Rachel Ahmed aspires to be a professional consultant. But how can a college junior make the right connections, land the right internships, and eventually secure that dream job?
The “most effective, useful 30 minutes” of her life pointed her in the right direction.
The accounting major from Dothan met Chris Baker, a 1987 Harbert College of Business alum and former managing partner at Accenture, over coffee at Starbucks one morning. In a matter of 30 minutes -- they discussed her career goals, an upcoming job fair and began networking with a KPMG recruiter, seated at a nearby table.
“That man is Superman,” Ahmed lauded. Baker, pictured at right sharing insight with a student, is one of 52 professionals working with students in the college’s 2014-15 mentorship program sponsored by the Office of Professional and Career Development (OPCD). Now in its third year, the program is designed to pair students with professionals in their related business field for a school year.
The story of Ahmed and Baker is one of immediate success and is an example of how the mentorship program can work.
“I noticed that a KPMG recruiter was sitting at the next table over,” Baker said. “Rachel is interested in consulting and the KPMG recruiter was actually one of the hiring managers from consulting. I went over there and said, ‘Are you from KPMG consulting? I’d like to introduce you to my mentee. She’s a 4.0 accounting student with a supply chain minor.’ I told her a little bit about the mentorship program. She said, ‘oh, that’s fantastic.’ And I got them connected.”
Turns out, KPMG is recruiting college seniors. But Baker wasn’t finished placing potential opportunities in Ahmed’s path.
“Because Rachel is interested in consulting and exploring all sorts of options, I said, ‘Why don’t you go to the career fair at the Hotel and Conference Center?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry that it’s engineering and technology. They’ve got great companies there recruiting. Go and learn. Go and talk to them. There are consulting firms there too that love smart people. That’s what they are looking for.’”
Ahmed (pictured at left) took her mentor’s advice, learned about a number of companies – and earned an interview with Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a government contracting and information technology company from McLean, Va. Baker coached Ahmed before the interview – prepping her with questions and offering reassurance.
“I told her to research SAIC the night before and come to me with questions the next morning,” he said. “We talked about it and prepared her for the interview. She had really good questions. She was kind of shaky at first, but she went in confident. I offered a little bit of guidance, a little pep talk and she did great. That’s the kind of personal service that a mentor can give you.”
Ahmed hopes to know the results of the interview with SAIC soon. Regardless, Ahmed relishes the opportunity to learn from a seasoned pro and even has an interview with accounting giant E&Y in the near future.
“The OPCD did an excellent job pairing me with a business professional whose career path aligns with my interests,” she said. “Not only that, but they paired me with a person who truly cares. Being a mentor is extremely selfless, and having Mr. Baker as my mentor is better than I could have imagined. In just the first few weeks of this mentorship, I have gotten an amazing amount of support. Not only is he incredibly helpful and easy to talk to, but he also has provided me with last minute advice and encouragement before going into an interview. Mr. Baker not only supports me, but he also encourages me to challenge and push myself.”
Baker said students involved in the program have nothing to lose.
“You get a very experienced, dedicated alumni coach to help you along your journey of college and into the workforce, and who wouldn’t want a personal advisor or coach to help them through this process?” he said. “We’ve been there.”
Ahmed praised the OPCD for its programs and encouraged other students to get involved.
“I can’t stress enough about how much I’ve used them,” she said. “The mock interviews, resume help and career advice … I recommend this help to anyone. They have been so beneficial to me.
“I am so glad that I applied to do the mentorship program. Navigating through the complex world of networking and interviews can be intimidating. Through this program, however, I have received much needed support and guidance from a true business professional. I hope more students will discover this program and the amazing opportunities it provides.”