You may have seen them scurrying to Undergraduate Career Services with leather-bound portfolios in hand, mumbling something about ping-pong balls fitting into 747s. It is in the air — can you feel it? For an eclectic group of seniors, interview season has arrived.
What started as a mid-September flirtation with the real world has quickly become a sixth class for many seniors, as they apply in droves for investment banking and management consulting jobs. Some Yalies realized what they were getting themselves into when they entered the fray, but most did not. For the past month, they have been attending business pitches at the Omni (thanks for the hors d’oeuvres!), checking e-mail furiously for application decisions and skipping class for first-round interviews.
The annual appearance of I-banking and consulting recruiters each fall is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we seniors should feel privileged that employers are offering high-paying jobs inaccessible to most college seniors. Who are we to turn down their fancy pens, distinct lingo and signing bonuses?
On the other hand, these are companies that spend a lot of money on marketing strategy and recruitment. They are acutely aware of the fact that we have no idea what we want to do upon graduation, that in September we were worrying more about outstanding distributional requirements and finally talking to that hot guy or girl from freshman year than about cash flow statements. And that is exactly why they are here, rushing us through the recruitment process and dropping “exploding” offers at our feet. They want to catch us early, before we have had a moment to reflect on what we want to do with our next two years.
This is problematic and, frankly, unreasonable. When was the last time you signed away two years of your life based on such little information? Think about how carefully you researched colleges in high school — and you knew any college would be fun! This is the real world: 90+ hour work weeks, spreadsheets and cubicles. You had months to research colleges and, even after you got in, could test them out during prefrosh weekends.
I know what you are thinking: If you have such a problem with this system, do not apply. And some heed this advice. On the other hand, a quarter of the senior class reportedly applied to a certain consulting firm. We have been bred to stay competitive from Day One (e.g., tour guide applications), and this process is no exception. So even if we have no idea what to do next year, why close doors now?
For better or for worse, many of these doors are already sealed. The firms are recruiting at 14 other schools, so they will only take a handful from Yale. Moreover, while they insist they want diversity in their applicants, it is phenomenally difficult to get hired if you are not an economics or quantitative-type major or did not do a financial internship last summer. And many of these companies have had pre-interviews for students with pending offers from internships, so the firms have already weeded through their early admission round.
Maybe a better question is this: How many students actually want these jobs? Why must our generation hang in limbo through noncommittal two-year stints, keeping all of our options open without truly wanting to pursue any of them? Why are we unable to confidently embrace our future occupations? It is unfortunate that the rapid-fire I-banking and consulting hiring process fosters this kind of thinking.
If you get hired this fall, do as much research as you can and go forth with your decision confidently. On the other hand, if you are not hired — or are not accepted by a firm where you would truly enjoying working — be grateful that you now have time to decide what you want to do.
Most Yalies end up where they want to be. If it were any other way, Yale would not be what it is and has always been. In the meantime, know that the sixth class is almost over.
Steven Engler is a senior in Saybrook College.