Emory Report

May 18, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 32

Smith & Smith brought
consulting know-how to campus

Jason Smith and Geoff Smith have more in common than the same last name and the fact that they were both transfer students, business majors, slightly older than traditional seniors (Jason is 27, Geoff is 24) and heading into promising jobs following graduation.

During their junior year, Geoff and Jason cofounded the Undergraduate Consulting Club (UCC). "We were doing so much research into the consulting business, we knew other people would be interested in this information, too," said Boston native Geoff. "I knew we would give others a head start."

While conducting research for jobs, the two realized that consulting companies have stepped up their undergraduate recruiting significantly, said Jason, who transferred to the business school from Brevard College in Cocoa, Fla. "We saw that there were a number of other undergraduates interested in the consulting industry."

This evolved into the idea of bringing together students and advisers to properly research companies and prepare for the interview process. Emory's MBA Consulting Club helped lay the groundwork for the undergraduate club. From there, Geoff and Jason identified contacts in the field, "almost cold-calling," according to Geoff. "We told them we didn't know that much about consulting and asked if they could talk to us for a minute. They were amazingly receptive."

Patrick Noonan, associate professor of decision and information analysis and director of MBA programs, became a UCC adviser. When Geoff and Jason approached Noonan and other professors about advising the club, "they sold us," Noonan said. "A consulting club can build up a library of information about the firm, [provide a network] of contacts and build a level of awareness and understanding. This results in students with a high level of preparation that makes them shine in interviews."

"It's difficult for [recent graduates] to get jobs even if they are prepared academically," Noonan added. "The MBA Consulting Club has played an important role in getting students to be more competitive. We want to make sure they are prepared from day one. Students who succeed have a sophistication about them-knowing the consulting industry and the firms in the industry."

This is exactly the approach Jason and Geoff took to form the undergraduate club. "We worked to build great relationships with the undergraduate recruiters in area firms," Jason said. In addition, they established a bank of networking contacts that can help other students get a foot in the door.

The club's first meeting in the spring of 1997 was well-received by both students and faculty. One of the first goals was to increase awareness of the club within the college; any Emory undergraduate-not just business majors-can join. Membership now fluctuates between 40 and 50 students.

In the fall of 1997, Jason and Geoff hosted a workshop that focused on topics such as writing a targeted resume, researching companies, networking and interviewing techniques, especially case-based interviewing. "We invited consultants and alumni to share their knowledge and experience with club members," Jason said. Representatives from Andersen Consulting conducted mock interviews.

Although the club meets twice a month, Geoff and Jason tried to make themselves available anytime to students who needed advice. "A few have approached me in the hall and said, 'I have an interview for a summer internship; what do I need to know?'"

Their own networking and research efforts have paid off. Both seniors will soon join Atlanta's Kurt Salmon Associates, a global retailing and consumer products consulting firm. Jason will work in the advanced technology division and Geoff in the strategic division.

But their graduation doesn't mean Jason and Geoff will leave the club they started out to dry. "We are concentrating now on taking a couple of juniors up to speed to take the club over next year," Jason said earlier this year. And now that they've left Emory, the two Smiths plan to serve as consultants to the club.

How appropriate.

-Laurie Aucoin

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