Kirsten Wellington didn't know exactly what she wanted to do after she graduated from Georgetown University five years ago. She'd worked on Capitol Hill and for a U.S. Senate campaign in college, but wasn't sure about a career in politics.
"I realized my senior year that working on the Hill is a very slow-moving career. I wanted to write policy, but no one is going to hire a policy writer right out of school," says Kirsten, who has been a CommonBond member since 2015. "I wanted to have an impact sooner."
A trip to her school's career office inspired Kirsten to try her hand at commercial banking. "I knew banks were looking for liberal arts graduates because they offered a different perspective," she says. She wasn't sure she wanted to spend her entire career in banking, but thought it would provide a good foundation to explore other opportunities. She joined PNC after graduation because the regional bank had a well-developed training program.
Kirsten's more than four years in commercial banking helped her decide to go to business school to pursue a career in management consulting. "I wanted something that was very flexible and fact-based and allowed me to solve big problems," says Kirsten. "Consulting fit that description for me." Now she is a rising second-year at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and will be interning at consulting firm Deloitte in Seattle this summer.
Kirsten, 27, shows that you don't have to know exactly what your dream career will be once you receive your college degree. Here are her tips for building a career plan after graduation:
Figure out what's important you.
"I did plenty of soul-searching," Kirsten says. Initially, she thought she would go to law school because she enjoyed reading and writing, and had experience in politics. "I started studying for the LSAT and I realized that law school was never going to happen," she says, because she didn't find the subject matter interesting while studying for the test. Meanwhile, she thrived on the quantitative training of PNC's analyst program. "It was valuable experience," she said. "I learned the hard skills of accounting and finance on the job and rounded out my toolbox. I loved it."
Get everything you can out of your first job.
Kirsten's job in commercial banking exposed her to a variety of industries and she performed a range of duties from crafting financial models to developing pricing strategies to making sales presentations. She tried to take advantage of every opportunity given her. "Even if you have a job you don't necessarily want for the rest of your life, you can pick up skills you can use throughout your career," she says. "Any job can help you learn how to work well on a team."
Know what your next step is.
After two years at PNC, Kirsten began thinking about what she wanted to do with her career. Business school made sense to her because it was an opportunity to work with smart people, and a path to transition from banking to consulting "I knew my work experience would be key to my application and I took the GMAT early so I wouldn't be scrambling when I applied to business school," she says. "I had a plan, but I was flexible." She applied and was accepted to five business schools. She chose Booth because of its academic reputation, and she was impressed by the students and alumni she met. She said that having an open mind about the b-school selection process helped her find the school that was the best fit for her. "It's good to have a rough outline of what you want to get out of school, what you will do after school, and what your goals are," she says. "But then to transform that plan as experiences come up."
When she decided on Booth, CommonBond helped her reach her goal of making business school affordable. "I had heard about CommonBond through my own research about how to finance an MBA," she says. "It came down to the ease of application and the rate. And CommonBond hit those needs for me. It worked out well."