Intern Expectations Vs. Reality with Michelle Ouyang

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Whether you are a first or third-year student, starting an internship will often be coupled with a lack of clarity on what to expect. When reflecting on your achievements at the end of your internship, you might discover that the experience turned out differently than what you originally envisioned.


SCC spoke with Michelle Ouyang, an iBBA 2022 Schulich student, and a KPMG Management Consultant Intern in the People and Change (P&C) advisory service line. The first conversation SCC had with Michelle took place in May, where she listed some of the expectations she had entering her new role.


At the end of August, SCC reconvened with her to determine any differences from her initial expectations.


Michelle’s interest in human capital consulting was sparked by competing in the Human Resources discipline of JDC Central. With experience serving as Co-President of Schulich's Corporate Social Responsibility Society, she became naturally inclined towards people strategy as she loved business problems, devising solutions, and empowering organizations.


Michelle gives an introduction to her role and how the internship experience solidified her passion for human capital consulting.


Expectation:

Working in KPMG’s human capital service line, People and Change (P&C), Michelle anticipates working with her team to empower workforces, assist in large-scale transformations, and ultimately help organizations leverage their best asset — their people.


Reality:

KPMG’s internship program provided opportunities that were not constrained to a set amount of responsibilities. As such, Michelle was able to explore several avenues within human capital, and beyond. Her three project placements enhanced her knowledge of KPMG’s methodology for each service offering and provided a significant amount of ownership to make a lasting impact. Working with experienced professionals and having hands-on project work strengthened her passion for consulting and P&C.


Expectation:

Prior to her internship, Michelle set three personal development goals to achieve independently.

  1. Leveraging the strong feedback culture in consulting, she will take both constructive and positive feedback to refine her brand and voice.

  2. Michelle aims to build her network by gaining deeper insights into other consulting functions such as operations and technology to learn more about their responsibilities, stories, and perspectives.

  3. Learning to be more comfortable being uncomfortable is an approach she wants to take to accelerate the learning process and foster aptitude.

Reality:

At the end of her internship, she made significant progress in her goals and had rewarding achievements with the help of KPMG.

  1. Michelle actively aimed to improve her weaknesses (i.e., data analysis) by asking questions and putting herself in front of projects that required this skillset.

  2. Her consistent efforts in having coffee chats with people inside and outside P&C enabled her to develop strong bonds with her coworkers. After all, having a relationship with others is what makes work fun!

  3. Undergoing imposter syndrome at the beginning of the internship, she received a comment — “Michelle, you already proved yourself during the interview — we know what you’re capable of! Now is the time to learn, grow, and be uncomfortable.” She allowed herself to grow in ambiguous environments, simultaneously learning new abilities and honing existing skills.


Michelle shares what she looks forward to during her internship and one of her favourite projects she worked on.


Expectation:

As Michelle was interested in various practices within P&C (i.e., Change Management, Inclusion & Diversity (I&D), Workforce Transformation), she looks forward to further developing these methodologies with her team. In terms of project work, Michelle is currently working on an I&D project in which she meets regularly with her team to discuss the status of the project, key deliverables, and important milestones.


Reality:

One of her favourite projects was building an I&D strategy from the ground up by working closely with the client and listening to their stories. She measured and quantified aspects like equity and belonging, and psychological safety to determine strategic recommendations that helped foster an inclusive and diverse working environment. Working on this project made her appreciate the impact she made as her team’s efforts were recognized in the news!

Michelle opened up on common misunderstandings people have with the consulting field and how they were disproven during her internship.


Expectations:

Students often think they’re thrown into the deep end in a consulting role and are expected to perform well under minimal guidance. This may be perceived as a continuous “grind culture” that neglects mental and physical wellbeing.


Reality:

Though consulting requires persistence and a strong worth ethic, there is an abundance of support from peers, mentors, and leaders that will guide you through the journey. Michelle was paired with a buddy throughout her recruitment and internship experience who guided and encouraged her throughout the internship — ”KPMG has some really great, intelligent, and compassionate people!” as Michelle stated. KPMG also has a strong emphasis on health and wellness showcased by the benefits offered to its employees and in the events hosted.


Michelle left a message for her future and past self within these four months.


Note to Future Self:

“Take a step back and stop trying to figure everything out. Calm your mind and let yourself naturally flow to wherever you’re supposed to lead. Enjoy this experience, don’t take it for granted, and be a sponge by absorbing everything you can!”


Note to Past Self:

“Michelle, you did it! You should be proud of yourself for all the hard work you’ve put into the past 4 months. Time to relax!”



As a Management Consultant Intern at KPMG, Michelle achieved her goals by consciously making an effort to work on projects. She also surrounded herself with people that invested in her personal and professional development while further strengthening her passion for human capital consulting.


For those interested in consulting, Michelle advises students to understand their WHY for pursuing consulting and to join a community like SCC to journey alongside like-minded individuals. A great program to join would be SCC’s ELEVATE mentorship program for third-year students!


Although internships may seem intimidating, they are a great opportunity to act as a “test run” before venturing into the job market after graduation. Stay tuned for more SCC blog posts, events, and opportunities that can help ease the internship transition!