Recruiting Series: Tips on Navigating the Consulting Path
Inside Kellogg recently connected with Elena Seligson (2Y 2021) to hear her recruiting journey in consulting, the resources she leveraged along the way and how she’s paying it forward by supporting First-Year Kellogg MBA students as they begin the recruiting process in consulting.
Tell me about your professional journey leading up to Kellogg.
If you asked the undergraduate version of myself whether she ever saw herself going to business school, she would have given you a look that said, “you must be crazy.” Majoring in linguistics and minoring in women and gender studies and studio art, I loved learning and thought I would pursue a career in academia or with a non-profit. But when graduation came around, I opted for a job at Epic Systems, a market-leading healthcare software company whose first words of its mission were, “Do Good.” It felt like the right fit.
During my time at Epic, I had the opportunity to work with a variety of health systems from all over the country, understanding their operational needs and partnering with them to implement our software. My work for much of my time at Epic was focused on the hospital revenue cycle, which gave me a front row view into the inefficiencies and complexities of our country’s current reimbursement system. When I moved into a director role, I got the opportunity to partner directly with leadership from a safety-net hospital serving its city’s most vulnerable population. I was inspired by the work they did in their community and the way they were able to do so much with so little funding. My experience working with that health system got me thinking about my next career steps, and with my liberal arts educational background, I knew an MBA would help round out my skillset and position me for a career transition — one where I could stay focused on healthcare but in a different and more strategic capacity.
What led you to pursue the consulting path? How did you determine it was right for you?
When I got to Kellogg, I knew I was interested in healthcare, but hadn’t yet decided whether I would recruit for consulting. After talking to Second-Years and learning more about the post-MBA consulting path, I realized that a career in consulting, especially one with opportunities in healthcare, would help me hone and continue to develop my business skillset, building on what I learned at Kellogg. From my experience in my previous role at Epic, I knew I enjoyed working with clients and that I thrived in a team setting. I also recognized the thought leadership opportunities available at many of the consulting firms that recruit at Kellogg, and knew I might have the opportunity to get involved with projects focused on my long-term goals in healthcare.
From the moment you chose to recruit for consulting, how did you prepare for the internship recruiting process? What resources did you leverage?
I would not have been successful without the incredible support of the Kellogg community. From the very first day, my KWEST leader, who had also recruited for consulting as a First-Year, made it clear he would support me through the entire process, offering me and my fellow KWESTies time to discuss even the most basic questions we had about the recruiting process, like preparing for a coffee chat and how to approach a group conversation during company presentations. It wasn’t just second years though who were instrumental in helping me to prepare. I also got together with a group of other first years to set up a mini support group where we rotated casing each other each week, bounced questions off of each other, and hosted small group dinners to relax and support each other outside of the regular recruiting exercises. Having that support group was not only tactically important in helping me prepare, but also vital in helping me keep perspective and manage my recruiting stress. The importance of both of these support systems is what has led me to be a Career Peer (a student leadership position within the Career Management Center which provides tactical recruiting support to peers) and an Interview Prep Group leader for this year’s First-Year class, and to host an informal prep group with the First-Years from my KWEST group. I know how important this type of support is to recruiting success, and I’m committed to reinvesting in the community that had such an impact on my own success.
What was the interview process like? Successes? Learnings?
Tough! The hardest part about the interview process for consulting is the mental stamina it requires. Interviews for different firms happen on back-to-back days, and even at the same firm you may have 3-4 case and behavioral interview segments in a row. The key to successfully navigating this aspect of the process is by developing the ability to “leave it all in the (metaphorical) room.” Being able to reset and start each interview as if it was the first of the week, without the emotional baggage of how you performed previously, is paramount to giving each interview your best effort. I practiced this skill ahead of interviews by setting up a “super day” with other First-Years, where we cased each other in succession, emulating a real interview day. Knowing ahead of time how that felt, and what I needed to do in order to approach each case with fresh eyes, helped me be successful, remain calm and give each interview my best once it was game time. I was lucky enough to intern this summer with Boston Consulting Group in Chicago this summer as a result.
What are your plans for a full-time position?
I’m going back to BCG full time. My summer at BCG validated the reasons why I had chosen to recruit for consulting. I got the chance to work on an R&D project for a major pharmaceutical company, and immediately began using the strategic thinking and analytical skills I had gained during my first year at Kellogg. I was lucky to work on a case with a group of coworkers who were incredibly supportive, welcoming, and invested in my success and learning for the summer. Outside of casework, I was paired with a sponsor in my office who specializes in the type of healthcare work I’m interested in diving more deeply into. After a really positive summer experience, I’m excited to return to BCG full time after I graduate.
Any advice you’d give to First-Years who are considering consulting or preparing to recruit for consulting?
There are so many aspects of the recruiting process I could touch on, but my top three pieces of advice would be to:
1) Take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. The consulting process is long and can be stressful. The best way to prepare yourself to perform at your best is by making sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy meals and schedule time for yourself to do things that make you happy, like exercising or catching up with friends and family.
2) Create a support system of other Kellogg students (including other First-Years!) that you can rely on to help keep each other focused, prepared and calm. Supporting each other is a hallmark of Kellogg’s culture — lean into it here!
3) Most importantly, bring your genuine self to the recruiting process. With so many people recruiting for consulting, the best way to stand out is by being yourself and remembering that the person on the other side of the table (or Zoom) —whether it’s in a coffee chat, small group event, or interview — is just another person. Being yourself will help you form authentic connections.