As seniors begin contemplating their post-Yale plans, tweaking their resumes and considering their options, the world after May 26, 2003, seems a bit uncertain.
“There certainly is a sense of panic,” Noah Glass ’03 said before running off to an appointment at Undergraduate Career Services.
Melissa Blakeley ’03 explained it simply: “Everybody’s freaking out.”
Despite anxiety about the job market and rumors that several companies who have traditionally recruited at Yale will not be returning campus this fall, job prospects may not be as gloomy as they seem.
In fact, interviews on campus are up by approximately 15 percent from last year.
At least one company, Boston Consulting Group, had canceled its recruiting at Yale this year but has now rescheduled, looking to fill an increased number of openings.
The On-Campus Recruiting Program, run by UCS, allows interested companies to come to campus to interview students they have selected through Interviewtrak, a Yale-sponsored Internet registration program run by Monster.com.
Philip Jones, the director of UCS, explained that it was last year’s recruiting, and not this year’s, that was really hard hit. In the 2001-2002 academic year, the number of on-campus interviews dropped by approximately one-third. Jones said he knew that recruiting would be down for the 2001-2002 season back in May 2001, when economic indicators began showing signs of decline and several companies failed to make reservations for on-campus recruiting in the fall.
So far 57 companies will be recruiting on campus this year, including the regular host of investment banking and management consulting firms like Citigroup/Salomon Smith Barney, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bain and Company, and other organizations from outside of the financial sector such as Teach for America, the CIA and Peace Corps.
The anxiety, however, arose after a couple of recent cancellations. Since booking for on-campus recruiting began in May, there have been eight cancellations, including Credit Suisse First Boston, Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch’s Investment Banking Division.
Still, cancellations are not entirely without precedent.
“If we’d had 10 or 12, that would be reason to be nervous,” Jones said. “What we are experiencing now is a lag effect — jobs are down even though the market is on the upswing.”
Despite the fact that on-campus recruiting is not at the high levels of a few years ago, companies that do recruit on campuses represent only a small sector of the job market.
“On-campus interviews get a lot of attention but only ever account for a very small percentage of jobs that students get,” Jones explained.
Consistently, careers in education rank as most popular with Yale graduates, and almost a third of Yale students go on to jobs in the broadly defined not-for-profit sector.
In looking back on her internship in finance, Blakeley said that she most likely would not have applied for a job in the financial sector had the option not been so accessible through on-campus interviewing.
“I applied because it was there,” she said.
Blakeley said that the beginning of senior year has, thus far, seemed overwhelmingly professional in outlook, with many seniors worried about securing jobs before the end of the year.
“Nobody wants to graduate from Yale and tell grandma at Easter dinner that they don’t have a job,” she said.
UCS is also taking several initiatives to help Yale students look beyond the kinds of industries, like publishing, that have recruiting programs.
This year it is expanding its Metrolink program to include both New York City and Washington, D.C. Metrolink takes students into the city for a recruiting day in March in an effort to help students look at organizations that don’t come to campus. UCS is also adding a graduate school and a health professions fair to its October calendar.
As the financial sector looks less appealing, many students are turning to other career paths. Jones notes that the biggest shift last year was that law school applications went up by about 20 percent. At the same time, there was an almost exactly proportional drop in the number of students going into the financial sector.
This year also saw a very high yield for summer interns getting job offers after their internships.
“It may make good business sense to increase the intern pool,” Jones said.
By hiring interns, companies can cut down on the amount of money they spend recruiting for first-years.
For some Yalies who spent this past summer working in investment banking and management consulting firms, their months in the financial world proved to be a learning experience.
“It’s going to be tough to get these jobs; it’s going to be hard to hold onto these jobs,” said Glass, who worked at a consulting firm in Boston this summer.
Being in the financial sector during a summer that witnessed massive corporate restructuring and sharp cutbacks, Glass added, “made it clear that you need to have something on the back burner all of the time.”
Although he expects job prospects to improve with time, Glass said, “My plan right now is to apply for everything under the sun.”
While for some it may be difficult to remain positive about job prospects in an economy that may threaten to dip back into recession, Jones is rather optimistic.
“I’m very guarded about saying this but — it’s actually looking very good given the situation we find ourselves in,” Jones said. “These are Yale students. They’re the best and the brightest, and there’s always opportunity for the best and the brightest.”
What increasing competition in the job market overall will mean for Yalies, Jones said, is that the application process is going to be more work. In particular, he said, Yalies will have to focus on honing their interview skills, an aspect on which companies have rated Yale applicants low.
Yale students, Jones said, have plenty of great experiences but they need to learn how to communicate those to an outside observer. But Yalies, Jones said, should not be scared off by competition.
“Yale students competed pretty hard to get here in the first place,” Jones said. “That’s what they’re good at.”