Figuring out the next step after college, whether it’s landing a job or starting a graduate program, can feel daunting, especially in the current socioeconomic climate. Opportunities like the Competitive Advantage leadership conference, however — which took place virtually this year, from September 10-11 — can help not only make that transition smoother but also provide the real-life experience and connections to give you the best start on your post-college journey.
Designed for college sophomores, juniors and seniors from any academic discipline, Competitive Advantage: The Consortium Undergraduate Program provides underrepresented minority undergraduates with the tools they need to achieve success in college, careers and graduate school. During the two-day weekend leadership conference, students learn about different industries and career paths and how to prepare for interviews, develop leadership and team-building skills, network with representatives from corporate partner companies and even interview for internships.
Sometimes, the program even leads to job and internship offers at sponsoring companies. This was the case for 2021 Competitive Advantage alumni Cesar “Cez” Garcia and Joaquin Gomez, who received offers of full-time employment from Accenture, a corporate partner of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management.
Garcia, a senior studying business analytics and economics at the University of Rochester, came to Competitive Advantage with several objectives. “I went into the conference with the goal of making connections, learning more about the corporate partners that interested me and hopefully gaining some insightful knowledge into entering the workforce,” he says.
Similarly, Gomez, a senior studying business administration at the University of Michigan, attended the conference hoping to get a feel for what his options were. “I came into Competitive Advantage just looking to learn about each company and to talk to people who could give me insight into their company,” he says, “not just in terms of job opportunities but also in terms of culture and the type of people who work there.”
One of the companies Garcia and Gomez both connected with was Accenture. The consulting firm was on Garcia’s radar even before the conference. “I knew I was interested in consulting and strategy, which aligned well with the work Accenture does,” he says. “Through my personal research on Accenture and an individual career fair session [at the conference], I knew that I would love to apply to an entry role at Accenture.”
Gomez was also drawn to Accenture because of his interest in consulting. “They’re one of the biggest players in the industry, and I was excited to see they were participating in this year’s Competitive Advantage,” he says.
Melissa Davis, strategy campus inclusion and diversity lead at Accenture, met Garcia and Gomez during the career expo section of Competitive Advantage and was impressed with both students. “They each possessed a confidence that we look for in our strategy practice,” she says. “In addition, they each asked great questions and showed strong interest in Accenture. They were able to provide good structures during our case interview process. All of the executives who met with them had very positive feedback.”
About a week after the conference, Accenture reached out to both Gomez and Garcia for an interview. Garcia had already applied to roles at Accenture before participating in Competitive Advantage but was able to have the recruiter at the conference flag his application. After a two-day SuperDay that consisted of two case study interviews and one behavioral interview, he received a call making him an offer, which he has since accepted.
“I will be starting as a full-time strategy analyst in their Accenture Strategy Analyst Development Program (ASADP),” Garcia says. “I’m looking forward to joining the workforce and learning from the knowledge exchange that comes with consulting. College can only teach you so much about the real world, and I believe Accenture is a great place for me to continue my development as a person, in addition to an employee.”
Gomez had a positive interview experience as well. “Accenture was great with their communication and did a great job organizing preparation events for prospective hires, as well as coordinating interview times for a seamless recruiting experience,” he says. Accenture extended an offer to Gomez for the ASADP as well, which he accepted in early November.
Overall, the students agree that the Competitive Advantage experience was extremely valuable — even beyond the job offers they received. “It was very easy to move around company booths and learn about each company and their respective job opportunities,” Gomez says. “I came out with more than [I expected], as I was able to establish connections [with people who] I could talk to beyond Competitive Advantage, and who also offered guidance throughout the rest of my recruiting process.”
In addition to the professional development and networking aspects of the event, Garcia enjoyed meeting and learning about others’ journeys. “It was great to hear from professionals about their experiences and how they have navigated their careers,” he says. “Additionally, it was great to see all the other attendees from across the country, all trying to better themselves and their future.”
From her standpoint as a company representative, Davis says she was impressed with the experience as well. “Despite the virtual setting, the students were very engaged and showed professionalism and interest in Accenture,” she says.
Gomez and Garcia say they would strongly recommend Competitive Advantage to other underrepresented minority college students who are deciding how to move forward after college. “Recruiting can be a very daunting and intimidating experience, especially for underrepresented minorities or first-gen college students,” Gomez says. “Competitive Advantage offers an opportunity for us to showcase our skills and make connections in a smaller, more comfortable environment.”
When it comes to navigating the event itself, Gomez has some advice for students: “First off, don’t be nervous! Nobody is judging you, and you should take this opportunity to be yourself and learn about each company according to your genuine interest,” he says. “Second, keep an open mind. Talk to as many people as possible, and learn about as many companies as you want. You might like a company that you weren’t initially super interested in, or you might meet a great mentor who you otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Garcia agrees on the last point. “[Don’t] narrow yourself to one or two companies,” he says. “Talk to all of them, because you truly do not know what opportunities are out there for you. Even the small connections made by a 15-minute conversation can go a long way in distinguishing yourself from other candidates.”