The following is an excerpt from the Resume Advice chapter of my consulting guide.
I did my final (senior) year project in the Astrophysics Department at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, one of India’s premier research agencies.
Was this related to my engineering? Kind of. Was it related to consulting? No. Was it different from 500 other projects at my college? Absolutely!
The final year project takes place in senior year. It requires a graded engineering project that counts towards your graduation credits. Over six to nine months of your final year, working about once a week, you utilize your acquired engineering skills on the project.
A lot of people took the easy way out–they jumped into projects around technologies with which they were familiar, projects done in-house under a college professor. To build my resume, I did something interesting, different from my peers. I worked on building an x-ray detector which would be used for testing in the Astrosat project (http://meghnad.iucaa.ernet.in/~astrosat/), the first multi-wavelength x-ray detector sent into space from India. It was a very high-profile project.It was all about what could build a good story for my resume while applying to Deloitte or Parthenon.
Securing a high profile project lies in networking. The importance of networking is probably the first thing underscored by Business schools in their Job Search Workshops; Networking equals Job Search101. In India, most students aren’t aware of these techniques. They don’t reach out to the right channels because they either aren’t confident or haven’t considered it an effective tool to land an interview.
To be successful, our team had to use the resources at hand and leverage our personal network. We searched among our circle of friends and relatives for contacts at institutions like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Luckily for us, we did end up getting a contact who introduced us to a professor at TIFR. We set up a meeting with the professor and made a strong case for ourselves by highlighting the value we could bring to the table. The professor was happy to help out a bunch of young enthusiastic engineers and offered us the project . This experience was not only the first milestone towards what was to follow 3 years down the line but also a great experience in honing our networking skills. One of my teammates is now a consultant at Deloitte and the other one is a successful banker in New York!
A lot of people in tier 2 and tier 3 schools don’t reach out to their second and third degree network – they don’t make a conscious effort to reach out to family and friends- and don’t have a strategy. IIT graduates leverage their powerful alumni network to build their resumes through internships and research projects throughout their four years of engineering. Even at TIFR we had a team of IIT students working on a project in some other department. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those students works McKinsey today.
IIT students, like US students, work on their resumes throughout their four years. Many engineering and business school students in India really miss out on networking, which creates a huge difference when searching for a consulting job.