suspect that most people who visit probably have very different experiences, but I do believe that anyone who visits campus and is intent on gathering information about the school will usually be able to find what they’re looking for.
Sound like a lot to consider? I think so too. But in the end, the “tangible” benefit will be more correlated to what you make of the experience than it is of your actual attendance. And so you’ll have to balance all these potential benefits with the costs that you’d incur by coming and then decide if it’s worth it for you. And for some people it won’t be. And so my only “actual” piece of advice is just to consider everything on both sides (costs and benefits) and do what makes the most sense for you.
And, like I said before, the good news is that your attendance shouldn’t make or break your application. So try not to stress too much about it. But if you do decide to register, then the sooner the better, so you can take advantage of the early bird discount. Good luck with your decision!