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Changing Course, Following Your Passion

By Katie Wooliver

March 16, 2017

At four years old, the choice was settled: I would become a professional basketball player.  A few months later, however, and I had come to my senses and rationalized a more attainable career goal - the front desk girl for the pool.  After a brief conviction to one day be Sporty Spice of the Spice girls, I decided I wanted to be a doctor (much to the relief of my parents).  This time, the vision stuck. Fueled by a love of math and science and the desire to help others, I worked toward my goal. When I entered college at Northwestern, I elected to study Biomedical Engineering, which fulfilled my math and science requirements, and hopefully would give me an edge over other medical school applicants.  Although school was often challenging, I pushed myself to stick with it and grind it out –with each passing year, I was getting closer and closer to my childhood goal. 

The beginning of my senior year, however, taught me the value of thinking outside and allowing myself to chart another course.  A last minute pivot can be difficult, but keeping your passions at the forefront of your decision making will allow you to be confident in the choices you make. 

I had organized my class schedule to complete the remaining pre-med courses and take the MCAT in the spring.  I was set.  Yet, something didn’t feel right.  I began to have serious reservations about the path I had laid out for myself.  When I spoke to my friends that were on the same course as me, they were all gung ho about applying to medical school and committing the next four years to school, a few more years to residency, and topping it off with a couple years for a specialty.  At one point in life, being a doctor was all I saw myself doing, but for the first time since grade school I was questioning my dream. 

For a few weeks I wrestled with this in my mind.  Why was I feeling this way now?  What would my parents and peers think if I changed my mind in the eleventh hour?  What would I do with my life if I did not become a doctor?  I know now that these questions are common for seniors preparing to leave college and enter the real world.  But at the time, these questions really daunted me.  For so many years I had a one-track mind about what I would do with my future.  I hadn’t explored anything else.  I think at the core, it was the fact that I didn’t really know what else was out there for me that made me nervous about throwing myself full force into medical school.  I needed to start exploring. 

It was a difficult decision to steer away from the goal to become a doctor, but ultimately the right path for me became clear when I found DaVita.  My work on integrated care with DaVita allows me to fulfill my childhood passion of providing care to others while providing me the opportunity to explore healthcare from another angle and exercise my talents in a way I hadn’t thought of before.  I learned that when I pushed myself to look beyond, my passion still lied with healthcare, but my end goal took a different shape. 

It is okay to change course, but keep your passion as your North Star. 

As you think about making the transition from college to the real world, keep your mind open to the possibilities that are out there, but stay true to what drives you.  At the end of the day, if you enter a field you are passionate about, your work will be stronger, your days will be more fulfilling, and ‘adulting’ will be better than you ever imagined. 

Katie WooliverKatie is an Analyst on the Pioneer Team at DaVita, an operations and innovation team that operates similar to an internal consultancy. Katie earned her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University, Class of 2015.

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How to Write Your Elevator Pitch to Include College and Work Life

By Danni Ondraskova

March 9, 2017

I have spent the last few days working on short essays and cover letters, which I will refer to here synonymously as elevator pitches, for my various summer applications. During that time, I learned a lot about systematic mistakes I had been making in my writing, gleaned some great tips from mentors on how to avoid these pitfalls, and applied them to my work, seeing great improvements in just a few drafts. Through the course of this blog post, I hope to be able to pass some of them to you, enable you to write better elevator pitches, and help you get closer to the career outcomes you desire.

For many who are applying for jobs and internships for the first time, the “elevator pitch” is an oft-heard dreaded phrase that elicits feelings of anxiety, fear, and general unhappiness. Many people wonder how you can possibly describe your background and particularly your academic achievements and career experience in as little as thirty spoken seconds or two written paragraphs. The task can be even more daunting if you are sure you have found that dream job or internship and know that the written portion of your applications marks the thin line between an offer and a rejection. Some reasonably point to low admissions rates in the single digits and ask how much they can actually do in their application to distinguish themselves from others in the crowd. While these blog post does not promise to be a panacea, I think you will be able to be able to better strategize how to approach the college and work life elements of your elevator pitch if you read the next few paragraphs. 

First, I encourage you to sit down somewhere quiet with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper. Spend five minutes writing down everything you know about yourself: where you come from, what fascinates you, your most formative academic and career experiences, and so on. When those five minutes are up, you will hopefully have a lot to work with.

My mentor gave me a funny metaphor for me to visualize the next step.

He asked me, “What are your favorite fruits?”

“Apples, oranges, and bananas,” I replied.

His point (and your next step!) is that you need to organize your arguments and sub arguments in threes because the human mind is best at processing items in that quantity. Try to have one paragraph dealing with your background and initial interest, another on your academic achievements, and a third on your career achievements, for example. Think about how to best categorize your different kinds of “fruit” and then think about the order of the paragraphs themselves (or, if you are like me, do these steps in the opposite order).

Finally, I encourage you to imagine yourself sitting on the other side of the table as the recruiter. Look through your internship job description. Formulate a series of criteria about the kind of applicant you want and write them down. I did something similar for a policy internship below.

Criteria for policy internship:

1. Is she likable?
2. Will she do a great job?
3. Does she have a good, clear rationale for wanting the job?
4. Will she be professional and does she demonstrate a good writing ability?
5. Is she reliable?
6. Does she demonstrate attention to detail?

Once you come up with your 5-10 questions, reread your elevator pitch and go through each question one by one. Strive to answer every question; you will have your final draft done when you have done so. Before you send an important application or make that elevator pitch in person, be sure to practice with your mentor and have him or her offer you tips.


Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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Top Tips: How to Ace Your Interview, Part 2

By Siyu Wu

February 16, 2017

Earlier this week, I gave a general overview of different types of interview formats and questions. This time around, we’ll go into more detail about interviews – how to set yourself apart from other candidates before, during, and even after the interview. Here are ten key tips to keep in mind for acing your interview.

1. Do your research

Doing research and studying in advance of an interview not only ensures that you’ll know how to answer any question you get, but also will make you feel and seem more confident! So, what exactly should you research? You want to feel comfortable answering basic technical questions specific to the position and industry. This not only encompasses equations or models relevant to the field, but also recent trends in the industry. You also should be able to speak to your own experiences and know how to talk about them in the context of behavioral and qualitative questions that may be asked. In addition, be familiar with the firm and have a clear, personable pitch that demonstrates a genuine interest in the position and company.

2. Anticipate likely interview questions and know how you would answer them.

Though some interview questions will be specific to the firm and/or position, many questions are the same regardless of the application. By speaking with people who have interviewed in similar positions before and by looking at online reviews (see: GlassDoor), you can get a better idea of what type of questions you may be asked to answer. Here are some questions to keep in mind as you prepare:

  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Why should the company hire you over all other candidates?
  • What value can you (and only you) add to the team?

3. Practice aloud (and in front of others)

Doing preparation by yourself and just thinking about how you would answer different questions is a great start, but practicing aloud and in front of others can help sure you’re presenting your answers in an effective manner. Also, getting feedback from peers or mentors can be incredibly beneficial. Through mock interviews, you’ll get a sense of how to best word your answers, practice eye contact and body language, and become aware of any potential nervous tics (i.e. using “um”, “like”, “so” or fidgeting). 

4. Use the STAR approach.

The STAR (situation, task, action, result) approach is a great way to make sure you concisely yet completely answer interview questions, especially those that have you discuss your past experiences. When phrasing your answer to a question such as “Tell me about a time you worked on a team,” use a sentence or two to hit each of the components of STAR. This helps organize and structure your answer, preventing any potential rambling.

5. Answer thoughtfully and honestly

You may face some incredibly nerve-wracking questions – some that may be technically difficult and others that refer to tough situations and experiences. In these cases, be sure to stay calm and take a few moments to think before answering. It is totally fine to ask the interviewer for a little time to think! In line with this, always be honest with your answer, be it about your past experiences or something you don’t know. Being willing to admit you don’t know something and following up with an answer after the interview is much better than making up something on the spot and potentially digging yourself into a hole.

6. Be aware of body language

Some people say that you leave a lasting impression on someone within the first few minutes you meet. This means that before you even begin the interview, the interviewer likely has already formed some opinion of you. Make sure to stand tall and hold yourself confidently (fake it until you make it!). Eye contact is very important, and don’t forget to smile.

7. Prepare questions to ask the interviewer

At the end of an interview, most interviewers will turn the tables and give you some time to ask them any questions. When an interviewer asks “do you have any questions?” your answer should never be no. Always have some questions prepared in advance, but also jot down questions during your interview. You can ask questions about the position, team dynamic, and the interviewer’s experiences. Asking questions further demonstrates your interest.

8. Be yourself

This tip may seem cliché, but it is incredibly important to be aware that you are presenting your best and genuine self throughout the interview. When you’ve done so much to prepare for an interview, it is easy to focus too much on your preparation and forget to let your personality show. At the end of the day, it is your personality that sets you apart from other candidates.

9. Remember that the interview goes both ways

On the surface, an interview seems only as a way for the company to get to know you as an applicant. But, the interview is also a unique opportunity for you to learn more about the company and figure out whether it is a good fit. Try to treat the interview as a conversation between two people who want to find mutual compatibility rather than a one-sided interrogation.

10. Say thank you

Interviews don’t end when you leave the interview room. To make a lasting impression, be sure to follow up with a brief thank you email within 24 hours with everyone you meet – including interviewers, HR managers, and more. Personalize each note by referring to a memorable moment during your conversation, and thank them for their time and consideration of your application. (For more guidance, check out this article.). If you want to take it a step further, consider sending handwritten thank you notes within a few days.

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.

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Top Tips: How to Ace Your Interview

By Siyu Wu

February 13, 2017

Say you’ve submitted an outstanding application and wrote an amazing cover letter. What’s next? Even if you haven’t received notification to interview, it’s important to get a head start in preparing, so that you can be one step ahead when you do receive invitations to interview for an internship or job. Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin preparing for those interviews.

Type of interview formats

Depending on the company and type of role you’ve applied for, the interview format may vary widely. Typically speaking, many companies offer several rounds of interviews. The first interview is often conducted over the phone. At some schools, however, companies may come on campus to conduct in-person first round interviews. Aside from phone interviews and on-campus interviews, there are also the traditional in-person interviews at a firm. Some more unique interview formats include panel interviews (multiple interviewers speaking with one applicant) and case study interviews. Each type of interview will require slightly different types of

Types of interview questions

There are many types of interview questions, but the different types may be put into a few general categories:

  • Introductions: To start out an interview, you’ll often get a “walk me through your resume” or “tell me about yourself” type question. Having a good answer to this type of question is incredibly important because it sets the tone of the rest of the interview and gives you a chance to talk about what you think is most important. Even though this question doesn’t seem to be relevant to a specific company, it is still important to tailor your answer depending on the role and company.
  • Fit questions: Fit questions help the interviewer determine whether your personality and working style are a cultural fit with the organization. During these questions, it is important for your to demonstrate that you’ve done your research and you know exactly why you want to work for this company over all other companies in the same industry.
  • Behavioral questions: Interviewers use behavioral questions to gauge your soft skills. Questions often start with “Tell me about a time…” and ask you to talk about past work, academic, extracurricular stories that allow the interviewer to extrapolate to how you’ll perform on the job. You’ll likely be asked to talk about experiences relevant to teamwork, overcoming challenges, managing priorities, and more. 
  • Technical questions: These questions are often the most intimidating, as they’re designed to test you on your technical knowledge required for the role.  For example, if you’re interviewing for an investment banking position, you’ll likely asked about valuation methods and the financial statements. This is not only to see what you know on the subject, but also to confirm whether you’re actually interested in the job.
  • Brainteasers: Not every interview will include a brainteaser question, but some interviewers like asking some tricky questions. This isn’t because they want to trip you up or make you nervous, and it actually doesn’t matter whether you get the right answer. Instead of trying to think about the right answer, focus on explaining your thought process and how you arrive at a certain answer. Brainteasers are used to test how you think - all you need to do is answer in a logical, well-justified manner.

This article makes some broad strokes in regards to interview and their format. Understanding what an interview will look like is the first step to having a successful interview. With this understanding of interview formats and questions, we can move to more specific interview tips in my next article!

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.

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How to Create a Holistic Internship Application

By Danni Ondraskova

February 9, 2017

Many companies ask for a resume, cover letter, and either essay response or writing sample when reviewing applicants for jobs and internships. These materials are like a first handshake for the HR office: if you come across as limp or artificial, chances are you will get passed up for an interview, but if you knock it out of the park, employers will be lining up around the block for you. That’s why no matter how qualified you are, you can’t turn down the chance to look like a personable, qualified candidate that they would be mistaken not to hire.

The resume

This is the common denominator: most, if not every, job you apply for will ask for your resume. Typically shorter than a curriculum vitae, resumes include the academic and professional accomplishments of candidates. Your resume should include raw facts and statistics resold in a compelling way. If you increased your company’s sales by 300% or made 30 presentations on discounted cash flow, put that down. Anything that is quantifiable is a good talking point. Try to have two to four bullet points for each job you put under work experience. Make sure to keep in mind that private sector resumes are typically one page, while public sector and non profit can be longer.

The cover letter

Cover letters have become especially important as technology makes it easier for individuals to apply for multiple jobs and flood companies with requests. With even resumes seeming to blend together with all the qualified candidates out there, it really is a writer that makes a difference much of the time. Try to let your personality shine through in this one-page letter. In your first paragraph, tell them what job you are applying to and why. In your next one, address what qualifications you have that they will find satisfactory. In your penultimate paragraph, discuss what you would like to get out of the job. Finally, add a polite thank you and any last words. Remember above all to be formal but personable and have compelling reasons for your attributes and interest in the company.

The organization essay

Some organizations, particularly government organizations and think tanks, will give you a prompt of a few hundred words. Often, questions will either be technical ones related to the organization or something more personal about why you want to work for the organization. Just be honest about your perspective and how the opportunity fits into your career path. Be sure not to be repetitive. Adding details or previous encounters you had with the company (even if virtual!) will personalize your essay and set it apart from those of other applicants.

The writing sample

If you’re applying for a research analyst, communications, or similar kind of job, chances are that you’ll be asked to submit an academic essay or journalistic publication. For me as a student journalist who has written a lot, I had to think about the affiliation of the place I was applying to. If your company has a certain political slant, take that into account when deciding whether to apply there and what article or essay to end. The same goes for academia. Don’t be afraid to recycle your best pieces for multiple companies if you are confident in their quality.


Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

 

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How to Prepare for Behavioral Interviews

By Danni Ondraskova

January 26, 2017

Before I was in college, I had no interview experience. It took me a while to figure out how to present my best self during the interview. Only during the second year in college did I start to notice a real change in my success regarding whether interviews led to offers. As a junior, I feel more confident going into interviews because of my experience and advice I learned from people on the way. Here are some tips from my own experience about what I’ve done to succeed.

1. Take mental (if not physical) notes during your interview and record them afterward

During phone interviews, it is of course easiest to take notes without being seen. I’ve personally never taken notes during a physical or video interview because that breaks eye contact too often for me to be doable. Depending on your circumstances and if your interviewer gives you permission, you may want to do it. What I typically do in a face-to-face interview is remember the questions that stick out the most to me in terms of whether my response was particularly excellent or inadequate and record everything I recall later. Then at subsequent interviews, I read over my notes and think about how to improve my responses.

2. Understand who you’re interviewing for

A lot of the interviews I have done are for governments and nonprofits. These organizations will have a different set of questions and answers than companies, and that’s how it should be. These institutions have different missions and approaches to the world and each other.

I learned about a technique called imaging in a leadership book once. It talked about the difference between imagining, or abstractly desiring something, and imaging, or concretely seeing yourself having the thing you desire. The best way to image yourself in your dream job is to read the description of duties that comes with the application. Look at the daily duties and long-term projects and think through what a day at the company would be like for you. Ask yourself whether you can see yourself doing these tasks every day and can derive meaning from them.

3. Don’t undercut yourself

This is a tough one for anyone who has the high standards of a Type A individual or self-deprecating personality. Negativity leaches energy from both you and the interviewer. If you didn’t like how you did some task, reframe the issue and say that after some thought, you could make the result even better by doing something specific. This shows that you’ve been thinking about the issue, want to improve, and can have a positive outlook on even your failures.

4. Understand the different demands that come with each interview medium

I have had interviews on Skype, in person, and on the telephone. If you are at a face-to-face interview, you have your biggest asset and Achilles heel at hand: body movements. The single most useful piece of advice I have heard is to have your feet face the interviewer in a little V. It seems like a small adjustment, but it has the effect of having you fully face and physically engage the interviewer. It shows your desire to be there! If you want to read more about other kinds of body language, read this link. As the article says, your interview makes a hiring decision mentally within the first 10 seconds they see you, so be sure to put your best foot forward!

5. Dress like you’re going to an interview, even if they can’t see you

Clothes exert a powerful influence on our lives. It’s amazing how even the shoes you pick can either cause you blistering pain that makes you wince with every step or make you feel on top of the world and smiling at everybody. Obviously, you want to dress professionally if you’re seeing your interviewer in person. But what happens if you can’t see each other?

I didn’t really think it mattered what I wore. But then I wore my favorite suit to a phone interview in which we couldn’t see each other. The psychological impact was immense for me: because I was dressing in a way the agency would expect me to at work, I was able to envision myself doing work in those clothes and approached the interview as someone already working there. Needless to say, I got the offer and the interview went very well.

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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How to Develop Your Personal Brand

By Sameera Polavarapu

November 7, 2016

Coming into my freshman year of college, many of my friends and I were overwhelmed by our transition into the business world. Strong resumes, flawless interviews, and professionalism were all just distant words to me, concepts that I believed were as easy to master as they seemed in theory. I quickly learned that some of the easiest skills are the most difficult to perfect, especially in a competitive environment.

I realized that when you are going through the recruitment process, whether on a small or large scale, everyone has mastered these initial concepts through practice, and all that remains to differentiate you is just that—you.

How to present and develop a personal brand is irrefutably the most crucial skill a person of any major can gain. Being yourself, and having your own identity come across crystal clear to an employer is so much easier said than done.

And with this said, here are a few tips I have found most useful in helping me develop my own personal brand:

Define your interests

When you think of who you are, and how you want to be perceived, remember what your morals and interests are. In the end, these initial values are what often drive people throughout their lives. Do you care about animals? Maybe this has influenced you to volunteer or become vegetarian. Do you prioritize organization? Maybe this is the reason you have impeccable time management skills. Your values are the base of your brand; to build yourself up, you must recognize the foundation of who are.

Represent these interests through the activities you pursue

If someone states, “I really like to give back”, it is much less convincing than saying “I really like to give back. I am part of an organization that has raised nearly a million dollars to support children with cancer”. Your activities are a direct reflection of your interests and values.

Many may not see joining clubs as developing their brand but, many times, people around you will associate who you are with the organizations and activities you support. Unknowingly, through doing activities you love by nature, you are building a brand for yourself.

Pull from your experiences

Remember that you can shape your brand around everything and anything that you experience. If you volunteered at a shelter and forged relationships with people who had difficult life experiences, you may have heightened your skills for empathy and communication. If you worked a summer job with an awful manager, you may have a penchant for patience.

Taking an experience and identifying the skills it has allowed you develop will help you show others how you can apply what you have learned, as well as how the skills have made you a more qualified candidate for anything you pursue.

Bring it all together

Building a brand is achieved through a conscious, logical flow of thinking. Your interests and values define who you are at your core. The activities and organizations you support can depict these values and give you credibility. Through your experiences, you can show how you have grown and developed. Finally, take the skills you have mastered and show where they will take you in the future.

Here is an example of how this four step process can come together to help you succeed:

“I really value having respect for others. I have done various projects and cases at my university where I worked on a team that did not get along. The experiences have made me learn how to give and take in situations where people disagree. I believe that my collaborative nature will help me succeed on teams and be a leader in the work force”.

Developing a brand is all about portraying your values and skills and leveraging these factors towards your own success. I wholeheartedly believe that through the continued practice of these four simple steps, you’ll be all set.

Sameera Polavarapu will graduate in 2019 from the University of Maryland at College Park with a major in international business and marketing. Her dream job is to do marketing for a global organization such as the United Nations.

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How to Create a Holistic Internship Application

By Danni Ondraskova

October 6, 2016

Many companies ask for a resume, cover letter, and either essay response or writing sample when reviewing applicants for jobs and internships. These materials are like a first handshake for the HR office: if you come across as limp or artificial, chances are you will get passed up for an interview, but if you knock it out of the park, employers will be lining up around the block for you.

That’s why no matter how qualified you are, you can’t turn down the chance to look like a personable, qualified candidate that they would be mistaken not to hire.

The resume

This is the common denominator: most, if not every, job you apply for will ask for your resume. Typically shorter than a curriculum vitae, resumes include the academic and professional accomplishments of candidates.

Your resume should include raw facts and statistics resold in a compelling way. If you increased your company’s sales by 300% or made 30 presentations on discounted cash flow, put that down. Anything that is quantifiable is a good talking point.

Try to have two to four bullet points for each job you put under work experience. Make sure to keep in mind that private sector resumes are typically one page, while public sector and non profit can be longer.

The cover letter

Cover letters have become especially important as technology makes it easier for individuals to apply for multiple jobs and flood companies with requests. With even resumes seeming to blend together with all the qualified candidates out there, it really is a writer that makes a difference much of the time.

Try to let your personality shine through in this one-page letter. In your first paragraph, tell them what job you are applying to and why. In your next one, address what qualifications you have that they will find satisfactory. In your penultimate paragraph, discuss what you would like to get out of the job. Finally, add a polite thank you and any last words.

Remember above all to be formal but personable and have compelling reasons for your attributes and interest in the company.

The organization essay

Some organizations, particularly government organizations and think tanks, will give you a prompt of a few hundred words. Often, questions will either be technical ones related to the organization or something more personal about why you want to work for the organization.

Just be honest about your perspective and how the opportunity fits into your career path. Be sure not to be repetitive. Adding details or previous encounters you had with the company (even if virtual!) will personalize your essay and set it apart from those of other applicants.

The writing sample

If you’re applying for a research analyst, communications, or similar kind of job, chances are that you’ll be asked to submit an academic essay or journalistic publication. For me, as a student journalist who has written a lot, I had to think about the affiliation of the place I was applying to.

If your company has a certain political slant, take that into account when deciding whether to apply there and what article or essay to end. The same goes for academia. Don’t be afraid to recycle your best pieces for multiple companies if you are confident in their quality.

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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