Author Topic: Brief guide to high-paying jobs and internships that aren't programming  (Read 1664 times)

anni

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Howdy all. When I started college, I knew 0 about "big business" jobs, I thought desk jockeying was for losers, and I thought all internships were unpaid and therefore only for rich kids. Not so, friends. If you're in college, about to start college, or have kids in the aforementioned life stages, I'm here to give a short guide to my experience getting a high paying job out of college. I went to a good school, but not an Ivy, and while I went to a one-year grad program, most of my work peers did not. I'm not in HR, I just went through the typical undergrad recruiting process 4 years ago and I now participate in my company's recruiting for undergrad students from my alma mater. Anyone with more recruiting experience than me should feel free to add on.

Which jobs am I here to talk about? Full-time "Business Analyst" roles or summer internships at big tech companies and consulting firms. Tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc have plenty of "analyst" jobs that aren't for programmers or data scientists. Also banks like Amex and Capital One, and maybe bigger "startups" like Uber or Doordash. Example: Google's got a whole "jobs in business" category on their student career page. Anyone from any major could be a good fit for these jobs.

Why should you want these jobs? Well, they pay pretty great (yes, even the summer internships!), if you do well in your internship you may get a full-time employment offer before your senior year even starts, and even if you don't like the job, you've got a great, recognizable name on your resume forever. Many of the summer internships are super cushy because they want you to come back full-time. I know of at least two companies who have sent their interns to Disney for a week during the summer just because. The full-time work ain't bad either, and benefits (401k, travel, insurance, vacation) at big companies can be fantastic.

What's a consulting firm? F*ck if I know. Just kidding, management consultants are hired by everyone from Google to the federal government to work on all kinds of hard problems that those organizations might not be staffed to solve themselves. Examples of the big national consulting firms: McKinsey*, Boston Consulting Group (BCG)*, and Bain* (*aka MBB or "the big three" aka super exclusive and demanding), Deloitte, Accenture, IBM, Grant Thornton... I'm sure I'm forgetting tons. If hired at one of these, you'll probably get to hang out with a lot of other young people, which is nice. You will probably also be expected to do a bit more networking, a lot of client-facing work, company politics ("up or out") and required travel (maybe less after Covid) compared to the tech companies.

Step one: Get an interview.

Your grades matter a lot. This is true for any career, I think, but at big companies it's different. At top companies, your resume might be automatically filtered out if you fall below a certain GPA cutoff, which could be as high as 3.5 or even higher. Full disclosure, I took some hard ass classes in college, too many credits, and a lot of part-time jobs, and I was a solid 3.3 student. So I had to do a one-year Master's in my field for my second shot at academic success.

Don't overload yourself on classes like I did just because you love school and got good grades in high school. You only have so much time in a week, and college will be very demanding as you're making new friends and learning how to take care of yourself on top of your coursework.

If you go to a top school, your major might not matter. As long as you are challenged and successful within your studies and extracurriculars (see below), you might have enough name recognition from your school that recruiters will assume you are smart and hard-working, which is the important part. Many of my peers at work were engineering majors, but some were art, English, or politics majors. This may even be true even for non-top schools but I don't have enough experience to confirm.
 
Whatever your major, keep your math skills sharp. You don't need calculus, just super sharp arithmetic and maybe a little algebra. Why? Because math is helpful and important in life. But also, case interviews. We'll get to that in a minute.

Join some extracurriculars. Pick ones you can get excited about so that you can get involved in leadership roles. Even better, look for opportunities that are both good on a resume and pay something (examples: resident advisor, teaching assistant, research assistant). College is so freaking expensive, and I think it's pretty lame that being president of the ~outdoors club~ or being co-captain of the ~club polo team~ looks better than being a waitress at the Frat Boy Tavern, but them's the breaks. Again, just pursue your natural interests when possible and try not to overload yourself so your grades won't suffer.

I highly recommend looking into student entrepreneur clubs if you're interested. You can get easy funding to start your own business that might both a) make money and b) look GREAT on a resume, especially if it makes money.

Use the career center and go to career fairs and other events. You don't have to "network" at these places, but they can often get you a lot of helpful practice with being in a professional environment. Career centers can review your resume and maybe give practice interviews. Career fairs can help you find out who's recruiting and help you practice acting like a professional, even if you don't want to talk to anyone there. But you should talk to people there, because they're just former students like you, and they are there to help. Bring a career fair wingman. Especially if you're socially anxious like me, you just gotta get those reps in, and learn to be positive and confident (or at least calm) in social situations with strangers.

Hopefully your school has these events; if not, seek out all of the aforementioned companies' careers pages for students on their websites instead of just going to LinkedIn or Glassdoor. Also stay on top of any info sessions or events that might be going on at your school (Google example again). I might come back and add some links (if you want to recommend any companies with student recruiting plz reply). I've also seen people ask for resume reviews on these boards.

Step two: Case interviews. Case interviews are a really important and specific feature of these jobs. The jobs I'm talking about here require business acumen. All that means is you can take some information about a business and make a rational decision about where to go next. It's not hard, but it does take a certain mindset and some practice. I could go on, but honestly, just pick up at least one book from the library or the career center, and work through all of the practice cases in that book to get a sense of what they're like. Ideally, get a friend you can trade practice cases with, so you can actually try asking questions and talking through your thought process out loud (very important skills for both interviews AND real-life business).

Pay attention to your life. LOL, right? But this can be hard. Self-awareness is important in your career and in interviewing. Take time to reflect on your biggest challenges. Either in life or just in your classwork. You'll be able to speak to the way you overcame these challenges in many interviews.

You can study for specific companies' interviews. Use Glassdoor, it's free and it helped me prepare for specific questions in some of my interviews.

Presentations and public speaking in any of your classes are helpful practice.

Pick up analysis skills on the side, if you can. If you're in a non-technical major, this can be helpful to feature prominently on your resume. If you can get practice with any of the following, it's a plus: basic python or java, Tableau (a data visualization software), SQL, or R. R is a statistical analysis language. SQL is kind of like a relatively easy programming language, and it's commonly used by business analysts. Learn it for free, it's fun and easy and will help set you apart. I'd recommend trying Comp Sci 101 or Stats 101 at your college if you're up to it. Maybe your school even has Big Data 101.

Apply to a LOT of companies. Apply to all of them. Ultimately, a lot of the recruitment process comes down to chance - how you get along with your interviewer, which questions they give you, how tall the stack of resumes is that the raters have to get through... Just do your best. Don't stress too much. Showing up is the hardest part - just meet the resume submission deadlines for all of these companies and hope for the best. At best, you'll have some job offers to decide between. At medium best, you'll have some valuable interviewing experience to prepare you for other interviews. And at worst, you'll have good grades and fulfilling extracurriculars, which is never a bad place to be.

Interview tips: Try to be...
  • Confident. You don't have to put on a macho business-man show, just act like you deserve to be there, which if you got the interview, you probably do.
  • Relaxed. Anxiety is a b*tch. For me, pretending as though I already know a person helps. Don't panic, it's just a conversation. Take your time to respond thoughtfully to questions. Don't be afraid to share "unimpressive" details about your hobbies - it shows you're passionate about something, and it just might spark a conversation. I spent a couple of wonderful interviews talking in-depth about cooking and cleaning techniques.
  • Curious. Again, this is important in the real world of business. Don't be afraid of asking questions or looking stupid. Interviewers want people who know what they don't know. It helps keep the conversation light if you're genuinely curious about the interviewer's life and their work experience, too.
  • Humble. When you're telling stories of your past experiences, don't be denigrating your peers or anyone else to make yourself sound like a hero. It's a bad look, friend. Acknowledging the people and external factors who helped you along the way shows strong character and teamwork skills.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2021, 03:10:37 PM by anni »

nightzephyr

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Re: Brief guide to high-paying jobs and internships that aren't programming
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2021, 05:58:38 PM »
That's a great guide! I'll add an outside perspective as someone who worked alongside several members from one of the MBB companies, while I was employed by a company they were consulting for. Here's my takeaways:
1. They're all really good at something. Programming, coordinating and communication, problem solving, teaching others how to do what they do. No one person had all of that, but everyone was really good at at least one.

 2. They all had crazy amounts of frequent flier miles and hotel points. Expect tons of travel.

3. The tons of travel makes work life balance hard. Spending 10+ hours on site every non-travel day was typical.  Also, I received plenty of emails from them on weekends and after midnight, so even when you're off... You're not really off. And I've been told our project didn't even rank as particularly stressful by their standards.

So in short, you've gotta be good, the pay and extras sound great, but I'd expect a lot of people to burn out fast.

AccidentialMustache

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Re: Brief guide to high-paying jobs and internships that aren't programming
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2021, 11:16:10 PM »
SQL is kind of like a programming language, and it's commonly used by business analysts.

There is no kind of about it -- SQL is a programming language and it is turing-complete (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_completeness#Examples). Which is to say that if you can program it in any other turing-complete language (Python, Java, R, Basic, whatever), then you can program that same thing in SQL. You may not enjoy doing so, it may not be fast, it may cause other developers to cower at the eldritch horror you have summoned/wrought, but it can be done.

Not that you shouldn't learn it if you want to be a BA or a product manager, but go into learning it realizing you're learning a programming language. It is highly specialized at its role, and seems easier/faster to get productive with than, say, Python. However to really understand SQL, that's harder than really understanding Python. I say this as someone with a very strong grasp of Python and a pretty strong grasp of SQL.

The IT world is ripe for this thread, but I'll let someone who's been in that field more recently than I have (I went back to programmer 10 years ago) speak to it. There are plenty of CS folks in IT, but there's an equal portion who aren't, who were Econ or English majors, who know enough to just keep poking at the machine till it does what they want, or who can phrase what they want into the right incantation for google to provide the right stack overflow/blog/wiki page with the "how to fix ..."

sixwings

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Re: Brief guide to high-paying jobs and internships that aren't programming
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2021, 10:39:05 AM »
That's a great guide! I'll add an outside perspective as someone who worked alongside several members from one of the MBB companies, while I was employed by a company they were consulting for. Here's my takeaways:
1. They're all really good at something. Programming, coordinating and communication, problem solving, teaching others how to do what they do. No one person had all of that, but everyone was really good at at least one.

 2. They all had crazy amounts of frequent flier miles and hotel points. Expect tons of travel.

3. The tons of travel makes work life balance hard. Spending 10+ hours on site every non-travel day was typical.  Also, I received plenty of emails from them on weekends and after midnight, so even when you're off... You're not really off. And I've been told our project didn't even rank as particularly stressful by their standards.

So in short, you've gotta be good, the pay and extras sound great, but I'd expect a lot of people to burn out fast.

I started my career as a consultant for Deloitte, and it was an amazing experience to start a career and catapulted my career forward, but anyone going into those roles need to be aware of what they are gettitng into. the firms will talk about work life balance, and amazing travel opportunities and it's all garbage unless you're a senior partner. Clients aren't paying you to travel, they are paying you to work, and to work a lot. Its very grueling travel and work schedule. I had months at a time where every sunday i would fly from the west cost to east coast, stay sunday-thurs, and fly back thurs night. While there we work 12+ hours a day. i travelled to mongolia, china, austria, mexico, south africa, italy, brazil and some other countries i'm probably forgettting and I can only remember taking half a day off once in China. the inside of a windowless office in mongolia looks a lot like the inside of a windowless office in south africa. really the only experience was sometimes you get good food, but often we were only allowed to go client approved restaurants to avoid getting sick so we ended up eating at the same places every day. Its not a super fun job, it's a lot of work with very little work/life balance, but the work can be very complex, you'll learn a lot, and you'll develop some very marketable and in-demand skill sets. I would recommend that path to anyone starting out. But i would tell them what to expect and be real about that.

McStache

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Re: Brief guide to high-paying jobs and internships that aren't programming
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2021, 06:42:51 PM »
This is great!

The company I worked for post-undergrad was looking for four main things in new hire resumes: strong grades, jobs (during the semester), leadership experience, and internships.  Ideally, a candidate would be strong in all four.  They had to have three out of four to be seriously considered.

If you go to a smaller school which doesn't have on campus recruiting for a company you're interested in, find/connect with an alum who works there.  If they can refer you, that often gets you around the black hole internet resume drop and onto the same/similar level as a student at a target school.

clarkfan1979

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Re: Brief guide to high-paying jobs and internships that aren't programming
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2021, 09:09:20 PM »
My cousin worked part-time as a mover when he was in college. After 1-2 years, they moved him to sales. After about 1 year in sales he dropped out of college because he was making about 100K+. Within the next 5 years he was making 275K/year in the late 1990's. They eventually put some sot of cap on his commission because he was breaking the scale. He then decided to start his own moving business around year 2000 and stole a bunch of clients to help him get off to a good start.

My wife was a manager at Nordstrom. The sales people earn 9-10% commission. The top salesperson for the store for the year would make around 300K. This is out of about 100 employees, so that would be the top 1%. The top 10% of salespeople would make 100K+ These numbers are based on 2015.

One of my tenants is an ER doctor and when he lived in FL he was making 522K/year in 2019. He took a pay cut to move to Hawaii.

Hotstreak

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Re: Brief guide to high-paying jobs and internships that aren't programming
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2021, 10:54:40 PM »

Sales is a great path to high pay early in your career.  Depending on the industry, your degree likely doesn't matter, your extracurriculars don't matter, nothing matters except whether or not you can sell.  Moving up into sales management in your late 20's or early 30's can start bringing in $500k+/year, which is quickly FIRE money if you haven't hit your # already.  The ER doc makes a lot of money, but also had a ton of school.  He's on day one of his career (and loan payments) at the age of 30, while the salesperson has been working and saving for 8+ years at that point.

My cousin worked part-time as a mover when he was in college. After 1-2 years, they moved him to sales. After about 1 year in sales he dropped out of college because he was making about 100K+. Within the next 5 years he was making 275K/year in the late 1990's. They eventually put some sot of cap on his commission because he was breaking the scale. He then decided to start his own moving business around year 2000 and stole a bunch of clients to help him get off to a good start.

My wife was a manager at Nordstrom. The sales people earn 9-10% commission. The top salesperson for the store for the year would make around 300K. This is out of about 100 employees, so that would be the top 1%. The top 10% of salespeople would make 100K+ These numbers are based on 2015.

One of my tenants is an ER doctor and when he lived in FL he was making 522K/year in 2019. He took a pay cut to move to Hawaii.

anni

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Re: Brief guide to high-paying jobs and internships that aren't programming
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2021, 03:04:21 PM »
SQL is kind of like a programming language, and it's commonly used by business analysts.

There is no kind of about it -- SQL is a programming language and it is turing-complete (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_completeness#Examples). Which is to say that if you can program it in any other turing-complete language (Python, Java, R, Basic, whatever), then you can program that same thing in SQL. You may not enjoy doing so, it may not be fast, it may cause other developers to cower at the eldritch horror you have summoned/wrought, but it can be done.

Not that you shouldn't learn it if you want to be a BA or a product manager, but go into learning it realizing you're learning a programming language. It is highly specialized at its role, and seems easier/faster to get productive with than, say, Python. However to really understand SQL, that's harder than really understanding Python. I say this as someone with a very strong grasp of Python and a pretty strong grasp of SQL.

The IT world is ripe for this thread, but I'll let someone who's been in that field more recently than I have (I went back to programmer 10 years ago) speak to it. There are plenty of CS folks in IT, but there's an equal portion who aren't, who were Econ or English majors, who know enough to just keep poking at the machine till it does what they want, or who can phrase what they want into the right incantation for google to provide the right stack overflow/blog/wiki page with the "how to fix ..."

Interesting! When I learned SQL in school it was definitely pooh-poohed as not-really-a-programming-language, for whatever reason. I find it super easy to learn and to teach. However, I'm sure you're right about the mastery being harder.... as I learned later at an interview with a FAANG, I'm probably still pretty bad at writing really efficient SQL queries - I guess it just hasn't mattered as much for the datasets I've worked with (millions, not billions!).


Sales is a great path to high pay early in your career.  Depending on the industry, your degree likely doesn't matter, your extracurriculars don't matter, nothing matters except whether or not you can sell.  Moving up into sales management in your late 20's or early 30's can start bringing in $500k+/year, which is quickly FIRE money if you haven't hit your # already.  The ER doc makes a lot of money, but also had a ton of school.  He's on day one of his career (and loan payments) at the age of 30, while the salesperson has been working and saving for 8+ years at that point.

My cousin worked part-time as a mover when he was in college. After 1-2 years, they moved him to sales. After about 1 year in sales he dropped out of college because he was making about 100K+. Within the next 5 years he was making 275K/year in the late 1990's. They eventually put some sot of cap on his commission because he was breaking the scale. He then decided to start his own moving business around year 2000 and stole a bunch of clients to help him get off to a good start.

My wife was a manager at Nordstrom. The sales people earn 9-10% commission. The top salesperson for the store for the year would make around 300K. This is out of about 100 employees, so that would be the top 1%. The top 10% of salespeople would make 100K+ These numbers are based on 2015.

One of my tenants is an ER doctor and when he lived in FL he was making 522K/year in 2019. He took a pay cut to move to Hawaii.

I've definitely heard sales can be great. I don't have the constitution for it (I used to be too scared to even go to career fairs LOL) :p
The sales people I have worked with in my role all seemed to be having a blast, though, what with all the travel & wining & dining on the company dime. I'm sure it's totally exhausting before long though.

That's a great guide! I'll add an outside perspective as someone who worked alongside several members from one of the MBB companies, while I was employed by a company they were consulting for. Here's my takeaways:
1. They're all really good at something. Programming, coordinating and communication, problem solving, teaching others how to do what they do. No one person had all of that, but everyone was really good at at least one.

 2. They all had crazy amounts of frequent flier miles and hotel points. Expect tons of travel.

3. The tons of travel makes work life balance hard. Spending 10+ hours on site every non-travel day was typical.  Also, I received plenty of emails from them on weekends and after midnight, so even when you're off... You're not really off. And I've been told our project didn't even rank as particularly stressful by their standards.

So in short, you've gotta be good, the pay and extras sound great, but I'd expect a lot of people to burn out fast.

I started my career as a consultant for Deloitte, and it was an amazing experience to start a career and catapulted my career forward, but anyone going into those roles need to be aware of what they are gettitng into. the firms will talk about work life balance, and amazing travel opportunities and it's all garbage unless you're a senior partner. Clients aren't paying you to travel, they are paying you to work, and to work a lot. Its very grueling travel and work schedule. I had months at a time where every sunday i would fly from the west cost to east coast, stay sunday-thurs, and fly back thurs night. While there we work 12+ hours a day. i travelled to mongolia, china, austria, mexico, south africa, italy, brazil and some other countries i'm probably forgettting and I can only remember taking half a day off once in China. the inside of a windowless office in mongolia looks a lot like the inside of a windowless office in south africa. really the only experience was sometimes you get good food, but often we were only allowed to go client approved restaurants to avoid getting sick so we ended up eating at the same places every day. Its not a super fun job, it's a lot of work with very little work/life balance, but the work can be very complex, you'll learn a lot, and you'll develop some very marketable and in-demand skill sets. I would recommend that path to anyone starting out. But i would tell them what to expect and be real about that.

Oh yeah. My consultant friends had some crazy hours - except the ones who did government contracting, they had laughably empty schedules a lot of the time and may or may not have employed the "jiggle the mouse" technique for billable hours...

Sometimes the consulting travel seemed really cool, but other times they were just stuck in a hotel in a suburb of a mid-sized city for a week or longer and couldn't hang out with anyone :/

sixwings

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Re: Brief guide to high-paying jobs and internships that aren't programming
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2021, 07:49:55 PM »
It's never cool. Consultants might post on instagram to make it seem cool, but then they go back to work after.