Network! Network! Network! You hear it all the time, whether you’re recruiting for professional opportunities, applying to social organizations, or even just sitting in class reading the latest blog post, everyone is advocating the importance of networking. Well today we’re not going to go through a list of reasons to do it and how you’ll benefit, instead we have for you Brian Kropf, a current student at the Haas School of Business who networked his way into a management consulting internship.
Let’s start with the most important question, who is Brian Kropf?
Brian – I spent six years as a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division while concurrently co-founding a nationally distributed print magazine and media company that covered the beverage industry. Both of those efforts spanned from 2006 to 2015. When those journeys came to an end, I transitioned my focus to leveraging the relationships I built while running my own business to find digital marketing consulting work as well as focusing on my education with the goal of getting into Haas. I continue to consult on digital marketing for beverage companies in the Bay Area and have recently been extended an offer for PwC’s San Francisco office in their Advisory practice. My goals for the future are uncertain and in the meantime I’m taking advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.
Sounds like an interesting guy, so before we get into specifics can you broadly define what networking means to you personally?
Brian – Networking should be approached as just looking to have a conversation, and that’s how I’d define it. I feel it should come from a place of sincerity and where the person you’re networking with sees you as your authentic self. While the goal of landing an internship or full-time job is great, just focus on that first conversation and leave them with the impression that you’re unique and that they should want to know more about you. A relationship built on one of these conversations is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s important to let the relationship develop naturally instead of forcing it into what you want it to be to support your desired end result.
Thanks for that perspective Brian, well let’s not keep the people waiting, specifically how did you network your way into a management consulting internship?
Brian – As I may have eluded to with my first answer, it all started with a simple conversation. I was at a career fair hosted by the Student Veterans of America National Conference in Anaheim over winter break. I wasn’t necessarily looking for an internship but I was interested in stopping by some booths and having conversations with employers to see what they had going on. PwC had both a recruiter and a partner at their booth, though I wasn’t aware of their specific roles at the time. I ended up talking with the partner and told him about myself and my background and he was genuinely interested in learning more. We ended up talking about my business experience, my military service, North Carolina, and a few random other things. That simple conversation was the catalyst for a summer internship offer from PwC.
Did you still have to formally apply and write a cover letter? Or was the process more organic?
Brian – It was incredibly organic. I don’t think it’s because I’m a veteran but because of the rapport I was able to develop with the representatives at PwC. A few hours after meeting them, I was sent a LinkedIn request, which I followed up with an email thanking them for their time. From there, the conversation continued and the partner turned into more of a mentor and a champion on my behalf. He spent quite a bit of energy with me making suggestions on how to improve my resume, connecting me with veteran resources within the firm, having me chat with the lead recruiter, and then putting in a partner referral. As I said earlier, I wasn’t necessarily looking for an internship at the time and because of this, I was in no way prepared to do a case interview for the simple fact that I had never done one and I wasn’t anticipating doing one any time soon. Once again, resources were provided to help prepare me after I candidly told them I wasn’t prepared. The case interview came and went and I’m happy to say I’m one-for-one on case interviews. A few days later I had the final round interview in NYC and a couple hours later I was extended an offer for PwC’s Advisory practice at their San Francisco office. I reached out to the partner who had been helping me to tell him about the offer and he told me that when we first spoke, he could tell that I was someone that he should pay attention to … and I’m glad that he did.
There was an official application I submitted a week or so after meeting them as it is a requirement for all applicants, but the entire process couldn’t have been more organic. The process was three weeks exactly from start to finish. I didn’t submit a cover letter.
It sounds fairly straightforward in that framework, but I think some students still have a hard time with networking given that the stakes can be life changing, what would you recommend for students who struggle but want to get better?
Brian – I’d recommend putting yourself out there and just talking to people. Go out of your way to make small talk in situations that have nothing to do with business, recruiting, or networking. I can be a bit awkward speaking in front of people or when being interviewed, but I enjoy making small talk with people and just being a friendly person. I’ll do this just about anywhere and I can usually find things in common to discuss and effortlessly carry on a conversation. Being able to carry on these conversations at a career fair instead of just trying to add your resume to their stack, getting their card, and responding like a robot will help you get noticed. Also, make sure you’re able to succinctly tell your story when they ask, “tell me about yourself?” This is your opportunity to make your first impression and make them want to learn more.
That’s powerful stuff, so today Berkeley sophomores will find out if they’ve been accepted to the Haas School of Business, what advice would you offer to the new class?
Brian – First of all, congratulations to those who have been accepted! Know that it is very difficult to get through Haas on your own, so put yourself out there and make friends that you can study in groups with. Also, raise your hand immediately whenever the professor asks for a class rep. I’ve found it to be worthwhile in a number of ways.
Thanks a lot for your time today Brian! I’m sure your perspective and networking experience will help lot of students prepare for the next recruiting year! And congratulations again to the Haas class of 2019!
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