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The OP Goes Virtual: What This Means for Consortium Students and How to Reap the Benefits

This year, The Consortium’s class of 2022 will have the opportunity to participate in the organization’s first-ever virtual Orientation Program & Career Forum (OP), where they will kick off their MBA experience by becoming part of The Consortium’s ever-expanding family of students and alumni.

The decision to transition to a virtual event was made with students, staff and other constituents’ health and safety in mind as COVID-19 continues to put many in our community at risk. “We are confident that, in time, normalcy will return,” says Peter J. Aranda, III, executive director & CEO of The Consortium. “In the meantime, there are still reasons to celebrate. We invite our new members to celebrate their success thus far by joining our nationwide network of students, alumni, member schools, corporate partners and staff, beginning with our annual OP.”

Previously scheduled for June 6-10, 2020, in Seattle, Washington, the 54th annual OP will take place Friday, June 5 and Monday through Wednesday, June 8-10, 2020. Global, cloud-based technology platform Intrado will be used to host the event.

As one of the most powerful aspects of The Consortium experience for students, the OP can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. In just a few days time, they gain exposure to new fields and career paths, connect with top-notch companies, network and form long-lasting relationships with their peers, learn about and interview for internship opportunities and build a solid foundation for success during and following business school. Members of The Consortium class of 2022 can expect this same high-level experience and more from the 54th annual OP.

Similar to past years, students can expect workshops focused on diversity, ethics and healthcare and career tracks that dive deep into fields including consulting, marketing, technology and finance. As a virtual event, the 2020 OP will also feature new and expanded opportunities for MBAs to connect and build a solid foundation — just through a different means. For example, all sessions will be recorded, meaning students will be able to attend live workshops as well as flag those they want to return to, to watch at a later time.

To help students get the most out of the event, The Consortium has teamed up with corporate partner Liberty Mutual Insurance to create a guide with best practices and tips for navigating virtual events. It offers insight and advice in three stages: pre-conference, during and post-conference.

“The guide is designed to help students prepare for and successfully navigate a virtual event. It includes step-by-step instructions on how best to prepare leading up to the conference, in addition to tips to make the most of your time during the conference,” says Liberty Mutual Insurance Campus Recruiting Program Manager Kelly Scott, citing as examples virtual etiquette advice and ways to stay present in a virtual environment. “We recognize now, more than ever, the importance of being able to provide quality content in a virtual environment.”

With years of experience hosting virtual events, Liberty Mutual has noticed several advantages to these types of gatherings. Increased accessibility and comfort are two that come to mind, Scott says.

“It’s much easier to log into a webinar than it is to trek into a classroom at 7 p.m.,” she explains. “It’s also not as intimidating to type a question into a chat box as it may be to stand up and ask something in front of a large group.”

Scott’s advice for The Consortium’s class of 2022 is to do your homework and to treat it like any other event. “Do your research about who’s going to be there, and do everything you can to be present during the actual conference itself,” she says. “It’s so easy to get distracted checking your phone, scrolling through Instagram or banging out a few emails, but you’ll get so much more out of it if you treat it like an actual, in-person event.”

To truly get the most out of the virtual OP experience, though, Scott recommends that students follow up with employers and peers whom they met during the event. “Everyone is there to build their network, and shooting off a quick email or LinkedIn message sharing that you enjoyed meeting them as well as one thing you took away from the conversation can really make a lasting impact,” she says.

For employers, this shows that you listened and were really engaged — and that you are truly interested in the company. From a peer-to-peer perspective, Scott notes, “You never know where people will end up down the line, and it’s helpful to have a community of peers to support you as you navigate your career moving forward.”

These connections are what The Consortium family is all about, and for most students, the OP is where they were formed.

Consortium alumnus and Senior HR Manager at Microsoft Rashid Farrell recalls how the OP was both amazing and nerve-wracking. “I was in sheer awe that I was at an event with so many amazingly talented and accomplished people, and the caliber of companies that were present was just mind blowing,” he says. “My exploration and networking at the 2008 OP set a foundation for what would become my Consortium network.”

For 2014 alumnus of the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business Brandon Smith, the OP set the stage for a successful MBA experience, from beginning to end.

“Everyone who I met in The Consortium was competitive and impressive, and to have the OP before you even get to campus — it was such a powerful introduction to graduate school,” says Smith, who is the founder and CEO of Global Sports Analytics. “It allowed me to build a foundation to be leveraged throughout my entire time at USC.”

Access the virtual guide here.

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