Individual Mentorship Assignment
My individual mentoring conversation with Ryan was very rewarding. First, we continued our discussion from last time about the importance of developing professional soft skills. We talked about these skills and “best practices” for someone entering at a company specifically at the entry level. Ryan gave advice about email etiquette, including the use of white space and bullets. He stressed the importance of quickly get to the point in such business communications. Another key point Ryan highlighted is to write an email with a specific audience in mind. He gave an anecdote about the time he as recognized by a senior partner for writing a particularly good email. This really stuck with me, as knowing your audience is a key theme throughout business communications, whether in an email, in a casual meeting, or in a pitch (like the one we gave for our class).
Another key piece of advice Ryan gave me was not to take the first job offer I get simply because it is a job offer. This piece of advice really sticks with me because I am still figuring out what I want to do after graduation. I started interning at Citi the summer after my sophomore year, received a return offer, and am working there again this summer with the expectation of getting a full time offer. Ryan’s advice is really making me evaluate what kind of full-time opportunity I want to pursue, as I know I should not return to Citi just because it is a secure and stable job.
Another key point Ryan and I discussed is networking. He recommended using the Duke alumni database to find people to reach out to at companies you are interested in. Ryan gave a lot of advice on how to conduct an informational interview. Because professionals are limited in time, he said to choose insightful and robust questions to ask, rather than questions that could be answered from a simple Google search. We also talked about what to learn before the interview, and how to convey that you did your research in your questions. For example, he suggested asking how a specific current event will potentially impact the company in the future.
Ryan and I also discussed how innovation and entrepreneurship fits within a consulting career. I was very interested in why Ryan chose to go into consulting, as I myself am interesting in consulting as a career path. Ryan said that it was a logical choice because it fit with his list of “wants”, which were to work with smart people, to travel, and to solve different problems every day. This also led to our discussion of how to be innovative within a large company. Ryan said that his company, Huron, is large enough where they have some things figured out but not everything is too structured. He compares this to other larger consulting where there is less opportunity to be innovative because they have certain restrictions, such as required templates for PowerPoints. While working at a smaller firm might give you less resources, it gives you creative freedom to be innovative.
This discussion helped me further framed and interests in innovation and entrepreneurship by helping me to understand how to be innovative regardless of your career path. I always believed that developing an innovation and entrepreneurship skillset was important regardless of if I will ever work for a startup or start my own company. I want to be able to leverage this skillset no matter where my professional career leads. Knowing that I can still use the skills I have developed through I&E in a larger company helps me in thinking more about my long-term career goals. While there may not be a lot of space for creative innovation at the largest and most established firms, there can still be room for innovation at non-startups. While being a social entrepreneur is a long-term career goal of mine, this takes off some of the pressure to work at a startup right out of college. I am starting to become more interested in working at larger institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, and realize that I can be innovative at these companies while further gaining valuable experiences and skills that will serve me in my long-term goal of being an entrepreneurial in the social sector.