By Bradley Honan, CEO
This past summer, KRC had a truly fantastic class of summer interns. I believe that we’re able to consistently find great interns because we offer them an experience that is much more rewarding than just photocopying or going on coffee runs. Instead, we have our interns dive headfirst into the actual work that we do for our clients. In the last year, two interns have written a blog about their experience at KRC – check them out here and here!
Before they returned to campus, a number of them asked for my guidance about how they could make the most of their senior year and beyond. I have taken some time to reflect on that and wanted to pass along some thoughts.
1. Go Broad with your Education
I believe that no matter what industry you plan to work in or what you plan to do, a liberal arts degree is the best way to go because it exposes you to a broad spectrum of ideas, thoughts, and cultural nuances. Liberal arts teaches you how to think, and believe me, you will be a more well-rounded person and citizen because of it. In no uncertain terms, I learned as much in American History, Oceanography, Western Civilization, and Russian Literature as I did from Business Statistics or Survey Research and Analysis classes. Liberal arts taught me how to interpret and synthesize information – invaluable skills in every industry, no matter what you want to do. In fact, it is those very liberal arts courses that make up the backbone of skills I use every day in the work I do for our clients.
2. Writing, Writing, and More Writing
Even, and perhaps especially, in a 140-character world, I cannot overemphasize the importance of compelling and persuasive writing. Not only do employers like me look for this skill first, but most value it above all others. In fact, good writing can spell the difference between candidates for a KRC position getting an offer and getting passed over. The steps to hone this skill are simple – write and then write some more. Write as much as possible and put yourself in positions where this will be asked of you, whether that be professionally or academically. I believe that just like going to the gym trains your body, writing trains your communication skills and your thinking.
3. Chase your Dreams, Not a Paycheck
I know this is much easier said than done but try not to trade happiness for money when job hunting, regardless of student debt, living costs, or outside pressure. Remember that no matter what career path you choose, you must invest a substantial amount of time into your job to be successful. Since you’re going to be putting long hours into whatever you do, a big pay check isn’t worth it if you’re unhappy. A close friend of mine decided to chase a six-figure salary as a Wall Street trader after college, but his lack of interest combined with horrendously long hours has left him miserable. His life sure looks lavish when he hosts a party, but I doubt he would recommend you follow in his footsteps.
4. Take Charge of Your Career
It would certainly be nice if our career paths were laid out for us on a silver platter but unfortunately that is never the case. Today, it’s well documented that the average corporation fails to invest in their employees’ futures and workers frequently hop between jobs – so make no mistake about it, the Human Resources department isn’t going to outline your career for you. Your career is what you make of it, so take destiny into your own hands by actively seeking out and seizing opportunities.
5. Intellectual Curiosity is Key
To succeed today you have to be intellectually curious. Every day, I try to ask questions, explore possibilities, and ‘look around the corner’ – you should too! Don’t take projects and assignments at face value, but seek out the potential within them to excel and find something new by really trying to innovate and pursue excellence. As Robert Kennedy said, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” You should always try to ask the same thing.
6. Your IQ is Set in Stone, Your Work Ethic is Not
You’ve got the genes you’re born with, so while you can’t necessarily ‘get smarter,’ I challenge you to always strive to work harder. You may not be able to outsmart the competition (or your peers), but you sure can out work them. Especially during your early years, why wouldn’t you approach your work with a deep sense of commitment, dedication, and a winning attitude? By doing so, you’ll also be surprised how fast you move ahead from your peer set. I know because I did it.
7. Consulting Offers Boundless Professional Possibilities
Client-facing consulting professions expose you to a variety of industries across all sectors of the economy. I believe that KRC exemplifies this opportunity to gain an understanding of the broader marketplace by allowing you to interact with all sorts of companies and organizations at multiple levels. Especially for those of you who are unsure of what you want to do after graduation, it’s much easier to find your personal career interests within this broad foundation.
8. Read and Understand the Context
Whether you are trading commodities, interpreting the climate of public opinion, or advising a startup, context is king (so is “content” by the way!). I believe that reading about a diversity of subjects is vital to your personal development – whether it’s books, newspapers, or magazines read from print, tablet, or smartphone. It may not seem like it at the time, but I can’t tell you how many times the information in some random Washington Post article that I read provided context for future client work. The same is true of something on the Drudge Report or in pop culture. Whether the story is about something as serious (and maybe mundane) as military exercises in the South China Sea or something as seemingly trivial as bee pollination, everything that you read will more likely than not come in handy at some point. You can never be too well read!
9. Seek Out Interesting Speakers and Events
I’m always amazed at the people that I’ve been able to meet and speak with at conferences and lectures just because I was in attendance and eager to socialize – in fact I write this as I set out to attend a great conference. Seek out events and speakers that interest you and be engaged. You’ll be surprised at the conversations that you’ll be able to have and the people that you’ll be having them with, especially if you have the chance to chat in an intimate setting with a leader in a profession that you want to pursue. It will open your eyes in ways you may not anticipate or suspect.
10. Find a Mentor
No matter how smart you are or what stage you’re at in your career, there will always be someone that you can look up to and learn from. Find someone that fits this bill and when you do, make sure to put effort into cultivating your relationship with him or her. Most people are willing and even eager to pass along their wisdom and experiences to someone who is keen to learn from them – if you make the effort, you will often be repaid by more times than you can count.