The concept ‘Snagging six figures’ was created after we had readers writing in asking for advice about how to use their degree and current job skills to launch into a different industry or career. We know that no one career story is the same, but telling the stories of others can challenge, inspire and shape your own. We are asking every interview the same five questions:
- Why they picked their course
- Their course experience
- Their first job
- What they learnt
- Their next step
- And their advice
Why I picked my course:
I did a double degree with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Commerce. I picked it because I loved history at school and knew that politics would include modern history themes. Though, my parents were worried about me leaving university with an arts degree alone, so I went for the double.
The course experience:
The arts side:
The purpose of studying politics is about understanding the forces that interact people, communities and businesses. It is incredibly interesting and I think that understanding that is far more valuable than just for a career in politics.
For example, I learnt what kind of policy and politics mediates our relationship with China, the United States or Europe and then how this impacts upon investment decisions for businesses.
Another example, I did a subject where we looked at the root of the problem in the Middle East and how this effects businesses and trade and politics. In my opinion, political science cares about questions that we don’t often hear about in our everyday life, but that underpin everything we do.
The commerce side:
I found commerce the perfect partner to my arts degree, because I learnt the technical knowledge that supported the social political theory. (Sorry that sounds so wordy). I majored in Commercial Law. Which is pretty niche, but within this umbrella you learn about tax law, employment law, mergers and acquisitions. I found this more interesting that finance or economics; but if I did my time again I think that a finance major would have been stronger.
I wouldn’t recommend studying political science as an isolated degree. Personally, I think specialisation will limit you in finding a job once you finish university.
My first job: Deloitte Private in ‘Profit Focus’
Consulting is one of the most exclusive industries with some of the toughest interviews in the world. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. Most people go into banking or a second tier accounting firm with the goal to get into consulting 5 or 6 years into their degree. I thought this job was the best way in.
To get a job you need to go via the grad program, which in my opinion, is absolutely impossible to successfully navigate if you haven’t done a summer internship with them. Though, HR will disagree with me…
Go to summer internship event lunches, stall shows and expos at university and meet the people there. Often the people they send to these events are the ones that will interview you on the panel.
It wasn’t till I finished university and applied for my role at Deloitte that I realised the value of my analytical skills and world knowledge that I developed in this degree. The Arts element has given me the most valuable foundation for addressing real world problems outside of theory.
Anyway, post degree and in my graduate role interview I told them that my double degree in arts and commerce was kind of like a marriage between the old and new; giving me context to business decisions of the past and a practical understanding of business functions – and I told them that I had chosen the degree specifically for that reason. HUGE TIP: Do not tell anyone that your degree combination or choice was ‘just because,’ you need to sell your interviewer in that you’ve always planned to get this job in the end; and that every internship or work experience step was an considered tactic to get there.
Case interviews are also part of the process. They give you a scenario and you answer it to a panel. The interviewer will provide an overview of a ‘client’ and a ‘problem’. The overview will contain crucial hints and information that you need. I think something to remember is that they aren’t going to include any detail that isn’t relevant, so each point they mention is considered, and therefore relevant. Next, you ask some questions. Do you have anything you need to clarify? I think you should ask a question, because it gives you time to think.
Then immediately point to the area of analysis that you’ll like to start for. Do not wait for the interviewer to prompt you with “Where would you like to start?,” Choose an area that is more general (eg. market sizing) or that get right to the heart of the issue (eg. for a case that is exploring profit decline, and your hunch is that it’s a revenue issue vs. a cost issue, start off with revenue). At this point your interviewer will present you more information, especially data. Then you just chat for awhile.
What I learnt:
From the interview:
There is a maths component to the scenario that they give you. But keep in mind that 99% of the time, the math will be simple but it can frazzle you. Mistakes are ok, but make sure you sanity check your answer. Just make sure that it makes sense in the context of the case. This means that you’re not saying that the market size for smartphones is 3 billions individuals in Australia or that the average phone bill is $10. Use your common sense!
From my graduate job:
My graduate time was really, really beneficial. But the environment is tough. There are a lot of people keen to prove themselves. I look back now and wish that I hadn’t of thought asking questions would be seen as ‘keen to learn’. I think that’s a bit transparent. People had told me that being seen was an important part of moving up – which is true – but I think people that manage their work privately and quietly are more popular with senior staff.
Something that I also learnt, which I think is relevant to every single graduate in any industry is that, “blowing someone else’s candle out doesn’t make yours shine brighter”. In that – putting someone’s work down is transparent, let the staff above you make the decision.
My next step:
I was working across a business restructuring project for the first year. Basically it was our job to work out how a business would operate overseas. On one side it was really, really numbers heavy. While on the other side there were lots of interviews with staff working there – collecting their opinions, summarising this into reports.
After two years there I wanted to move client side. Primarily because I started to doubt the role of consultancy in a big a business. I felt like I was working in research rather than in business, but I know this is just because I was junior. I wanted to get into banking, but I had a commercial law major and a politics degree.
Advice for getting into banking without a finance degree:
I decided that my skills would best work in banking compliance. But what I learnt is that no one really questions your objective to move from consultancy to client side. Moving from banking to consultancy and vice versa is actually really common.
What is compliance? Compliance officers in banks match the company’s goals and culture with business law and competitors. Basically, they make sure that business dealings are ethical and legal, but also are responsible for educating the entire company about compliance. This was good next step from consultancy, actually really initiative.
There was a job on linkedin for a compliance manager, which I was under qualified for, but I reached out to the HR team contact in the job posting with my resume asking for some advice to get into this area. She actually offered to get coffee with me and chatted to me about a more junior position in the compliance team that I would be qualified for.
Consultancy and banking is absolutely NOT a career that you can ‘fall into,’ unless you are relying on nepotism. You need to be networking, applying for internships and summer programs from the time you leave university. You also need to be getting distinctions at university.
If you are reading this at 24 and think, “I have no hope,” – my experience is just from Sydney. I am not to sure if it is as competitive to get your foot in the door in other locations. Maybe try there, and try transfer back.