July 24, 2024

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Medill students talk pivot from journalism to consulting as career

For students in the Medill School of Journalism, it’s not infrequent to hear peers speak of the “journalism-to-consulting pipeline.” 

While 88% of Medill’s class of 2022 were employed within six months of graduation, only 32% actually worked in news reporting. Whether students intended to pursue it from September of freshman year or switched paths later on, many recent alumni have ended up in  consulting.  

The story is all too common: a freshman student enters bright-eyed with dreams of living out Joseph Medill’s mandate to “write boldly and tell the truth fearlessly.” Soon after, they pivot to the cutthroat recruiting process for consulting internships — often initiated in the summer or fall months — and eventually land a six-figure post-graduation job at Deloitte or Boston Consulting Group.

Medill junior Emma Feuer said she learned about consulting during her freshman fall after she joined Women in Business. She described the career as the “people’s ability to help others solve problems” in any industry. 

“What makes it so appealing to me is this idea of variety, this idea of getting exposed to multiple industries and the idea of having an impact regardless of where you end up,” Feuer said. 

While journalism and consulting may seem like disparate fields, for Feuer, her time in Medill has made her a better prospective consultant. 

Feuer said interviewing people for journalistic assignments helped her develop the active listening skills and empathy necessary to succeed in team meetings for her summer internship at Alvarez & Marsal, a consulting firm.

“Being a strong communicator and having strong interpersonal skills are two great assets you can have when you’re entering the business world,” she said. 

Since consultants also have to learn how to fit company information onto just a few slides, Medill’s focus on brevity helped Feuer in her internship, she said.

She added that being able to write concisely helped her create stronger presentations.

There are a number of NU pre-professional consulting clubs Medill undergraduates can get involved with to prepare them for the recruitment season. 

However, some organizations like Lambda Strategy and Consultants Advising Student Enterprises have barriers to entry like interviews and resume reviews. Medill junior Leslie Kim is a member of the latter group.

Kim said consultants, like journalists, are expected to present a line of argument rooted in facts and concrete evidence. She recently transferred into Medill because of journalism’s applicability and transferability to the consulting world, she said.

For example, she added, consultants have to create storylines for clients the same way journalists find angles for their stories. Developing that skill was essential during her internship at consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, commonly known as PwC.  

“That’s something that’s really helpful as a consultant, especially as an entry level consultant,” Kim said. “It’s just a lot of research. It’s a lot of creating PowerPoint.”

Like Feuer, Medill junior Lucia Shen said she was drawn to consulting because of the opportunity to problem-solve in areas like operation and management.

She transferred to Medill in her second year after writing for Northwestern Business Review. Over the summer, Shen was a consulting assistant for Bain & Company. 

She shared an anecdote from her profile assignment in JOUR 201-1: Fundamentals of Reporting & Writing News, where she was able to speak to the owners of local businesses in Evanston, like elephant + vine.

“I also connected with the owner of a local chocolate shop, who talked about the other side of business: how marketing, selling and operations is on the other side,” Shen said.  “Those experiences definitely also translated to my interest in consulting.”

While Shen does not plan to practice journalism in the future, she said she has enjoyed how she could “systematically study” the field while at NU.

“Medill has definitely taught me what it is like to ask the best questions and get the most information about whatever project we’re working on in a very short amount of time,” Shen said. 

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