Name: Alyxandra Smith, ’14

Position: Organizational Effectiveness Consultant

Company: Slalom Consulting

Industry: Business and Technology Consulting

Degree: MA International Studies ‘14 (Wilkinson College)

Why did you choose this industry/field?

I honestly fell into the consulting space! Prior to working in consulting, I spent time working for the federal government at the State Department in Washington, DC. I left Chapman with the idea that I wanted to be a diplomat but realized that wasn’t the lifestyle I ultimately wanted. I began to talk to former colleagues who had left the government and transitioned to consulting. Everyone I spoke to who had made the change was very happy with the new environment they were in. This opened my eyes to the world of consulting and the possibility of it being a career for me.

Consulting to me was an opportunity to have the variety I wanted in a job, potential travel opportunities, and continuous resources to keep learning. I am very fortunate that I was able to make the switch and I am really excited to see how I can continue to grow in this industry.

How did you strategize to get your career to where it is today?

As a first-generation college student, I did not really have guidance on how to navigate or strategize my career. I took a leap of faith moving from Southern California to Washington D.C. to explore more opportunities for work in the international arena because that seemed like my only option.

Taking that step allowed me to meet so many likeminded people that I was able to lean on for guidance and support. Creating that network is what helped me navigate my career more than anything else. I was able to turn to them as a sounding board to see whether a job sounded interesting, if it was going to benefit me in the long run, and ask was I making the right choice? By having those conversations and making those connections, I was able to think more strategically about my career once I left the federal space and moved into consulting.

Can you share any career advice for current students entering the industry in this job market?

My biggest advice would be to stay open minded in your job search. When we leave college, we have this set idea of what we want to do career wise. Sometimes we may find ourselves so laser focused on one role or one company, that we’re not thinking about the bigger picture. How is the role going to set me up for the future? What can it lead to? Unfortunately, we are not all going to get our dream job out of college. Being flexible with the job search and building that resume allows you to not only grow as a potential candidate, but also as an individual. I would not have started my career in consulting had I not taken chances on my work in the federal space to gain experience that could be transferrable to other industries.

Another piece of advice I cannot stress enough for any industry is to negotiate your salary. There are plenty of tutorials online on how you should navigate those conversations. If salary is something they are not willing to budge on, there are always options for signing bonuses, relocation bonuses, equity, etc. This is something I wish I had known how to do earlier in my career.

How did getting your degree from Chapman set you up for success on your career path?

Higher education always gives you a competitive edge in the job market and I truly believe my degree from Chapman set me apart in that sense. Beyond the degree, I made such great friendships with my classmates, many of which moved to D.C. after me. We continue to be a support system for each other across the world and I would not have had that had it not been for my time at Chapman. I am truly grateful for what I learned in and out of the classroom!