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Wise Counsel Sought

#1 Wise Counsel Sought
28/02/2006 18:06


Ladies & Gentleman,

An issue that the board might potentially be able to resolve.

I recently graduated from Oxford with a BA (for which I obtained a high 2.1) and a Masters (narrowly missed distinction). I hail from the colonies and attended Oxford by way of a Rhodes Scholarship having already obtained a BA (Hons) degree (with distinction). My academic record in general is outstanding and I have been extensively and very successfully involved in extra-mural activities along the way. The only blot on my copybook is that my school leaver's results were not particularly good being roughly equivalent to around 260 UCAS points. I have very good personal/family-related reasons for this and my academic record before and since has been exemplary culminating, as I say, in my being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. I had thought that this would not be a problem but when it came to applying for jobs 18 months ago I failed to get interviews with any of the consulting firms to which I applied. I consequently applied to industry-type positions and after receiving several offers accepted one with a major oil/energy firm. I have been here for nearly a year but for various reasons am still very keen to move into consulting.

My question to the board is, am I wasting my time? Will the HR peeps always bin my application because of sub-par school leavers results from (shock, horror) a non-British/US/European educational authority. I am very surprised that this is an issue (Oxford/Rhodes being pretty decent CV material) but apparently it is. Do I just resign myself to my fate and get used to the idea of not being a consultant?

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#2 Re: Wise Counsel Sought
28/02/2006 19:06

Upenyu Giles Chihota

Very sad indeed. I have personally worked with consultants in Europe. Its all hype. With an oxbridge education, there is no ethical reason why you should be denied a job in consultancy. It has more to do with your being African. It's the continent where you come from which matters. Consultants in the UK would rather employee non English speaking whites than Black Africans. That is the sad truth. Keep searching and questing in case you come across a few companies well rooted in corporate conscience and wont consider the colour of your skin or nationality. I have personally given up!! The moment you write African as your nationality, you're gone. Try the Americans, at least they are not too hypocritical.

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#3 Re: Wise Counsel Sought
28/02/2006 22:33


There is absolutely no reason why you can't make it with your record. Keep trying. If you cant get a grad position in a big firm, look to some smaller ones or Blue chip in a related field to that you want to consult in to get on the ladder. Gd luck

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#4 Re: Wise Counsel Sought
01/03/2006 16:30


Rick...Bottom line...We are talking about the accommodation of excellence...The 'grand malaise' in the business world today is the demand for template compliance and the quest for certainty (non-existant of course)that precludes the thinking and subjectivity that should precede objective consideration for any given position...Be sonar, ping your message...if you dont get an answering ping that satisfies you...bolt! Dont second guess yourself!

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#5 Re: Wise Counsel Sought
01/03/2006 16:46


Roger...."demand for template compliance" Sarbanes Oxley ruining your world?

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#6 Re: Wise Counsel Sought
01/03/2006 17:26


Rick - it sounds like you have been applying to the major consultancies as they are the only ones that look at that much detail. The problem with the UCAS points is that Grad recruiters purely look at measures like that as they get 1000's of responses and need a quick easy measure to shortlist people (some of the accountancy firms still use it as their is a historic correlation between A-Level results and ACA exam results and the criteria has just never been dropped).

You've got 3 options. 1. Apply to the smaller consultancies that only look at Grad education or above. 2. Wait another year (maybe 6 months) and apply through the Experienced Hire route where School results no longer matter. 3. Use your Oxbridge network to get around the Grad Recruiters and get referred internally. I was at ACN in recruitment and the Grad team often got CV's from Partners of Graduates with average academics but with the message "you will interview this person and you will hire them because (either) they have been referred by X (or) their father is CEO of Y".

I'm not justifying any of the above - but that's the way the world works!

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#7 Re: Wise Counsel Sought
01/03/2006 18:00


Thanks for the response.

I understand why recruiters do it but it is still galling to fall foul of a system which seems so inflexible. Nevertheless, I am taking steps (along the lines that you mentioned) to try and save the situation. Though it disgusts me to have to do it, I’ll be contacting my College to get hold of a list of old-members who’ve gone into Consulting and who’re likely to take a sympathetic view of my story and pressure HR depts to at least grant me an interview (which is all I want – after that I stand or fall on my own merits).

The most irritating thing is that I come into day-to-day contact with consultants from a number of the big firms (working for my company on a major project) and none of them is head and shoulders above me in any important respect.

Anyway, thanks to all for advice and responses. This is something that I’ve wanted to get off my chest for some time.

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#8 Re: Hey DD
01/03/2006 18:57


Someone gets it....!! Yes, by default...the timid have come into their own hiding behind rules and rgulations...all hailed as people who "get it"...the tyranny of the weak....I am an independent and look for like minded interaction...Works for me...

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#9 Re: Wise Counsel Sought
02/03/2006 02:11


try Mckinsey direct....I know for sure they know the value of a Rhodes scholar...As for the rest...maybe your excellence is what puts them off? As I said earlier...dont let inferior people make you doubt yourself....

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#10 Re: Wise Counsel Sought
02/03/2006 17:06


Hi - I was a McKinsey consultant for 3 years before VC and have worked with a few people in your situation, both now and before. My three cents are:

1 - Go for the top strat houses, forget the process orientated volume places. The McKs, Bains and others truly, truly value distinctiveness. If you have a distinctive background, personality and set of experiences you will shine and you will be hired.

2 - Forget HR and the world of strange process they inhabit. Do not as they do confuse distinctiveness - which should be treasured - with diversity - which is unfortunately a "people commitment" box ticking exercise. If you are in any recruitment process where you are shuffled around in HR purgatory then forget it and move on. You don't want to be the first amongst equals when all your equals have the values of middle management. Also lots of man made fibres I've noticed. Unfair, I know, but so true.

3 - If you really, really believe that you are failing because you are black then send in a CV in which it may be harder to place you, get an interview and then MAKE SURE you have met a partner before you turn up. If you are bright you'll work out how to do this, and how to make a good impression. No process drone will give you the drop kick if you can artfully imply some patronage. And don't feel that you are somehow scraping the barrel by calling up contacts. Its networking and its the way the world works. What do you think people 10 years out of Harvard or Stanford or Insead value most about their experience?

Good luck and do not give up.

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#11 Re: Hey Cardbloke
02/03/2006 17:52


I like your message....! so relevant today ....

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