Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Melissa Yin ’16

Nanjing, China • Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs View Profile

Grown-Up Tiger in One Day

Connecting with alumni for career advice while abroad

Greetings from London! As Tigers and Tigresses travel all over the world during summer, I’d like to offer my personal tale on connecting with alumni for career advice while abroad.

A one-click search on Alumni Careers Network (ACN) reveals 60 alumni currently working in the UK. I found two working in the Greater London area in the management consulting industry, which is what I’m considering. I carefully crafted two emails asking each of them if we could meet up for a coffee chat to discuss my interest in consulting, and within a day both have replied. Now this might sound astounding to you that busy Princeton alumni would respond to a sophomore’s email so promptly, but know that ACN is an online database on which more than 4,000 alumni around the world voluntarily registered to assist students in their career choice.  Lesson No.1? Alumni on ACN volunteered themselves to help, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

One of the two alumni, Mr. Ulanov ’78 was out of the country, so instead of a coffee chat, we conversed over emails. Mr. Ulanov advised that rather than becoming a management consulting generalist right out of college, I go into industry first and later switch to consulting and consult on that particular industry. He believes that for recent college grads, first-hand experience in industry is much more valuable than knowledge of the overall landscape that consulting offers. I often hear people say that consulting is a good out-of-college option as it exposes young people to a wide variety of industries, so it’s really interesting to hear Mr. Ulanov advise otherwise. This is an ongoing debate that I’ll surely carry on into my further career search.

Ms. Murphree ’04 and I met up for coffee, and her stories confirmed what I learned about consulting from second-hand sources—she enjoys working with driven, smart and interesting colleagues, and seeing the insights they bring to clients. She also commented that when consulting firms recruit undergraduates, they look at their potential, not their existing business knowledge. As much as I love Princeton’s liberal arts education, occasionally I feel like I’m missing out on the “practical” part of my education, so it was really reassuring to hear Ms. Murphree say that an undergrad experience at Princeton should be focused on building critical thinking skills, and not to worry, that “practical” knowledge will come with on job training later on.

This is true for almost all things at Princeton, but seems particularly appropriate when it comes to connecting with alumni: There are so many people willing to help you out there. Sometimes all it takes is a little initiative.

Happy summer!