The rejection letter starts with the words “Thank you for submitting your resume …” It takes just a few more words — often with adjectives like “confused” and “angry” and “wildly unqualified” — before McKinsey & Company finally cuts you loose: “we regret that we will not be able to invite you to interview with us, because frankly we’re not sure you know what a consultant is.”
Admittedly, this is all conjecture. This is because McKinsey has never sent me a rejection letter. Quite the contrary. Upon graduating, I will be taking over as their new Junior Chief Executive Officer of Consulting Affairs Management — or something like that. In truth I was too busy looking up the definition of “consultant” to pay much attention to my new title. (According to my findings, a consultant is “a person who consults someone or something.”)
So, you must be wondering how I got such a lucrative job without having even a basic understanding of the position. Answer: it’s easy. It’s all about how you present yourself. Remember, these big firms see the same Ivy League consultant wannabes walk in and out everyday, so you’ve got to separate yourself from the pack. For one, you should know that too high a GPA will immediately peg you as a lone shut-in who’ll likely become a serial murderer. So try to keep your GPA at a healthy 2.1 or so. That way McKinsey (whoever he is) will know you’re the life of the party!
Secondly, don’t just walk into the office in the same charcoal suit that every other schlub applicant is wearing. Remember, the goal is to stand out. Polka dots are a must, ideally clashing ones on your pants and hat. Also, it’s important not to come off as wide-eyed or nervous. If you find yourself at a company-sponsored event, walk into the room confidently, find the decision-makers, and make fun of them for how ugly they are. That way they’ll know they’re dealing with someone who means business.
More advice: don’t get bogged down worrying about your resume. If you think you don’t have enough extracurriculars, it’s simple: make some up! Tell them you’re the president of a new student organization, but again, make sure it stands out from the rest. Tell them you’re the co-founder of Students for the Canonization of Joe McCarthy. (Just check with the Party of the Right to make sure it doesn’t already exist.)
Sure, you say, this is all great advice. But what do I do during the interview? Won’t I need to know something about consulting? The answer is no. If your interviewer asks you a difficult question, always remember: deflection, deflection, deflection! For example, if you’re asked to estimate the first-year revenues for a popsicle stand in Anchorage, launch into your childhood story about how your abusive father never let you eat popsicles. Work up some tears if you can. Your interviewer will probably feel so bad that he’ll just give you the job. If that doesn’t work, drop a humorous one-liner about how ugly he is.
Success! If you’ve followed my instructions so far, I guarantee you’ll be receiving your acceptance letter right about now. You do a little heel-click, then a cartwheel, then you set something on fire in celebration. Because hey, who cares? You’re a consultant now! You’ve won. Your life is perfectly on track. And so what if your days of “having friends” and “being happy” are behind you? So what if you’re now a cog in a commercial machine so immense and labyrinthine that no dictionary can explain it? Sure, some will call you a valueless sellout, nothing but a corporate prostitute. But they’re just jealous. Onward, ho.
River Clegg is a senior in Davenport College.